Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earthday Everyday! Making Sound Decisions and Being Green

I'll start with a very brief note regarding my recent foray into the "switcher wars" - my recent post was not meant  as an endorsement of any one manufacturer over another. I have great respect for AMX, Biamp, Crestron, Dtrovision,  Extron, and quite a few other entries in the commercial-av alphabet. Also, note the new disclaimer; all opinions expressed on this blog are those of your humble pixel-and-ink-stained wretch and exactly nobody else. That said.... on with today's post.

The NYC Subway - a green way to travel!
Happy Earthday +1/365th everyone! We'll celebrate by recycling yesterday's holiday and talk briefly about how we in the commercial AV world can be green.
Yesterday's earthday discussion brought a question to mind: what can we do to be environmentally conscious in our industry? It's a simple question without a single simple answer. There are choices from equipment specifications and design considerations through personal choices in how we fill our roles. Some are easy, some less so, but there are many ways to make a difference.

This is the obvious one that will leap to most people's minds when they hear "green AV" and there are more and more options from which to choose. From the pun with which I titled this post, I'm sure you'd guess the first one:  high-efficiency "Class D" amplifiers.  This technology not only saves on energy, but the higher efficiency means less waste heat and, therefore, less fan noise. Some Class D amplifiers, such as Extron's XPA series or Crestron's MP-AMP series, are completely fanless! This means that in educating end-users as to why this is a good choice there's the added benefit of eliminating fan noise in addition to energy savings.

Class D amplifier topology. Courtesy of Extron Electronics
What's a Class D amplifier? The short version is that it is a switching amplifier usually using some form of transistors followed in series with some kind of filtering to give a smooth waveform. The long version is outside the scope of this post. Perhaps a discussion for another day? The important thing is that it's a technology very much in vogue because of the potential for energy efficiency, and is available in quite a few high-quality commercial products. Crown Audio's CDi series, to give another example, consists of high-efficiency class-D amplifiers.

Projectors are another area with intriguing new choices; quite a few manufacturers have developed lampless hybrid LED/LASER projectors. Aside from the injection of coolness the word "Laser" adds to anything, these not only use less energy but don't rely on the replacement of physical lamps some of which can, if not disposed of properly, be a source of toxic waste.

As an aside, sustainable technology often has benefits beyond energy conservation, and these benefits need to be explained to clients. This is especially true given the relatively few professional AV products which have the kinds of certifications that can help earn LEED points. Given that LEED is the metric by which most commercial projects show their dedication to environmental sensitivity it becomes somewhat of a challenge to sell the benefits of environmentally sensitive choices which don't earn LEED points. "It isn't as loud" is a nice little extra reason. The Extron and Crestron products also feature plenum-rated enclosures for placement above a suspended ceiling (with the added bonus of not violating any fire codes!) Lampless projectors have a much flatter light curve with respect to age, so one doesn't need as bright a projector to compensate for eventual decline.

Personal Choices
This is the less obvious, and less "sexy" side of being green in this industry; the little day-to-day choices we all make seem small, but can add up. Here are two small steps we can all take:

I'll confess - some days my desk looks like this. Some days
the fact that there's a wood surface beneath the paper
needs to be taken as a matter of faith.
First, save a tree - think before you print. I carry a tablet and smartphone onto which I can upload PDFs, write notes, and even make quick markups. Marking up a PDF rather than a physical copy might take a bit of getting used to, but it saves paper as well as clutter. Don't print your email unless there's a good reason. Etc, etc.

Second, travel as greenly as possible. Take the subway instead of a cab. Take public transportation to the office if you can. And, dear to our hearts in the commercial AV world, try to use videoconferencing rather than force people from distant cities to physically attend meetings.

A Final Word
Avoid wasteful packaging. Pack your cat in the smallest
box possible.
We're all on this planet together, and while the big problems of curbing carbon emissions and reducing energy use might seem daunting small steps add up. Think about making sustainability as much a part of your thinking as speaker coverage or video content delivery. Educate yourself so you can educate your clients and co-workers. Take a step.

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