“The Spine is the Limit”. Pushing the boundaries of AV design in the new northern base of the Royal College of Physicians
The sheer size of the building and its biophilic interior design, as well as the number of floors and flexible-use rooms and the need to “connect” between them with network-capable AV equipment, presented a major logistics, project planning and physical handling challenge.
The design for The Spine’s technology systems makes extensive use of network and structured cabling. With Dante as the primary audio transport, solutions can be easily integrated where needed. Foundational products from Sennheiser’s business portfolio proved to be the perfect fit.
For its new base in Liverpool, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has decided on the outstanding 13-story building The Spine, where, as a major tenant, it has fitted out seven floors to provide new office space for its staff based in the north and educational teaching spaces and dynamic spaces for events and conferences (Spaces at The Spine). By equipping the modern spaces throughout the building with cutting-edge technology, Sennheiser and its project partners have provided an impressive example of what modern, network-enabled AV is capable of.
As an organization dedicated to public health, RCP has chosen the site for its northern home wisely: The Spine is one of the world’s healthiest buildings, and its design is inspired by the human body. The Spine derives its unusual name from the striking geometric staircase to the north of the building that is reminiscent of human vertebrae. RCP has fitted out seven floors in the building with a world-class standard to accommodate exams, education facilities and physical, virtual and hybrid conferences and meetings as well as a public café, exhibition space and networking areas. The Spine’s unique layout also uses biophilic elements, and there are strong connections to nature established throughout the building. It was designed and built according to the strategies and ethos of the WELL Building Standard, the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness with the aim of achieving WELL Platinum.
Medical experts put their trust in audio expert Sennheiser for their educational spaces
Before its project at The Spine, RCP had already been using Sennheiser SpeechLine Digital Wireless and the ceiling microphone TeamConnect Ceiling 2 at its London Grade I-listed building and other locations. At its new northern home in Liverpool at The Spine, RCP wanted to standardize the Sennheiser portfolio and use both the Sennheiser Control Cockpit software and MobileConnect. This is the first time RCP is using the SL Multi-Channel Receiver DW.
RCP appointed Recursive Digital to finalize the AV system design and specify the products required to ensure that the spaces at The Spine are equipped with the right level of cutting-edge technology. Paul Marshall, Senior Technology Consultant at Recursive Digital, worked closely with Inesh Patel, Channel Sales Manager Pro Audio Solutions at Sennheiser UK, to finalize the appropriate Sennheiser elements for the project and produce Recursive Digital’s tender for the spring of 2020.
Because RCP was already a satisfied user of Sennheiser products, consultant Paul Marshall was also happy to proceed with these solutions in Recursive Digital’s System Designs. “We were keen to understand RCP’s existing portfolio of products and, along with our own relationship, Sennheiser is a long-standing partner of RCP, so it made sense to take advantage of this. We instantly understood that TeamConnect Ceiling 2, MobileConnect and the Dante-ready wireless microphone system SpeechLine Digital Wireless would be the right solution for the spaces and integrate seamlessly with other manufacturers selected for the design. RCP’s relationship with and understanding of Sennheiser products as well as the way in which Sennheiser’s support and products met the project requirements were all key factors,” says Marshall.
The tender for the RCP at The Spine project was released to several UK integrators in the summer of 2020, and Pure AV was appointed. “To have the opportunity to work with RCP and the team at Recursive Digital on such a technology-rich project was very exciting. The ability to push the AV design to its boundaries, scope new technologies, and work closely with manufacturers on leading-edge and newly developed products and solutions has given the team at Pure AV the ability to really spread its wings. We are proud to be associated with the fantastic development of The Spine project. I’m sure it will represent a beacon of design and technology in the city of Liverpool for many years to come,” says Aidan Crowe, Group Sales Manager at Pure AV.
The installation had begun by November 2020 and was completed by the end of July 2021. A staged opening of The Spine was possible despite the adverse circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pushing the boundaries of AV design
The variety of spaces, the mix of user applications, and the ground-breaking design of the building present challenges regarding successful deployment and efficient installation of AV equipment. The requirement that the AV system was to be conjoined between all floors, areas and space placed significant focus on the network infrastructure. “It was imperative to work closely with RCP’S IT and network team from an early stage. Understanding the impact that changes in the specification of the network had on AV delivery was very important to control and help guide the work,” says Crowe.
In all areas, the installation of technology and hardware was sympathetic to the interior design and decor. Maintaining the biophilic ambience of the spaces, a critical aspect of the building design, was essential while still allowing for effective usability of the technology deployed. “The ability to meet this challenge was boosted significantly by the early consideration of the AV systems and a clear brief of the desired technology from initial conception to final installation and commission,” says Crowe.
Flexibility re-defined: Sennheiser’s Business Communication portfolio at The Spine
The large number of rooms, which varied in type and size and ranged from meeting rooms, education spaces, healthcare examination spaces and teaching rooms for hybrid learning to live streaming and high-end conference spaces, made flexible solutions mandatory. According to Crowe, the choice of the Sennheiser products and its early introduction into the AV design was important for the successful deployment of the networked microphone systems. Smaller spaces requiring voice amplification or voice distribution employed products such as the MME-865 digital system, a tried and tested familiar product for easy user adoption. In larger spaces, TeamConnect Ceiling 2 was deployed in significant numbers throughout the building, and MobileConnect was the assistive listening solution of choice.
Flexible and easy to configure: TeamConnect Ceiling 2
While the use and user profile of many spaces vary throughout the building, one commonality across RCP at The Spine is the encouragement of user engagement and free flowing exchange of ideas. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 and its patented automatic dynamic beamforming technology met these conditions perfectly. “We needed an advanced ceiling microphone that would work in rooms of different shapes and sizes that could be deployed across the building and would guarantee both the performance and ease of configuration RCP was looking for. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 met that challenge perfectly,” says Marshall.
Assistive listening solution that fits flexible room design: MobileConnect
With a large number of rooms throughout the building, many of which are divisible, RCP needed a flexible assistive listening solution compatible with a range of modern and traditional hearing aids. MobileConnect and its network architecture and smartphone interface allowed RCP to provide a comprehensive and flexible solution for both staff and visitors. MobileConnect also serves a diverse range of event types with greater ease than traditional Audio Frequency Induction Loop (AFIL) systems, particularly when there are raised floors that require access.
Regarding RCP’S role as a policymaker for and influencer of healthcare, assistive listening was a subject close to their heart. “The use of the latest assistive listening technology and the inherent flexibility made MobileConnect the right choice for a building and a 500-year-old institution that is looking to the future,” asserted Marshall.
Audio solution optimized for mid-sized Microsoft Teams meeting rooms: TeamConnect Intelligent Speaker
In the hub space rooms at The Spine, which are smaller meeting rooms for Microsoft Teams calls, the Spaces at The Spine team deployed the TeamConnect Intelligent (TC ISP). TC ISP understands voice commands and responds seamlessly to them — something that Microsoft is renowned for. The Microsoft Cortana voice intelligence allows users to control the mic verbally for video conferencing and team meetings. “We had really good results from TC ISP. The coverage for the smaller meetings rooms is really good, and the audio quality is brilliant. We are happy to use TC ISP for our Microsoft Teams calls,” says Adrian Pridgeon, Audio Visual Operations Manager at Spaces at The Spine.
Perfect interoperability: Sennheiser and Q-SYS
As strategic partners, Sennheiser and Q-SYS have already partnered before the installation at The Spine on many joint projects to deliver certified solutions for high-value meeting rooms and education spaces and create superior user experiences. In many areas throughout The Spine, TCC 2 was combined with a Q-SYS camera system for participant tracking (presenter and audience). The interaction of TCC2 and the Q-SYS control solution ensures a reliable and effective user experience. Because the entire AV estate at The Spine was required to be supported by networked control and service maintenance wherever possible, the deployment of the Sennheiser Control Cockpit, integrated into the Q-SYS ecosystem, was invaluable according to Crowe. “Pure AV’s programming and project delivery team greatly appreciated the ability to work closely and directly with Sennheiser and Q-SYS to ensure compatibility and implement the necessary software tweaks.” Janet Legget-Jones, Associate Director for Education at RCP, is very impressed by the effects of true interoperability. “Using the Sennheiser microphones and the Q-SYS networking systems, we produce a hybrid environment for a seamless experience for users who are listening on demand. It really feels like you’re in the room. This is what we call a true educational community of learners that spans across spaces.”
A successful collaboration that is meant to last: Sennheiser and RCP
Ben Pain, Head of AV Resources at RCP, is very pleased with the installation of Sennheiser products at The Spine and plans to continue the institution’s long-standing relationship with the audio expert. “We have been using Sennheiser products in our London building for many years and were certain that, based on our experience of the high quality of their products in the SpeechLine and TeamConnect ranges, they would be able to meet the design brief when we were looking for audio suppliers to provide us with flexible, premium quality audio demanded by a world-class, multi-purpose venue like The Spine. Soon, we will be bringing MobileConnect to our London site, too. A company is not only its products but also the service and support that comes with them. We have always been impressed with Sennheiser’s customer service focus and collaborative approach to design and problem solving. Working with them at The Spine only enhanced this experience,” says Pain.
This great project is creating waves of excitement — not only in our team, but with everyone who was involved. But please read for yourself!
Q-SYS brings flexibility to the Royal College of Physicians LINK
Pure AV won the prestigious “Education Project of the Year” category at the AV Awards 2022 with the Royal College of Physicians project: Pure AV wins Education Project of the Year Award
More about The Spine: LINK
More about our products that are part of this project: