Suntec’s rise

Suntec’s rise

Published: ASIA

Designed to be a ‘city within a city’, Suntec City was the single largest integrated commercial development in Singapore when it opened in 1994. Built on reclaimed land in the Marina downtown area, the development referred to as ‘Xin Da’ in Chinese boasts five office towers, a shopping mall and an international convention and exhibition centre connected to one other by street level plazas, walkways and courtyards. Unfortunately, no new build in Singapore stays number one for long. Suntec may have led the way and extended the frontiers of innovation, technology and creativity in the mid 1990s, but it was overtaken by the bigger and more eye-catching landmarks of VivoCity, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands in the new Millennium. However, the multi-purpose convention and exhibition facilities weren’t prepared to disappear into the sunset and instead recently re-emerged in a glittering new guise following a full S$184 million facelift that is now wooing back business.

Renamed in 2004 as part of a rebranding exercise, Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (Suntec Singapore) was initially part of the entire Suntec City development. However, the building is now separately owned by privately held ARA Harmony Fund and managed by ARA Singapore. It remains one of the largest multipurpose convention and exhibition facilities in Singapore, hosting some of the world's biggest meetings, exhibitions and conventions. In 2010 and 2011, City Harvest Church acquired a substantial 39.2 per cent minority stake in the ARA Harmony Fund, allowing it to secure sustainable longterm use of the convention halls as a regular church venue.

Of the 100,000 sq-m of available space spread over multiple levels of the Centre, the convention halls on level six and the multipurpose halls on level four provide 10,000 sq-m and 12,000 sq-m of flexible customisable space respectively. Providing flexibility for clients, the multipurpose halls can be further divided into eight smaller halls, while level six combines eleven rooms, an 800-seat theatre and five halls. On weekends, level six is usually configured as City Harvest Church's 6,200-seat auditorium, 800-seat performance hall and a dedicated space for the church's book store and other leisure spaces. Comprising 15,000 sq-m of floor space, the third floor consists of up to 36 meeting rooms and a spacious five storey concourse area with floor-to-ceiling windows for hosting corporate meetings, private parties, smaller exhibitions and events on a daily basis.

When the wraps of the new façade were taken down in 2013, visitors were awestruck at the sight of the world’s largest HD LED screen beckoning them into Suntec Singapore’s driveway. Standing over three storeys high and 60m wide, the Big Picture consists of 664 full colour 55-inch HD LED screens. Welcoming conference delegates and shoppers alike, the Big Picture is a captivating and fitting feature, hinting as to what A/V technology has been embedded into the interior of the building. Suntec Singapore appeals to old and new clientele by marketing itself as a venue at the cutting edge of the MICE industry, dedicated to meet the evolving requirements of clients by combining the perfect location, flexible customisable space, award-winning F&B, and the latest technology (such as free high-speed WiFi) supporting qualified, service-oriented event professionals making it the venue of choice for exhibitions and tradeshows. Naturally, the A/V plays a major role in the rebirth of Suntec Singapore.

A/V Consultancy Sennen Design was afforded with the task of ensuring that the modernised Suntec Singapore would be outfitted with the most appealing A/V facilities in the market. Director Barnaby Hall was challenged by the enormity of the project, whilst systems integrator PAVE System Pte Ltd was faced with a multitude of site problems befitting of such an installation. Along the course of the project, budgets were realigned, whilst other contractors obstructed their progress, but with a little support from the manufacturers and a steely resolve, the Sennen Design and PAVE teams completed the project with flying colours ahead of deadline.

A fibre network forms the backbone of the resultant A/V system, for which a main data centre located on level one collates all the information gathered on the six levels above. ‘We opted to install a Biamp Tesira Server-IO solution at the very core of Suntec,’ declares Mr Hall. The Tesira platform first appeared in 2012 as the first truly scalable media system for digital audio networking using Audio Video Bridging (AVB). Eleven Tesira Server-IO processors located on various levels are connected via fibre vertically to the main Server-IO device in the data centre, with copper Cat-6a providing connectivity on each floor. ‘Tesira was selected as it provides both very powerful and highly scalable processing that can grow with the evolving needs of Suntec,’ he adds. ‘It allows us to route audio from anywhere to anywhere.’ The main Server-IO frame in the data centre has been inserted with an AVB card and a Netgear GS724T AVB switch enabling connectivity via the fibre network with the other IO devices, which have also been outfitted with AVB cards. Providing up to 420 input and 420 output channels over AVB, audio networking, configuration and control is maintained over the Tesira network.

Each Tesira Server-IO offers the flexibility to have scalable DSP and I/O in the same device, with up to three DSP-2 cards and up to 12 I/O cards for up to 48 channels of audio I/O (mic and line level, VoIP, and telephone interface) in addition to AVB, CobraNet and Dante. The on-board DSP features the SpeechSense and AmbientSense algorithms, which enhance speech processing by accurately distinguishing between human speech and noise. Audio processing control includes signal routing and mixing, equalisation, filtering, dynamics and delay in addition to control, monitoring and diagnostic tools via the Tesira design software.

Flexibility is a key selling point in emboldening the venue’s appeal. Therefore, the powerhouse of level three consists of a partitioning system covering 36 individual meeting rooms that can be clustered together in addition to three Summit and three Nicholl rooms from the concourse with floor to ceiling bay windows. ‘Every possible connotation had to be thought through so that the multiple room combinations could be mapped,’ explains PAVE System senior sales manager Stephen Teo. ‘With Tesira, programming was easy but the floor layout on this level ensured that a lot of programming had to be conducted. Ultimately, over 300 presets were applied with unique characteristic DSP settings. Many, if not most of these room combinations will never be used, but you have to configure them in the event that such a combination may be needed.’ Eighteen meeting rooms are served by four Tesira Server IO processors, each capable of delivering 32 inputs and 32 outputs of CobraNet audio networking. The processors have been further outfitted with a number of DSP-2, SIC-4 modular analogue input and SOC-4 output cards, each providing four channels of mic or line level audio input.

Whilst another Tesira Server-IO is dedicated to the central exhibition space and server corridors on level three, two processors were required to fulfil the needs of the two central Summit rooms. In addition to being outfitted with DSP-2, SIC-4 and SOC-4 cards, both processors have been inserted with three SAC-4 modular analogue input cards. Each SAC-4 card provides four channels of mic or line level audio input with Ambient Noise Compensation, which was deemed paramount given the large number of conferences to be staged in this space. Individual Tesira Server-IOs manage both the level two and level four multipurpose halls, whilst the final two are located on level six for City Harvest Church. Flexible remote input and output capabilities are further provided courtesy of an EX-MOD expander device, inserted with 4-channel EIC and EOC expander I/O cards, communicating directly with the Tesira AVB network via a Netgear GS-724T AVB switch.

An EV ceiling loudspeaker solution was selected for the entire upgrade, although the Big Picture is boosted by a wall of sound emitting from above in the form of concealed EVF1152D and EVF1181S L-R arrays powered by CPS 2.6 amplifiers. Audio playback in the 36 meeting rooms is catered for by 172 EV C4.2 LP low profile models, which are augmented in the lower frequencies by 36 EV C10.1 10-inch subwoofers. The system is powered by a combination of 15 EV CPS4.5 and CPS 2.6 amplifiers, which are located in three ELV rooms on the same level in order to minimise cable runs.

‘We experienced a very tight schedule in the run up to Suntec Singapore’s first event,’ discloses Mr Teo, highlighting the somewhat typical challenges that occur on-site as deadlines approach. ‘That meant installing over 800 speakers in just two weeks. Fortunately, the EV ceiling speakers come with a tile bridge and mounting ring and so were easily integrated once we had cut out the templates in the 3.5m height ceiling. Furthermore, the white, low profile designs ticked the boxes of the architect. From an audio perspective, they provide ample bass down to 45Hz and are high definition in character.’

The larger Summit and Nicholl rooms together with the service corridors linking the many event spaces have been outfitted with a total of 394 of the larger, more powerful EV C8.2LP speakers. Powered by a total of 14 CPS 4.5 and CPS 2.6 amplifiers, these 8-inch coaxial models provide a sensitivity output of 93dB SPL within a 50Hz to 20,000Hz frequency range, bypassing the need for any subwoofers. All 29 CPS 2-channel amplifiers have been inserted with EV RMC-810 remote control modules allowing them to be supervised and managed over EV’s Iris remote control network. With flexibility being a byword now in venue management, Suntec Singapore also commissioned 25 mobile racks to provide plug and play audio solutions whatever the event being staged. Level three is blessed with hundreds of input panels allowing the racks to be powered and patched into. Each rack consists of a Yamaha MG166c analogue console, a DVD player, two Shure SLX wireless microphone channels and a Shure Microflex gooseneck microphone.

The 7m height ceiling for the level four multipurpose halls required a slightly more powerful sound reinforcement application given the larger and more varied events that this space caters for. ‘The acoustics can be tricky in here, so we decided to use a tight dispersion high cone loudspeaker system, this keeps the energy focused and puts more direct sound on the people,’ explains Mr Hall. The 12,000 sq-m hall can be divided into eight separate rooms by partitions and is catered for by a total of 132 EV C8.2 HC (high ceiling) speaker models further boosted by 24 C10.1 subwoofers. Once again, to minimise cable runs through the ceiling, the amplification rack housing the 10 EV CPS4.5 and CPS8.5 amplifiers together with the Tesira processing is located in a fifth floor ELV room. City Harvest Church’s large auditorium on level six is generally used for youth and Chinese Sunday services, for which a pair of Renkus Heinz IC Live-FR-Dual models help to enhance the spoken word and support live music.

A large number of AMX NI-700 Netlinx integrated controllers were added to the fabric of the Suntec Singapore upgrade, operating over the Ethernet RS-232 and RS-485 network to control video players, projectors, lights, thermostats and other electronic equipment. Ideal for single-room environments with a limited number of devices, 39 NI-700s have been installed into level three alone, in addition to 14 other units located on the other levels. These are all fed via AMX ABS AX link distributors into a larger NI-3100 controller in the level one data room, which can serve as a redundant EVAC system should the main building management system encounter any problems. The addition of three AMX EXB-I/08 I/O control boxes both on level three and level four were built into the design for room combining preferences. Their addition creates a centralised control environment when required over the same network allowing one controller to be shared among multiple smaller rooms rather than using individual controllers.

One of main design challenges faced by Sennen Design when assessing the various room combinations on level three was to ensure that all the partitions accurately depicted their true status. In the event that a partition is closed when in actual fact it was open for room combining, the incorrect DSP preset would be applied by the Tesira mainframe. ‘We’ve selected Keyence partition sensors in the past as they are extremely accurate,’ Mr Hall explains. ‘When the partition is closed, the sensor will light red and this information is relayed via AMX control. If opened, this is detected by the internal laser and it turns green and the information is fed back automatically via the AMX control to the Tesira DSP.’ In total, 54 PV-Z31 sensors were installed on level three and a further 22 for the level four multipurpose halls.

Having opened for business once again, Suntec Singapore is enjoying a renaissance in this ultra-competitive nation. The Big Picture may draw the visitors and businesses towards this established 20 year old landmark, but it is the modular, flexible A/V system flowing through its interior that ensures the signatures are made and the satisfied customers return. Discrete like the free high-speed, high-density Wi-Fi that runs throughout the venue, the A/V system is simple in its design despite the many intricate challenges that had to be considered and overcome.

‘From a service provider’s point of view, one of the main strengths of this system is that our engineers can monitor and manage it remotely from our office 10km away in Bedok,’ furthers Mr Teo. For a part of Singapore that was once under water, Suntec Singapore is adding more weight to its green credentials.

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