Case Study: Taronga Zoo, Australia

Integrator The P.A. People discusses how it has helped Taronga Zoo deploy AV systems that meet the Zoo’s technology needs with a focus on a paging and evacuation upgrade aimed at providing total coverage.

Client retention should be a core aim for all AV integrators. The advantages for both parties are demonstrated at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia.

Brett Steele, manager for installed systems at integrator The P.A. People, says: “We’ve been working for Taronga Zoo for close to 20 years. The beginnings of our association are ancient history in a sense. I’ve personally worked with the Zoo’s facilities department and its capital works department for many years on a variety of small and larger projects. Over the years, we’ve won multiple tasks and have worked with them to facilitate systems implementation as well as servicing of the systems site-wide. ”

Long-term involvement with Taronga Zoo has meant that The P.A. People has been able to assist them to convert their functional requirements into hardware and code that meets the Zoo’s needs. This knowledge over time has also given The P.A. People team a deep understanding of the client’s requirements. Steele says: “The needs of the Zoo are relatively static. They have a large area broken into various emergency zones. These are then broken down into much smaller zones from an operational point of view.”

Steele explains the current project implemented: “The scope of this AV installation is a continuation of the Zoo’s long-term plan. Taronga Zoo had areas that did not have audio coverage and they wanted to improve the patron experience. So this project was about filling in the gaps so that the Zoo now has a more even audio coverage across the whole site.”

Steele goes into further detail regarding the necessity of expanded audio coverage: “The need of talking to people is essential for a range of reasons not the least of which would be the unlikely event of an animal escape. It is a zoo after all and it needs to have contingency plans. Taronga Zoo is adjacent to a national park, so it needs to be able to talk to people in the event of a bushfire to move them out of harm’s way if required. So primarily, the client needed full coverage for evacuation and crowd control. The P.A. People was responsible for filling in some little gaps the Zoo might have had.”

Paging progress

To meet the audio needs of Taronga Zoo, The P.A. People recommended Biamp Vocia. Ashley Moors, AV systems engineer at The P.A. People, provides further details: “Biamp Vocia forms the basis of the audio system. There are more than 70 Biamp devices installed at 30 locations across the Zoo. There are racks, amplifiers and expansion units coupled with over 300 speakers. “Two kilometres of conduit have been installed along with the Biamp equipment and we are running more like 150 individual zones across the whole system. But this can be thought of and consolidated into 12 key areas.”

Key functionality for the upgraded paging system was identified for the project. Moors says: “For emergency paging and alarms, there is a centralised system which has been consolidated in particular areas. But the individual zones themselves may only be performing simple functions such as providing background music along a path during the day. It can even be nature sounds to provide further atmosphere for visitors at the Zoo.”

Regarding the progression of the project, Steele says: “We’ve done the upgrade in stages. They originally had Biamp VO-4 units which were not EN54 compliant. Last year, we upgraded the existing VO-4s to VO-4e units to meet the emergency standard requirements. At the same time we’ve moved away from an old stand-alone audio network to now distributing the system on the Zoo’s new converged network. We’ve been working with their IT department to make this possible, without disruption to the day to day activities.”

For output, a total of 230 Bose DS16 speakers and 14 Bose DS40 speakers have been used. Moors says: “Bose speakers have been mostly mounted at ground level on custom brackets. The client already has a combination of JBL and Bosch speakers across the site. We have added to the existing audio system and are replacing any damaged speakers here and there as required.” A total of 70 TOA CS154 horn speakers have also been deployed. These are used for specific spaces such as back-of-house areas, staff areas, car parks and bigger open areas.

Steele explains the decision to choose different speakers for different areas: “It was a matter of choosing the right product for each space and maintaining cost effectiveness. The Zoo want to have audio, particularly in areas where the public is present, at a suitable performance level, so for these areas we have chosen the Bose DS series. Where performance levels did not need to be as high, horn speakers were used, for example in staff areas.”

Customer care

In addition to the paging and audio system, AMX control has been deployed. Moors says: “We are implementing some AMX control over the emergency side of the system, so in the security office and administration they have an AMX touch panel which provides an overlay of the entire site. They can then select an area they wish to speak to and also can send evacuation messages should the need arise.”

Moors continues and highlights the reasoning behind the selection of both the paging and control system: “Biamp has very good protocols for communication with third party devices. We’ve worked with Vocia in the past and we have always used AMX to interface with it, to provide a GUI or a touch point for the client to access the system.”

Steele adds: “Rather than having the end user go directly to the DSP and making changes to the configuration files, the Zoo now has easy access to its paging and evacuation system with the AMX control system.”

Even though The P.A. People’s knowledge of Taronga Zoo spans many years, this does not imply that familiarity of the site translated to ease. The project had its own challenges and Steele says: “The sheer size of the facility is a challenge and we also had to work around the needs of the animals who take priority here at the Zoo. Their needs must be taken into account and if the keeper of a particular animal or group of animals decides you can’t work in their area on a particular day then you don’t. It is as simple as that. If the animal is having a bad day you have to go find somewhere else to be. Re-scheduling is simply a part of the dynamic of such a major attraction; it is a ‘live’ site in a very literal sense!”

The work for Taronga Zoo continues as Steele details: “There are new areas under construction for the future. The ‘Savannah’ is another area where the upgrade is just commencing. The design task is now past and the Zoo is just beginning to break ground.”

The P.A. People is also helping Taronga Zoo explore new ways to deploy technology. Steele says: “The client has recently added a new theatre which is offering a different experience for visitors. It is a large screen cinema experience able to run a variety of films to educate people about different animals and how to protect their environment.”

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