During the initial design phase of the new Valley Business and Technology Center at California State University East Bay in Hayward, Calif., it became clear that the building would have to rate high on cutting-edge technology but age gracefully too. The campus' first new building in nearly 30 years, the center houses nearly 3,500 students, 74 offices, meeting rooms, auditoriums, and a host of other specialized spaces, all of which need to be well-outfitted, technologically speaking. The team of Oakland, Calif.–based VBN Architects and San Francisco–based Charles M. Salter and Associates (CSA) was tasked with creating a highend facility on a tight state-controlled budget.

“Our goal,” says Timothy Craig, a principal at VBN, “was to develop spaces in the building that can be used in a variety of different ways, with a standard backbone of parts so that they can be rearranged and reorganized easily.” Flexibility was key, he points out, not only so that multiple classes can be taught in the same space, but also because over the life of the building, “a number of things will change with the technology, the curriculum, and the staff.”

The university was very clear in wanting to use every room in the center as a laboratory—for learning about business concepts as well as learning about teaching. Cameras, sound equipment, and recording devices make it possible to analyze teaching styles and study how this technology can supplement the curriculum.

To make this lab concept become a reality, VBN Architects partnered early on with CSA, a consulting firm that specializes in acoustics, telecommunications, and the design of audiovisual systems. In many of the classrooms, there are four video cameras and four flat screens, one on each wall. This allows the instructor to teach from any point in the room and still be visually accessible to someone logging in from a distant site. Because each of the feeds for these devices works two ways, telecommuters can interact with the classroom environment, asking questions and taking part in discussions.

  • With a comprehensive audio/visual package, Charles M. Salter and Associates was able to create a classroom environment where the instructor can learn as much about her teaching style as the students learn from her presentations.

    Credit: Head Case

    With a comprehensive audio/visual package, Charles M. Salter and Associates was able to create a classroom environment where the instructor can learn as much about her teaching style as the students learn from her presentations.

In the Management Case Study Room (right), the instructor's podium is located between two presentation screens (which can be automatically raised and lowered from their places in the ceiling), allowing the display of multiple images but keeping the professor center stage. The room is set up for videoconferencing but takes it a step further: One camera is focused on the students and one on the instructor to promote interaction, either between the instructor and distance-learning students or between the students and teleconferencing lecturers. Such systems help instructors supplement the day-to-day lessons with high-profile speakers. “You're not going to get Steve Jobs to trek over to Hayward,” says Tom Corbett, principal consultant with CSA. “If they can videoconference in, then you are more likely to get them.”

In designing a system that would be top of the line but also not out of date in two years, Corbett and his team tried to anticipate changing technologies. Using two different aspect ratios on the flat screens in classrooms, the auditorium, and the entry hall introduces a new technology without making existing equipment owned by the university obsolete. New systems are both analog and digital. “It's important that the faculty's needs be met because they have to convey information with the system,” says Corbett. “But it is also important that the technology department's needs be met, because they have to service the equipment.”

1. CM30 microphone
Crown
www.crownaudio.com
Hanging choir microphone
Supercardioid nondirectional condenser
Microphone body is less than 1 ½ inches long and half an inch in diameter

2. AD-S52 AcousticDesign Series loudspeaker
QSC
www.qscaudio.com
Can be ceiling-mounted
Magnetically shielded LF transducer
70V/100V matching transformer

3. Pan/Tilt Head
AMX
www.amx.com
Ethernet-controlled interface
Supports cameras up to 30 pounds
Nonvolatile memory
Manual local tilt control