Case Studies

Shen Milsom Wilke LLC

Multidisciplinary communications technology, on a global scale

On an international basis, Shen Milsom Wilke LLC (SM&W) provides integrated, multidisciplinary services, including acoustics, audiovisual (AV) and multimedia, information technology (IT), data center planning, physical security and medical equipment planning. From New York to Beijing, San Francisco to Dubai and many other corners of the globe, SM&W’s converged technologies strengthen the design process and lead to improved project outcomes for clients.

Since 1986 when Fred Shen, founder and chairman of SM&W, established the New York-based firm, the company has been growing through an innovative, single-source strategy. “We have been pioneering this industry since the beginning and others have followed us,” shares Thomas Shen, Fred’s son and managing partner of SM&W. “When my father founded the firm, we were focused almost entirely on acoustical work until we teamed up with Hubert Wilke, one of our industry’s first pure AV design consultants.”

Organic growth

Hubert eventually joined Thomas in 1987, and by 1990 the company was expanding again, adding IT employees. “When we first expanded into AV, the firm grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the world,” shares Thomas. “As technology advanced and the convergence between acoustics, AV and IT grew, we realized the need to form an IT practice and it has only grown since. Many AV systems today are completely reliant on IT infrastructure. At SM&W we coordinate and design the building’s infrastructure to be flexible and robust to support various converged applications, including voice, data, A/V, security, BMS, wireless, etc.”

With a robust IT practice, SM&W’s services organically extended into security. “It was a natural fit for SM&W to expand into physical security,” says Thomas. “The vast majority of security systems today utilize an IT infrastructure to support connectivity and communications between security devices. Our team provides the internal coordination between security and IT, allowing us to manage the sharing of cable pathways, identify equipment room needs and coordinate network requirements to support the security applications.”

In 2006, SM&W found itself in the midst of yet another expansion. “We were working closely with well-known medical equipment planning firm Equipment Planners Inc. [EPI], coordinating infrastructure and low vibration needs with them on numerous health care projects,” recounts Thomas. “Again, it was the right fit and time for an extension of our disciplines. We ended up acquiring EPI later that year.”

The health care market has been SM&W’s fastest-growing market since. “We have experienced tremendous growth in this sector, because we are uniquely situated as an independent, multidisciplinary firm – we can provide coordinated acoustic, audiovisual, infrastructure, data center planning, physical security, medical equipment planning and health information technology services for hospitals,” explains Thomas. “By working closely with hospital administrators, clinical staff, architects, contractors, bio-medical staff and IT engineers, our process provides cost containment, reduces project change orders, improves scheduling and ensures interoperability between applications.”

SM&W’s expertise encompasses special consulting services such as data center planning, network operations and emergency operation center design, technology enriched operating room design, medical simulation facility design and financial trading floor design. The company also places high importance on developing sustainable designs and SM&W’s in-house LEED accredited professionals help facilitate LEED certification and specify Energy Star compliant devices and design control systems to aid in overall energy conservation.

World travelers

Today, SM&W is headquartered in New York City, but the firm’s suite of converged services have paved the way for global expansion and a network of more than 230 employees worldwide. “We now have 15 office locations across the world, with coast to coast locations in the U.S., as well as offices in the U.K., Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore and Dubai,” notes Thomas. “We were one of the first firms of our kind to expand into Asia in the early 1990s.”

From multimedia systems to IT, medical equipment to physical security, acoustics, technology audits and assessments, a wide range of clients call upon SM&W for comprehensive solutions on a global scale. One of such massive proportions has taken SM&W all the way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“The Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University is by far one of our most extensive landmark projects,” reveals Thomas. “This 35 million-square-foot women’s university campus, that was designed in only 14 months and constructed in merely 24 months, encompasses all of our disciplines.”

Connecting a small city

When SM&W received the RFP for The Princess Nora project, Thomas traveled to Cairo to negotiate the massive contract. In order to specify $750 million of AV equipment and more than $350 million in medical equipment, SM&W relied on its global resources, tapping into a team of over 30 employees. “We had crews working around the clock in shifts, six days a week,” recalls Thomas. “It was basically like planning the infrastructure for a small city; the amount of technology and planning was tremendous.”

Before construction commenced, SM&W produced nearly 3,000 drawings, focusing, among other things, on the university’s 700-bed, full-clinical teaching hospital with a broad range of state-of-the-art medical equipment for clinical practices and simulation equipment to support the academic needs of the medical school.

“The amount of convergence between AV, IT and the medical simulation technology was incredible,” shares Thomas. “Furthermore, the university will benefit from our design of a robust technology infrastructure that can support growth and change of technology over time.”

Also currently in the works for SM&W is the TransBay Transit Center in San Francisco. “The architecture and interior spaces, designed by Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, are primarily constructed of faceted glass panels and smooth reflective surfaces,” Thomas details. “It is a beautiful design, but as a result, the spaces will be naturally reverberant.

SM&W was challenged to improve the acoustic environment and make the public address system intelligible. “We had to get creative with our selection of absorption materials, and we used acoustical modeling software to identify reflection points and the best locations for special loudspeakers,” he continues.

The firm’s talented team developed a dual purpose solution for both the transit announcements and life safety systems for mass notifications and fire evacuations. “Typically, the life safety system is a standalone system, separate from the regular public address system, but because of the unique design of the building we were able to seek a variance from the fire department to have a single system serving dual purposes,” Thomas explains. “It’s a great design, but it’s one that added a great deal of complexity.”

But complex design and integration doesn’t intimidate SM&W. Instead, Thomas says the firm views a challenge as an opportunity to showcase its versatile, complimentary capabilities. “We will tackle just about anything,” he assures. This spirit has made for significant global growth over the course of nearly 30 years in business. Through an integrated approach, Shen Milsom Wilke LLC delivers interconnected technology and a comprehensive, cost-effective solution to any communications obstacle.

Published on: March 31, 2015

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