CBRE Design Collective, Singapore

An interior designer and AV consultancy decide to create an experience centre. The end result is the CBRE Design Collective space in Singapore. Hurrairah bin Sohail reports.

CBRE acquired Wolf, an interior design company operating in Singapore, and brought it under the umbrella of CBRE Design Collective which represents the ID talent and capabilities CBRE has globally. As part of the acquisition, CBRE set out to develop a dedicated space for the CBRE Design Collective which took the form of an experience centre in Singapore.

Chris Pitsillides, lead technology project manager at CBRE, says: “CBRE had acquired a space in the building in Singapore where our office facility currently is, and it has been added to the tenancy. We decided to use that space to serve the growing CBRE Design Collective business in Singapore.”

Pitsillides continues: “We started the design from scratch and both us and Wolf, who were doing the interior design, had a blank canvas to work with. The facility is flexible and serves as a working space and office, but also tries to foster a sense of community and be a space for co-working, pitching to clients, have meetings and even host social gatherings.”

The CBRE Design Collective comprises a main open area which can be used for meetings, gatherings, and pitching to clients, two smaller meeting space areas with an open layout and a formal meeting room for more private interactions. Design and technology come together to make these spaces function.

Pitsillides talks about what the desired outcome for the experience centre was: “It is meant to be a space for co-working and social gatherings as well as a space that can be used to engage customers and pitch to prospective clients. The interior design and the technology deployed in the space are meant to serve these functions. You can see the harmony between design and technology across the experience centre as various floor finishes, carpet materials, marble, surfaces, texture can be found on the walls along with a technology such as interactive flat panels that enable communication and collaboration.”

The first big design decision revolved around videoconferencing. Pitsillides says: “One of the main topics of conversation was around VC and how we did not want to limit people to just Teams or Zoom. The CBRE Design Collective was meant to be a space where clients would come in as well and that means standardising the VC platform would cause issues. What if the client did not use the VC platform we had selected? And on top of that Wolf was using G Suite while CBRE was using Microsoft Office when this experience centre was being designed. So, we decided to be vendor agnostic when it comes to VC platforms and right now the spaces are designed to support everything with the user’s laptop driving the meeting experience.”

The vendor agnosticism Pitsillides talks about was established by making the user’s device the driving component for the meeting room spaces. HDMI and USB connectivity are offered across the spaces to allow users to connect their laptops for the purpose of communication and collaboration. Device connection is an area that CBRE seeks to improve in the future. Pitsillides elaborates: “We’re looking to reduce this down to just USB-C. As always, there was a time crunch as we had to get the space operational, so this was an upgrade we always planned to implement at a later date and designed for accordingly. We’re testing hubs that can both power and connect everything together. We feel simplifying the connectivity to USB-C is important because fewer laptops are coming with HDMI connectors now.”

The Logitech Rally Bar is a central component of the meeting systems deployed at the CBRE Design Collective. Pitsillides explains why it was chosen: “We actually had a test unit of the Rally Bar that Logitech had very kindly loaned to us, and we found that it was a really good fit for the spaces we had primarily due to the fact that it has a really nice wide-angle lens. This fit our spaces really well, especially the closed meeting room where the orientation of the table and tiered bench seating meant that we needed a wide-angle camera to capture as much of the space as we could. In fact, with the Logitech Rally Bar we can have someone seated on the furthest bench in frame.”

The Logitech Rally Bar was also selected with an eye on the future. Pitsillides elaborates: “One of the key deciding factors was the insight that Logitech could provide. We are looking at people counting, frequency of meeting room usage, occupancy times and just data that can help us make better decisions around how to best use our space and facilities. We want to know how much these meeting spaces are being used and what kind of meetings they are being used for. The Logitech Rally Bar could help us in this endeavour, and it was a bit smarter than just a camera and microphone packaged into a soundbar so we went with it.”

While the Rally Bar had many positives, there was still some configuration required. Pitsillides says: “The only complaint we have had is around the active speaker tracking. Some users find it disorientating when the camera swings around in the middle of the meeting or VC conversation. When we were trialling the Rally Bar it was the one thing that people kept bringing up as something that was discomforting or weird. Thankfully, the feature can be turned off and you are basically just left with a frame of the room as the meeting starts.”

A Q-SYS Core 110f DSP together with Extron amplifiers power the audio system. Biamp Parlé speakers and Shure Microflex ULXD handheld and lapel microphones complete the audio deployment. Regarding the selection of speakers, Pitsillides says: “We needed low-profile speakers in the space because we have a giant AC duct running above the ceiling and the clearance was something between 50mm and 60mm. This is why we decided to go for the Biamp Parlé speakers. And to ensure that the audio experience was consistent across the whole experience centre we chose to deploy the Biamp speakers across the whole space.”

LG flat panels, 65-in and 86-in in size based on the needs of the spaces, are used as displays. Pitsillides says: “The LG flat panels we are using are interactive screens that are part of their education series. Because we wanted the spaces to be more than just for meetings, we added the LG screens to not just handle presentation and VC but to also add an element of interactivity. The screens run Android and have native Windows drivers. As soon as you plug in via USB, the screen becomes a PC and you can connect your laptop, stand up, interact with the content on the screen, navigate your device using touch functions and present. It also allows you to annotate PowerPoint and AutoCAD and this is really useful for how CBRE Design Collective team works.”

A Mersive Solstice Pod is used in conjunction with the display at the front for signage while Crestron NVX encoders and decoders are used to transmit AV signals over the IP network which comprises Netgear switches. Pitsillides details: “One of the reasons we chose Esco as the integrator for the project was the fact that they had stock of the NVX product. We chose to go the AV-over-IP route, even though this is a small deployment, because we had limited space in the rack that we had. And personally, I didn’t want to put in a traditional switcher because I feel it doesn’t have the flexibility and expandability that we need. With AV over IP the upgrade path is open to us.”

The future expansion in terms of functionality is important to CBRE and Pitsillides concludes by detailing how the CBRE Design Collective is serving as a test bed of sorts: “We have been trialling Ubiquity, which is a software defined network. It requires a lot of work to set up and get working, specifically requiring console level expertise to configure the software defined network. But the positives are that once it is properly programmed, it gives you a great level of insight into how the ports are assigned and how they are operating and the general health of the network and end points. This is a possible direction for us to take with our network in the CBRE Design Collective experience centre.”

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