Heritage Hub and Audio Makeover, Hand in Hand – Parkside

Built in 1909 and possessed of an impressive Edwardian Baroque facade, Parkside is a Grade 2 listed building in Bromsgrove. It was opened in 1912 as a Secondary school and remained as such until its closure in 2008. The building has suffered little alteration and English Heritage described its ‘overall level of intactness’ as ‘remarkable’, observing that its characteristics were ‘unusually lavish for a Secondary school’. This year, work was completed on a multi-million pound project to create a hub at Parkside for public services in the town.

The scheme, run jointly between Bromsgrove District and Worcester County Councils will see the building become home to Bromsgrove Library, register office, Job Centre Plus, Bromsgrove District Council staff, as well as offering a number of rooms available for private functions. Part of the Council’s economic regeneration project, the development at Parkside aims to make sustainable use of an important building in the centre of the town and was completed to very high specifications under the watchful gaze of English Heritage. What was formerly the school hall at Parkside now operates as a multi-function area, hosting everything from council meetings to Zumba classes and it was to this carefully restored venue that integrators County Infrastructure Services in consultation with Audiologic were invited.

The brief for the main hall at Parkside could be considered to be relatively straightforward. A sound reinforcement system that could be used for speeches, AV presentations, some live performance and exercise classes was required. In addition the client required a wireless conferencing system for meetings and discussions staged primarily by the council but occasionally for other corporate users. An audio induction loop completed the basic brief. Given the multi-use nature of the hall, it was important that the systems were user friendly and flexible enough to cater for the different applications required. As is very often the case with installations in listed buildings and heritage sites the execution of the job rarely matches the apparent simplicity of the brief and representatives of English Heritage were present throughout to ensure complete compliance.

The heritage nature of the environment meant that the CIS were constrained to a high degree with regard to the integrity of the interior and so solutions had to be carefully chosen. Parkside’s conferencing needs were met by beyerdynamic’s Quinta system. Quinta’s high level of wireless encryption provides protection against unauthorised listening – something essential for the conducting of confidential business. Its capacity to automatically (and silently) switch to an interference-free frequency range allied to straightforward operation and easy portability made it an obvious choice in this environment. The system at Parkside comprises a Quinta CU Central Control Unit, 2 Quinta MU23 Chairman Units and a further 47 MU21 Delegate units. Up to ten units can be charged, stored and transported in a CC2 Complete Charging Case, completing a neat, highly efficient, user friendly solution.

A Sennheiser infra-red induction loop based on one SZI 101 2W radiator with integrated modulator and SZI 1015T 2W slave radiator was installed for maximum efficiency and minimum physical impact on the fabric of the hall.

For general sound reinforcement in the hall, four Ecler Audeo 108 two-way eight-inch full range speakers driven by an Ecler MPA 4-400R 4-channel amplifier were installed and a digital mixer was used in conjunction with a Yamaha Blu-Ray/DVD and CD/Media players. Ecler’s Audeo Series of loudspeakers was developed in collaboration with the prestigious Italian design group Giugiaro in order to ensure an aesthetic that matched their excellent sound quality.

Such attention to detail was essential at Parkside and the project architect was closely involved in the speaker specification. The Audeo loudspeakers were colour co-ordinated with the hall at the request of English Heritage and integrated discreetly into the environment with no compromise on sound quality. To meet every requirement of a multi-use audio system Sennheiser ew312G3 Lavalier and ew335G3 Handheld wireless microphone systems were included.

Audiologic assisted CIS at the commissioning and testing stage of the project to ensure a smooth handover to the client. All agencies involved in the development at Parkside worked together to overcome many of the difficult issues common to a listed building environment. Ultimately a combination of great technical skill and the selection of precisely the right products for the job overcame the challenges. From conferencing and confidential council meetings to public presentations, Zumba classes and beyond, Parkside caters comfortably to the widest possible range of needs.

Andy Lewis, Marketing Manager at Audiologic stressed the importance of product selection: “Overcoming the challenges presented in this sort of environment isn’t easy – especially when you factor in the range of uses to be taken into account. However, at Audiologic we don’t believe that a problem should be met with a compromise. We have a full spectrum of product ranges available that can cater for each and every audio need and working closely in conjunction with our customers, can identify the right combination for every situation. Parkside demanded that systems be flexible for a wide range of applications without affecting the fabric of a historically significant buildings. With the right products in hand, CIS’s know-how and expertise completed an installation that more than meets every requirement of the brief.”

Nick Evans AV Manager at County Infrastructure Service (CIS) commented: “At CIS we have a very good relationship with Audiologic and when we are asked to be involved with the design and install of AV and conferencing provision at Parkside, we worked closely with them on a professional solution that met the very specific requirements of the architect and client.

This being a local government project meant that we were working within a restricted budget, so we really had to select products very carefully to obtain maximum efficiency. On top of that, the challenges presented by the regulation of listed buildings meant the whole project was extremely sensitive and the multi-use nature of the space required a fold-away-and-store solution for the conference audio. In technical terms, addressing the acoustics was probably the hardest challenge. Audiologic’s team were extremely helpful, providing a designed schematic drawing and supporting us in every area of the job until handover.

“There is always a learning curve with refurbishment and technology upgrades on this scale but with Audiologic’s help, the outcome was excellent. The sound system quality is perfect and the conference system is working well. Both are used regularly for a huge array of activities and Bromsgrove District Council are enjoying a superb facility that represents great value for money.”