Posted in education on March 8, 2016 9:08 am EST

Reconcilable Differences

Architecture and technology can battle one another when it comes to multisite AVL integration. Or, they can work together.

The rapid rise of the satellite campus, or multisite, has created some issues for the AVL systems designers and integrators who are expected to outfit them. The good news, though: Technology and architecture can work together.











Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter Designer Today to stay up to date with all we do at Designer and with what's going on in the field of house of worship architecture.


TAGS: architectural design, avl design, integration, multisite, satellite campuses,


By Dan Daley

“Keeping everything familiar will ease requirements for multiple workflows, reduce overall operational costs, simplify compatibility, and unify team training.”

—Mick Hall, Regional Sales Manager, Southeast, All Pro Sound, Pensacola, FL

The multisite church trend is by now a well-entrenched phenomenon. Data released in 2014 by the Leadership Network, a Dallas-based nonprofit that acts as a church-growth research group and consulting firm citing a National Congregations Study sponsored by Duke University, determined that five million worshippers use one of an estimated 8,000 multisite church locations in the United States; 9% of all Protestant churchgoers attend a multisite church located in more than 40 states. The juggernaut has led Christianity Today to proclaim that, “Multisite is the new normal.”

However, the rapid rise of the satellite campus, as these churches are also known, has created some issues for the AVL systems designers and integrators who are expected to outfit them. Whether they are streaming content to them from the central or host church (usually to local servers for later replay, although a few larger churches are braving the vicissitudes of real-time streaming), or distributing sermons to them on hand-delivered hard drives, the diversity of the environments of these satellite locations is creating challenges for integrators and the architects and church designers they work with.

Great expectations

“The [satellite] location can be anything from a retail store to a bowling alley to another church, but one that’s nothing like the host church, in terms of architecture and AV,” says Kurt Bevers, technical engineer at Delta AV Systems in the Portland, Ore., area. “They’ll come to us with a wide range of expectations about what they want these multisite locations to look and sound like, but we try to make them understand that function is going to follow form to a large degree—AV and lighting can be used to help make these locations mimic the main church, but the kinds of AV and lighting that can be used will also depend on the nature of the location and its architecture.”

Bevers says he asks multisite church clients to step back and try to define where they want to go with additional locations, and adjust their expectations and budgets accordingly. Host churches that have extensive AV, including broadcast-quality video, may make a less well-outfitted satellite location seem diminished by comparison. “Video at 15 frames per second across a 20-foot screen is going to look poor compared to an HD projector,” he says.

Bevers brings up another interesting point and it’s one that others also commented on: the way a satellite church looks—its aesthetic and how AV is used to achieve that (or not)—is a primary concern of HOW clients, and by extension, of their AV vendors, or it should be. He recalls a recent project in which the satellite location managers pressed for a high-end sound system but encountered pushback from the main church, which expressed more concern about how the system looked than how it sounded.

Bevers says the conflict was resolved when he recommended a solution that used the low-profile JBL CBT 70 columnar array loudspeakers, which were easier to hide than the larger line arrays originally considered, but it underscored to him the need for all AV professionals to keep the optics near the top of the list.

“You can’t always specify the tech aspects based solely on their [technical] performance if the cosmetic committee always wins no matter what,” he says.

How the aesthetic issues play out is often dependent upon the nature of the how the multisite situation came about. “Sometimes it’s because it’s a successful church expanding by taking over a less successful one,” explains Glenn Peacock, executive director for western North America at the CSD Group, a Christian-oriented AVL integrator in Ft. Wayne, Ind., that works closely with church architects. “Sometimes, it’s a completely different kind of environment, a former retail space or school cafeteria.

Sometimes it’s a design/build, sometimes it’s a complete remodel of an existing space. In any case, the usual priority is to make that space as closely as possible resemble the host church’s environment.”  continued >>