Site Surveys

Site surveys are an important part of the process for making a conference room usable but are sometimes overlooked. Here are some best practices for surveys. For purposes of this blog, let's assume we're talking about typical rooms used for video conferencing.

What to take

In no particular order of importance, here are some useful tools to take.

Your smart phone - it's important to take a lot of pictures (note-before you go into the client's facility, turn your phone to silent)

Tape measure - I find that a 25 foot long tape works out for typical conference rooms

Light meter - by measuring LUX at the facial area of seated participants you can recommend more, less, or a change in the lighting scheme.

Sound pressure meter - I've personally found that a phone app works well enough for the task as it's reference numbers for later use. Absolute values aren't as important as noting variances within a room or variances while the HVAC is on vs off. That's highly subjective on my part, you and your client's opinion may vary.



Graph paper - graph paper makes drawing things to scale easier, especially the ceiling.

Drafting scale

Battery pack for your smart phone

What to do

Now that you're in the room, what do you do now?

Pictures - take pictures of all the walls, the ceiling, the rack, the table, ok basically everything. Be sure to ask if taking pictures is ok with the client and if there is anything you shouldn't take pictures of. Never post these pictures anywhere, they are for internal use only.

Measuring is the most important part of the survey - here is what to measure (ceiling items lower in the blog)
Length and width of room
Ceiling height
Any room protrusions - columns, odd wall pieces, etc
Displays - measure diagonal, distance from the floor to the bottom and distance from a side wall.
Outlet locations
Door locations (and measure each door, don't assume they are all 3'x6'-8" in the US) and distance from a corner
Window locations measured from a corner. Also measure height of windows and sill height from floor
Furniture - measure each piece and distance relative to walls (front/back and side/side)

The ceiling - the biggest PITA
I use graph paper for sketching the ceiling, but care needs to be made where the ceiling grid is compared to the wall. Rarely does a grid start on a wall, it's almost always off of it so make note of the distance.
Locate all lights and notate what type of lights they are (cans, 2x2, 2x4, etc)
HVAC supply and return locations
Located any ceiling mounted electronics (projectors, access points, microphones, speakers)

If it's a drop ceiling and you have the ability to look above it, do so. Using your flashlight, look around to notice things like:

  • Distance from joists to drop ceiling
  • Distance to the deck above
  • Look for cable trays or random wiring
  • Identify any random weird stuff up there

Sketching the ceiling is usually the most time consuming part of the survey.

What to take notice of and document
Facility address
Facility contact
Conference room name/number
Ceiling type (drop, drywall, etc)
Wall type
Floor type and covering
Is the floor cored for cabling?
Are there floor outlets?
How the displays are hung?
Note all equipment in racks, on floor, on table, hidden behind the displays, etc
Are the lights dimmable?
Are there blackout shades on the windows?
Subjective echo/bad acoustics including an assessment with the HVAC running
Dark areas in the room
What direction is north (for rooms with windows)?

It may also be a good idea to find the loading dock for the facility and trace your way to the conference room or rooms. If the client wants some insanely huge conference table that's not knock down, you'll need to know if it can get to the room without issue.

I like drawing things to scale on graph paper while I'm measuring. This goes for floor plans, elevations and ceiling grids. Sure it's more time consuming but if you draw something NTS and forget a dimension, you're forced into guessing where it's actually located.

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