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Syngenta's Elements Building - Audio Visual Installation for Scientific Interaction & Collaboration


PEL Services completed an audio visual installation for the "Elements Building" at the Syngenta International Research Centre, Jealott’s Hill in Berkshire.


Syngenta is one of the world’s leading science companies with more than 25,000 employees in over 90 countries.  800 of those staff, including scientists and support staff, are employed at the Syngenta International Research Centre at Jealott’s Hill, which is the company’s largest site for new agrochemical R&D and product support. 


The Berkshire site was founded in 1927 and has seen many of the world’s most important crop-protection products developed there.  It is home to the biggest glasshouse research complex in Europe, as well as centres dedicated to chemistry, analytical science, bioscience, formulation and product safety. As with any high-tech research facility, by their very nature they are expensive to operate, so any means of increasing productivity and site usage - decreasing costs without detrimental effect to the quality of the work being conducted - is to be welcomed. 


At Jealott’s Hill, Syngenta reviewed the site’s amenities and usage and put into place a three part programme to improve on-site facilities, encouraging staff company-wide to make better use of them. 


The third phase at Jealott's Hill was in improving the “ways of working” on the site, a key part of which was improving communications. This is about bringing staff across a large site in different buildings together for greater interaction. 


Personal interaction often leads to the generation of new, exciting ideas across the different science disciplines.  Potentially it could lead to new cross-discipline solutions at Syngenta, which might never have happened without the chat over a cuppa.


The Elements Building - a Central Hub


The main focus of improving communications at Jealott’s Hill was on making The Elements Building a central hub of the site.  Already home to the dining room and refreshments areas, as well as some little used meeting rooms, the Elements Building underwent a complete refurbishment, including structural work, and is now unrecognisable from the previous rather tired building and decor from the 1990s.

Multi-Purpose Use for AV Installation


The new Elements Building is now a light flooded facility which houses an ultra modern coffee shop, large dining room (with alfresco dining for the summer), a gym / multi-purpose room, health and beauty salon and a range of meeting rooms and facilities, large and small.  In fact the building offers eight meeting facilities in total plus informal meeting areas, all run by an on-site dedicated concierge team that takes bookings and sets up the facilities prior to meetings.

For Syngenta, the key to getting staff to use the new facilities regularly was not only the design (which certainly has the wow factor), but the combination of quality and ease of use of the meeting facilities.  Clearly the concierge is an important contributor in that but the audio visual technology lay at the very heart of the new development.

Laurie Reynolds, one of the Infrastructure Projects Team at Syngenta, explains: “No pain!  That’s what we wanted.  The AV equipment had to be easy to use and ready to go.  We want to build staff confidence so it’s important they can use the equipment from the very first time.  We didn’t want to have to go through a complex learning process, which people will quickly forget if they don’t use the equipment regularly.”

Overcoming An Acoustically Challenging Space


The dining room itself is not ‘acoustically friendly’ as it has different height ceilings including a high ceiling space in the middle and hard surfaces which are notorious for distorting sound.  As the room is also used for conferences and major meetings, often with some of the company’s top executives, the sound has to be clear and consistent across the expanse of the room despite these obstacles. 


The combination of Bose loudspeakers with the Bose ESP digital system - along with some considerable time spent by PEL in balancing the sound - has realised the sound quality required. PEL took the extra step of returning to site when the building went live to make further adjustments, using a smart system feeding pink noise into a computer, allowing PEL to set up and just EQ levels for the microphones.


High Quality Sound; Easy to use, that is neat too


Following detailed discussions between PEL Services and Syngenta, the decision was made to use a Bose ESP digital system with touch panel control.  As it’s a digital system, all the work setting up the system was done by PEL during installation and commissioning.  The beauty is that staff don’t have to do anything with it apart from adjust the volume control.  It really is that simple.  The other great aspect of such a design is it prevents unwanted interference from curious staff.  “Scientists are naturally curious and like to fiddle,” explains Laurie, “but in the case of the AV equipment, we wanted to avoid this.  The design of the new AV system leaves them very little to fiddle with and that means less potential confusion all round.”

The other important consideration for the AV system was simple connectivity.  Syngenta didn’t want lots of wires everywhere and didn’t want to have people wandering around with different bits of equipment.  PEL has designed the system to accommodate this requirement through, for example, the use of floor boxes embedded flush in the floor; equipment is simply plugged into the socket in the box without any sight of cables connecting to the power supply.  These are located at convenient points in each room with the dining room having two sets – one as a ‘back up’ measure.  Furthermore, the dedicated meeting rooms contain in-built PCs connected to the Syngenta network, so staff don’t need to bring their laptops – or even memory sticks – with them to the meeting, but instead just log in to the system to access their presentation.

To achieve the quality of sound required, PEL Services installed Bose ceiling loudspeakers in the meeting rooms and a combination of Bose 502 loudspeakers and MD4 base bins in the dining room / auditorium along with in ceiling loudspeakers in the lower ceiling sections.  There is an extensive choice of feeds available including DAB radio, iPod, CD, DVD and Laptop.

Roving microphones have also been incorporated into the system to allow presenters to not only move around but to pass the mic to audience members.

Professional Sound Systems - Connected


The sound system in the dining room has been linked to one of the larger meeting rooms upstairs to act as an overspill facility.  People in the meeting room can not only hear the speaker and any audience participation from the dining room but have a microphone to enable two-way communication.  They can also see the live presentation.  As if that wasn’t enough, the presentation can also be recorded and / or be relayed across the world live.

In terms of the visual facilities in The Elements Building, the main dining room benefits from a large retractable screen and a projector.  The meeting rooms also have projectors and 3M electronic whiteboard to enable staff to have technical meetings in real time with colleagues in other parts of Business worldwide.

The different meeting rooms upstairs are very flexible, allowing for multi-purpose use and set up; for example, two of the rooms are able to form one larger facility and have their audio systems linked together.

One specific meeting room however has been singled out for special treatment, featuring high end AV equipment such as Blu Ray DVD.  This room is in a boardroom style and is ideal for impressing visitors.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a stand-alone audio system in the furthest room that has been designed for multiple purposes, including an exercise facility and as a Project Room.

The Elements Building at Jealott’s Hill was opened by Princess Anne as part of a big family day for staff. In fact, the BBC has already made use of it for a recent Question Time. The Elements Building is a truly impressive facility and shows what quality and flexibility can be achieved in an audio visual system, without frightening the users.

For over 35 years PEL Systems has been a leading UK systems company that designs, supplies, installs and commissions sound, fire, security & communications systems.  For sales information, please contact PEL Services