The design, specification and installation of safety systems for large facilities is a daunting task, requiring life safety, data/IT systems, audio and video to all work seamlessly and across a diverse, complex infrastructure.
At 1 million square feet, the new San Antonio University Health System’s Sky Tower presented just such a challenge to Texas-based Walker Engineering, which deployed the largest Bosch Praesideo installation in the U.S. to date.
“We try to be involved early in the process, using a predictive cost model for the project’s technology services, which comprises about 15 total IT systems, including access control, surveillance, audio, telemetry, wireless, life safety and more,” says Matt Kenjura, manager of Technology Preconstruction for Walker. “Because those systems are late-stage deliverables, we’re working about two to three years ahead. Our job is to inject advance knowledge about the constructability of all these technologies, then meet the deliverables, on time and on budget.”
With the support of the San Antonio fire marshal, Walker Engineering selected the Praesideo digital public address and mass notification sound system from Bosch as a critical element in the Sky Tower infrastructure. The Walker team knew that Praesideo could address emergency and evacuation communications, paging, public address and background music in a single system.
“When commissioning 384 channels of audio with 40,000 watts of power across a one million square-foot facility, you don’t just turn things on overnight. In addition to meeting multiple critical communications requirements, Praesideo also provides the infrastructure to define interfaces with other systems, so they can talk to one another,” explains Kenjura. “This enables us to decrease both the vendor count and the hardware requirements, which are critical cost control elements in any large project.”
Significantly, Kenjura notes the acoustic quality of the Praesideo system’s Bosch and Electro-Voice loudspeakers (Bosch is the parent company of pro audio brand Electro-Voice). Their intelligibility enabled Walker to use them for emergency/mass notification announcements, local and system-wide paging, and background music.
“By merging duplicate elements across multiple systems, you create value out of that marriage,” says Kenjura. “There’s no need to have multiple dedicated systems when the open architecture of Praesideo can handle the control information from multiple systems while meeting all their audio requirements. That allowed us to eliminate about 3,000 loudspeakers across the facility.”
Another benefit of Bosch Praesideo is its virtually unlimited scalability. On a hardware level, the system uses a network controller module capable of routing up to 28 simultaneous audio channels and their required power. Expansion is modular, with additional controllers, amplifiers and peripherals added via simple daisy-chain wiring.
Serving multiple purposes across a huge facility like Sky Tower requires careful planning, which is a Walker Engineering specialty. Each audio system and function is assigned a priority within Praesideo, which offers 256 levels of priority, programmable through the system’s web-based interface.
“Through user group meetings and round tables, we could identify what takes preference,” says Kenjura. “For instance, Code Blue and Code Red calls are high priority, while convenience announcements are just above background music. If anyone is cut off, those calls are recorded and played back once the system becomes available again.”
Kenjura sees Bosch as a perfect partner for such complex, large-scale projects. “There are very few companies with systems that allow us to reliably connect dissimilar and adjacent systems, yet can scale to the size of Sky Tower,” he says. “With Bosch Praesideo, the term ‘flexibility’ doesn’t really do it justice. It’s high-end engineering at a reasonable price, from a company that we know will be there from start to finish of a long-term project.”