As the “Green A/V” bandwagon grows, there seems to be a plethora of marketing materials touting energy savings and reduced environmental impact. Do these claims hold truth, or are they just marketing hype? It is possible to design and integrate A/V systems that help achieve the environmental goals of a project. However, these systems can easily become energy hogs, sabotaging any green efforts. Careful thought, planning and management are required to implement a successful Green A/V system.
One of the simplest ways to manage energy is to select efficient products. The EPA has developed the ENERGY STAR label for products which meet their energy efficiency guidelines. A growing number of A/V manufacturers are producing equipment eligible for this rating. Most commonly, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on video displays and power amplifiers for loudspeakers. While selecting energy efficient products can be helpful, there are additional tools available to further reduce environmental impact.
Incorporating power management into an A/V control system is another way to cut down on energy use. Does a cable box or Blu-Ray player that will be used for a four-hour meeting twice a week need to remain on 24 hours a day? Control systems make it possible to remotely turn system components on and off as they are needed. More elaborate systems include scheduling capabilities to automate system controls based on building activities. Incorporating an A/V control system doesn’t only result in smoother, more professional operations, it can also be an important part of your building energy use strategy. For example, the same system that controls the projector can include a light sensor that automatically lowers the shades on a sunny day, turn the lights on or off and adjust the thermostat based on the scheduled events for the space.
Environmentally friendly A/V isn’t limited to power consumption. The full product life cycle, manufacturing processes, waste, and transportation should be considered. For example, traditional projector lamps last approximately 2,000 hours and typically include ultra-high pressurized mercury vapor. Innovations in technology have lead to new hybrid light engines consisting of a laser, fluorescent element and LED’s which can last up to 20,000 hours, resulting in a longer life span, less waste, and lower cost of ownership. Local sourcing of products can also reduce environmental impact by reducing shipping costs, which in turn lowers fuel use and greenhouse emissions.
A successful Green A/V system requires careful thought and collaboration within the design team. Environmental goals should be discussed early between the A/V designer, lighting designer, MEP and the architect to realize the greatest benefit. Early planning can allow for a cohesive, unified solution that satisfies client needs and is environmentally responsible.
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