Guest blog by, Dianne Dunnell, Margulies Perruzzi Architect, Carrie Hawley, HBL, Douglas Sturz, Acentech, Thomas Napolitano, Red Thread.

As employees reenter the workplace, corporate real estate professionals are tasked to ensure that the workspace supports both the remote and the in-person work modes.

The right environment can increase employee desire to return to the office.

Do your existing meeting spaces accommodate today’s new group dynamics where some team members may be working remotely while others are teaming in the workplace? This shift in the workforce within the office has CRE professionals exploring how the workspace may need to evolve to accommodate this new hybrid working model. In response, design teams are evaluating the open versus closed work point ratios.  This includes evaluating how well existing meeting rooms can accommodate today’s must-have: single and multi-user video conferencing.

In this article, four industry experts share their insights on the top considerations when transforming existing meeting spaces into an audio-visual conferencing space to support today’s hybrid workers.


When reviewing current space plan layouts, MP’s Workplace Strategist, Dianne Dunnell, IIDA, offers the following suggestions:

Choosing a room where you can control the natural light, mechanical and equipment sounds, power and data locations, high traffic and intrusive noise directly outside is ideal. If locating your Video Conference (VC) meeting room on the exterior make sure you can control the sunlight by including a dense solar shade or black out shade to reduce the glare the camera may pick up from the natural light filtering into the space.


Background surfaces and colors can impact the remote users video experience. Soft muted wall colors or earth tones work best. Adding window film to long spans of sidelights and replacing or recladding high gloss whiteboards with a low sheen writing surface helps reduce interference with what the camera sees.


Some technology choices are determined by what furniture is used. For example, some devices are installed under the table or the use of a cable cubby retractor may limit leg room. The table configuration should also be considered. It is becoming more affordable to fit out a room with additional displays and cameras, such as a 360 degree smart camera, allowing the use of today’s common rectangular meeting tables, even the seat on the “display side” of the table, to be used.  


Does your meeting room have the right layers of light? Lighting design expert, Carrie Hawley at HLB shares her advice on making sure your meeting participants are visible to the camera. Targeting 40-45 footcandles (FC) over a conference room table to provide general ambient lighting may not be enough depending on your camera specification. It is just as important, or more important, to evaluate vertical footcandles, critical layers of light, and contrast when designing conference rooms with frequent videoconferencing. Developing a VC room utilizing a three-layer lighting system influences what the camera sees:


Frequently mounted within or close to the ceiling, this ‘fill’ layer provides overall general lighting to the space.


This ‘point’ layer provides necessary vertical illuminance on faces. Accent lighting often doesn’t exist in the average conference room. Adding directional point source lighting will help the camera focus on participants’ faces by establishing contrast with the background.


This ‘back light’ layer is critical. Evenly illuminating the rear and side walls behind participants will create balanced contrast that the camera can easily read. If you have a glass background, consider installing perforated shades for use during video conferencing, then wallwash the shades to reduce glare and improve balance.

A lot of it comes down to creating the right visual balance so that the camera can make sense of everything, so contrast ratios are just as important as overall footcandles. You should understand the specs of the cameras that you plan to install. If the background is too bright or too dark, the camera typically can’t handle it.


Architectural acoustician and mechanical system noise control expert, Doug Sturz from Acentech, shared the following insights towards achieving good acoustical conditions for AV spaces and for teleconferencing.  The three components of achieving good acoustical conditions are:


Check the local noise level due to the HVAC system. If you have a noise condition like a mini-jet engine, the microphones that are part of the system can’t distinguish voices from the background sound and the sound quality they pick-up to transmit to the other side of the conversation will be poor. 

  • For quiet systems (NC-30 or lower)- this is good and you can likely use distant microphones with the systems. 
  • For average systems, like in a conventional office- it is best to stick with microphones that are relatively near the participants. 
  • For noisy systems (noise levels > NC-40)-  there will likely be compromise in intelligibility of the sound picked up in the space, even with moderately close microphones, and you should work to lower the background noise from the mechanical system.

To those that are remoting in, does the conversations from those in-person sound like they are in a rain barrel or echo chamber?  Controlling reverberance in the space is critical, as that sound is picked up by the microphones and transmitted to those calling in.

  • Ceilings: Look to have a high percentage of the ceiling (80% +/-) covered with material achieving at least NRC 0.70. 
    • Walls: Try to provide a highly sound absorptive material (NRC 0.80+) on two adjacent walls of the space. Plan to cover a minimum of 50% of the area above the chair rail height.

Can others outside the room hear your every word? Look into these possible fixes.

  • Walls: the walls of the room should extend to the underside of the structure above and be closed/sealed there. (Be sure to coordinate with your MEP consultant before modifying existing walls)  Good conference spaces will typically have walls with four layers of gypsum board (the distribution of gypsum board layers does not matter) and insulation in the stud cavity. Note: ceilings with a CAC 35 may be able to utilize just a single layer of gypsum board on each side above the ceiling.
    • Doors: The doors to the space are typically weak sound isolation components and you should gasket these all the way around.  
    • Penetrations: Penetrations of the walls need to be well sealed, including those above the ceiling.  If it is hard to do a good job of sealing the wall openings above the ceiling, at least be sure that the ceiling of the space achieves at least CAC 35.


Today’s VC meetings are more engaging and interactive than ever before. Employees are expecting the technology in the workplace to mirror the workflow they have been experiencing for the last 8+ months. Audio Visual Expert, Tom Napolitano from Red Thread, shares how the lessons learned from today’s educational audio visual (AV) environments can help transform the AV experiences in today’s workplace.

  • CAMERA: To maintain an experience where the remote participants remain engaged in the meeting, vs being on the sidelines looking in, seek a camera that can track the active speaker. Some cost-effective cameras have voice or facial tracking capabilities to isolate who is talking and then zoom in on them to provide the face-to-face interaction we are now used to. Utilizing a 360-degree smart camera product allows you to offer a eye to eye experience at each seat location, from the tabletop, eliminating the awkward camera angles of in-office participants and reducing disengaged remote participants.
  • People cannot live with bad audio. Traditionally speakers were either in the display, or at the table/ceiling, or an added sound bar was provided. Microphones at each seat were used to improve your audio coverage and the microphones could activate the camera’s preset zoom settings for each seat. However, microphones have developed a lot over the past few years. AV Designers are shifting away from physically deploying mics to each user –mics now have virtual steerable coverage areas or lobes that get designed / programmed per user. 
  • CONTROLS: Evaluate the user friendliness of your AV control system. Some technology manufacturers are exploring new control systems to make it just as easy to control the AV environment as activating a ZOOM call session.
  • DISPLAYS: Interactive displays are still a desirable solution. Offering a way to interact with data real time offers a better experience for everyone. Some manufacturers are looking into ways to control the interactive display by your smart phone or ipad to offer a touchless solution. Be thoughtful when locating your displays to avoid being blocked by doors or avoid distracting remote attendees with people entering or leaving the room. A poorly placed screen and/or camera can leave a presenter in shadow or looking into a glare.
  • COLLABORATION APPS: To help with shifting away from just video many employees are using downloadable creative and productivity apps, such as the Microsoft Whiteboard app, to offer a means to capture each team’s input live. Also, confirm if your network is NDI ready. Then look into Network Device Interface (NDI) Free IP Protocol Applications to enhance your ZOOM, Google Hangout, GoToMeeting, or Teams, etc video and production workflow capabilities. Many NDI apps enable people to easily create compelling and engaging video presentations on their own without the need of a professional broadcast studio.

Collaboration is going to change. Tom Napolitano expects next year is going to be telling.

About the Authors:

Dianne Dunnell, IIDA, NCIDQ, LEED AP, CMS is an Associate Partner and Workplace Strategist at Margulies Perruzzi Architect.

Carrie Hawley, IALD, MIES, LEED AP is a Senior Principal and CO-CEO at HBL.

Douglas Sturz is a Principal Consultant at Acentech.

Thomas Napolitano is the Director of Collaborative Services at Red Thread.