Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Hurrairah bin Sohail uncovers the thought and consideration that went into creating a technology dense, extremely accomplished, and multifunctional space for the Faculty of Medicine at University of Hong Kong.

The boardroom at Li Ka Shing, Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong has been purpose built to seat approximately 300 people. The space is technology dense and boasts systems fit for multiple purposes which range from conferences, lectures, technical seminars to performance and entertainment activities.

Shen Milsom & Wilke [SM&W] was chosen as the consultant for the project while Vega Global was engaged in the capacity of systems integrator.

Him Tang, associate principal at SM&W, talks about how the consultant came onto the project: “We were engaged by the lead architect of the project because we have experience working in the education sector and in fact we have worked with the University of Hong Kong for their centennial campus as well as boardrooms for other faculties. So, our experience put us in prime position to be able to deliver for the Li Ka Shing, Faculty of Medicine as well.”

Stephen Tong, senior associate at SM&W, provides details on user requirements: “The previous space at the Faculty of Medicine was more like a traditional boardroom with a boardroom table as the centre piece. The new space however was to deviate from that format and really had a much wider scope in terms of requirements and how it was to function.”

Answering acoustic challenges

The design was guided by the requirements of the space and Tang details: “The first thing you have to understand is that the location of this space is special. The boardroom has a fantastic view of the ocean and the faculty wanted to keep that so there is a large window. On top of that, there is a curved wall so that complicates the geometry of the space. Then as a function of how the space was created the air vents are placed on the floor and the roof is metal. All these factors make the space extremely challenging from an acoustics perspective.”

EASE modelling and collaboration amongst the parties involved with the project were leveraged to start addressing the acoustic challenges.

Tong explains how the speakers were selected: “When it comes to audio, my drive is always to pick the solution that will meet the requirements of the space and that will fulfil the budgetary requirements of the project. This time, the best solution was the Meyer Sound CAL 96. Because of the challenges we knew we were facing and our modelling, we decided to go with steerable column arrays, so that we could really control the sound dispersion and not have any errant energy ‘exciting’ the room.”

To really keep in line with the direction set, SM&W created a ‘distributed subwoofer system’ for the space. Tong says: “The space was acoustically challenging, but we still wanted to have the sound that reached the audience to be warm and engaging. This is where we decided to go with a distributed subwoofer system that is spread across the space. The first benefit of this was that we could evenly disperse the audio across the space. The second was that the low end would be as close to audience as possible. This would mean that they would get that warm, full sound experience that we were aiming for. There were some challenges finding floor space for the subwoofers, especially near the head of the room where the floor depth was shallow. But all in all, our solution was deployed and works wonderfully.”

To further enhance the capabilities of the boardroom at the Faculty of Medicine a Bosch Dicentis system is used. Tong explains its inclusion: “The Faculty of Medicine had a need for conference and presentation and the Dicentis met those requirements. They can have a discussion style conference led by the head table, share content, and conduct conferences in a more formal style with it. It also means that there is an additional mode of communication in the space. You can use the Dicentis units as personal monitors for the attendees.”

Shure wireless microphones have been provided and are used for presentation audio reinforcement. A Symetrix DSP is used to manage audio for speakers in ancillary areas.

Video excellence

On the video side, a Sony Crystal LED videowall serves as the main display. Tong details: “LED has progressed a lot in terms of performance and it is now a serious consideration for a number of applications. For us, as we previously highlighted, the window in the space meant that there was a high level of ambient light which made LED the obvious choice. On top of that, we had additional display requirements around the content that would be displayed. The display would be used to show medical content such as CT scans, X-rays or MRI scans and more. Medical content will have details that have to be resolved in a limited luminance range and it is especially challenging for displays to resolve the detail ‘black’ values and display them correctly. So, the LED tile we selected needed to have excellent black colour reproduction and that led us to the Sony Crystal LED.”

Choosing LED also had a beneficial effect for audio as Tang says: “If you look at our design, the Meyer Sound column speakers are right next to the LED display and this helped us with the acoustics of the space. The LED wall doubled as a sound barrier to block a significant portion of the curved glass façade close to the loudspeaker which minimised a good portion of acoustic focusing caused by the curved façade geometry.”

In addition to the LED videowall, a Christie Mirage SST projector has also been employed. Tong says: “The projection system is there to augment the LED display and serve as a backup in case the LED display is out of operation. Again, when selecting the projector, we needed to have excellent black colour reproduction which the Christie Mirage SST has. In addition, we didn’t have a space to mount the projector so the fact that the Mirage SST has a separate laser head connected with a fibre cable to the engine meant that we could place the projector head at the best location without having to worry about accommodating a huge projection unit.”

Interestingly, the projector was also selected with future use of the space in mind as Tong adds: “We have been speaking with the Faculty of Medicine and there is a need for 3D visuals and this is where the projection system comes into play and actually moves away from its ‘backup’ role. We are talking about what the 3D content requirements will be and how best to enhance the systems we have already put in place to meet these requirements.”

Crestron NVX is used to transmit video signals over IP networks.

Integration matters

From the integrator’s side, Dennis Ho, the account manager from Vega Global, says: “Even 20 years ago, Vega was already a pioneer in the AV deployment work of the Medical campus. It is a miracle for us to participate in the project for the same client again. To show our passion, we assigned Raymond Ng, our senior project manager to handle the case.”

Raymond Ng says: “We are pleased to participate in the project. Recently we have participated in several sizable education projects, and I believe our expertise and experience can ensure the design becomes a functional system and can be smoothly operated.”

On site, Vega Global worked together with different parties and stakeholders to ensure the best outcome. Ng says: “As a project manager, initiating the communications with different parties was the key to success. The client had exact demands on the audio and visual quality, so we lined up all the major players and stakeholders, including Crestron, Shure, Sony, Meyer Sound, and Christie, together with our LED, acoustic, and programming experts to ensure every detail was completed without issues.”

The integrator also took a unique approach to the project as Ng adds: “In some respects, we regarded this project as a performance auditorium when it came to deploying the audio systems. We had a mixer and great Meyer Sound speakers so that approach was quite appropriate.”

Ng continues: “The project included the most extensive interactive discussion system in Hong Kong, but the deployment process was smooth with no defects owing to our rich experience of similar systems. The control room did create some challenges for us since the size of it was smaller than our expectations. Some backend equipment had to be relocated and connected back to the main system through fibre. It added a certain level of difficulty during the deployment.”

On the difficulties encountered during the course of the project Ng says: “The challenges for us were mostly related to project management and execution. As with any build project, the timelines got squeezed and as AV is one of the last contractors on site these issues are always magnified for us. But the solution for this is always more collaboration and better project management to ensure that things are progressing as they should. The project was well appraised by the client. I have to express my gratitude to our teams and partners.”

Ho concluded: “We have found that the tertiary education sector in Hong Kong is eager to invest in facilities to meet the new normal and create a better environment for studying. This project will surely become a model for others, and we can expect more innovative projects in the future.”

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