Provide a technology platform at the new 15,000-square-meter BHP Billiton global headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, that’s in lockstep with the company’s charter values of sustainability, integrity, respect, performance, simplicity and accountability.


Norman Disney & Young and the customer created an off-site design center where about 50 professionals covering every discipline of consultancy, as well as stakeholders from BHP Billiton, worked side-by-side for two years to come up with fully digital solutions that reflected the company’s values and served BHP Billiton’s employees, board members, clients and guests.

The Team

Customer: BHP Billiton
Designer/Integrator: Norman Disney & Young
Installer: Rutledge Engineering

BHP Billiton is Australia’s largest corporation and among the world’s largest commodity producers. With 130 locations globally, the company is serious about ensuring everything that shapes its culture worldwide be held to uniform, high standards — including its digital technology environment.

Richard Morrison, CTS®, National Manager ICT at Norman Disney & Young (NDY), the Melbourne-based firm chosen to provide consulting services for the information communications technology, audiovisual and security systems at BHP Billiton’s new global headquarters, says the client took a unique approach to systems design.

“They assembled a virtual team at one location, composed of many companies and their staff and said, ‘Let’s get together all your collective genius and we will create better solutions than we have in the past,'” Morrison explains. All internal and external stakeholders were collocated at an off-site design center, including the interior designer, services engineers, AV and IT designers, internal representatives and everyone else associated with the project.

“We needed to be inducted and briefed on BHP Billiton core values,” says Christopher Khoo, senior ICT/AV consultant at NDY. “It really enhanced collaboration, seeing the bigger picture and how decisions you make affect the other end of the design. You couldn’t get that level of detail and coordination without the virtual team approach.”

All of audiovisual systems were mocked up in the design center prior to installation, “So we could see how the solution would work and make improvements,” Morrison says. “There is continual technology disruption when you’re designing systems, so you really want to see how the solutions are going to operate before you operate them.”

The results have been exceptional.

Universal Design, Universal Functionality
A global company needed a global solution. So before designing systems for BHP Billiton headquarters in Melbourne, members of the project team toured some of the company’s best-in-class office facilities, Morrison says. The Singapore office, with control systems built on AMX technology, was designated the reference facility, even though it wasn’t the most up-to-date at the time. Ultimately, the design goals were holistic.

Throughout the project, Morrison says, BHP Billiton emphasized outcomes over products. “They said, ‘We’re more interested in the functionality and what we can achieve for our people than we are in the cost.’”

If a BHP Billiton employee from South Africa traveled to Singapore, Melbourne or any other location, they needed to be able to enter a meeting room, see a familiar control interface and launch a videoconference. “The AV systems needed to be simple and intuitive, robust and reliable,” Morrison says.

The control interface, for example, was put through a user workshop process. “It didn’t matter where they were in the world,” according to Morrison, “they were able to use the same training for the solution.”

Ensuring such functionality and performance was critical. While NDY was working with BPH Billiton, Morrison was involved with InfoComm International® on development of ANSI/INFOCOMM 10:2013 Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification, an industry standard comprising 160 checkpoints for ensuring a technology system operates the way a customer expects.

“The standard was being written while we were designing and delivering BHP Billiton’s systems,” Morrison says. “It wasn’t final, but we sent it to BHP Billiton as a draft and as the interface for how we would run the testing process.”

More specifically, NDY used the ANSI/INFOCOMM 10:2013 then-draft standard as a framework to integrate the new AV systems with BHP Billiton’s network and IT systems. “This provides certainty that all issues are captured, planned and tracked as part of commissioning the facility,” Morrison says. “It allows the transition to operation to be smooth and well planned, delivering the highest levels of quality and truly delivering an exceptional experience.”

The Admirals Club Experience
Functionality, technology and aesthetics characterize the experience throughout the new BHP Billiton headquarters, starting with the business center. “They have a lot of people traveling from overseas,” says Morrison. “The idea was to create a private café environment, an ‘admirals club’ experience for traveling staff.”

On the business center’s mezzanine level are meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities. And featured prominently in the center is the Heritage Wall, an interactive videowall depicting BHP Billiton’s history and its future.

The business center can also be turned into an event space for hundreds of people. “It was important that all of the AV equipment is the highest quality, but can also be concealed,” says Khoo. “The speakers, projectors and large-format screens drop down from the double-height space.” And all the AV is hidden behind architectural ceiling tiles, which also feature integrated lighting.

In fact, throughout the building, none of the AV components are out in the open — except for the displays. “All of the audio is concealed,” says Richard Brand, Senior Associate at NDY and the lead AV designer on the project. “All of the rooms have front-of-house, full-range loudspeakers for program playback, but they’re behind a wire mesh and fabric paneling, with carefully placed distributed ceiling speakers for speech reinforcement.”

Details That Matter
Each of the meeting rooms at BHP Billiton headquarters starts with the same audio, video and control technologies, integrated to meet uniform aesthetic, quality and functional standards. As the size and function of a room varies, so does the supporting equipment.

The building’s huddle spaces are outfitted for simple functionality, with a teleconference system, LCD monitor, laptop/AV interface, 10-inch AMX touchpanel for AV and lighting control, and a room-scheduling display. Larger meeting rooms add to the mix retractable table microphones, distributed ceiling speakers and induction-loop assistive listening technology. And videoconferencing-equipped rooms include Cisco Systems C-40 and C-60 codecs, a pair of 55-inch LCD monitors and a Cisco camera.

Throughout BHP Billiton’s activity-based work areas, meeting spaces, breakout areas and business lounges, designers paid particular attention to the microphone and display technologies in each space.

“They were previously running boundary microphones on the tables and there were issues with quality and pick up,” says Brand. “The Clock Audio retractable microphones gave them a clean surface when they weren’t in use and provided excellent audio coverage.” Combined with Biamp audio processing, “You can speak anywhere in the room, face any direction, get up and walk around,” says Brand. “The problems they had with staff complaining about audio quality have been rectified.”

Displays were chosen based on function, not just room size. “In a meeting room, the picture is 80 percent of the presentation experience,” Brand says. And designers knew that BHP Billiton presentations contain a lot of spreadsheets and graphs. “The screens are all sized to accommodate that sort of content.”

And then there’s BPH Billiton’s boardroom. Its south-facing wall features “changeable glass” that frosts and un-frosts to alternate between privacy and a dramatic view of the city. Motorized blinds block out light and improve the room’s acoustical performance. And because the boardroom also serves as BHP Billiton’s emergency response center, it includes the most advanced visual technology.

“Through the schematic design and design development process, we went through a process of picking the best picture technology to use in the space. We needed a very large screen,” says Khoo. “We looked at the 100-inch plasmas and LCDs, but at the end of the day, those were too small for the space and we weren’t happy with the quality.” The team opted for a high-definition Barco projector in a rear-projection configuration. “We liaised with the architect to build a projection room that also housed all of the AV equipment serving the boardroom,” Khoo says.

Morrison says stakeholders from BHP Billiton were involved throughout the project, helping ensure its success. “They wanted to understand how the technology was being used and how reliable it was,” he says.

From a technology perspective, the need to support a unified, global experience meant incorporating common equipment, shared infrastructure and plant space and streamlined systems management, says Morrison. “Which translates into improved efficiency, minimal downtime and much more value for money.”

Equipment Highlights

The BHP Billiton global headquarters includes audiovisual systems from many different manufacturers, including but not limited to:

AKG (wireless microphones)
Amino Communications (IPTV set-top boxes)
AMX (control systems and video processing)
Appear TV (switching and control)
Audix (ceiling and gooseneck microphones)
Barco (projectors)
Biamp Systems (audio processing)
Cisco Systems (audio/video conferencing)
Clock Audio (table microphones)
EAW (various speakers)
Extreme Networks (network switches)
Extron Electronics (signal processing and distribution)
Middle Atlantic Products (equipment racks)
PLUS (electronic whiteboards)
Powersoft Audio (amplifiers)
Samsung (displays and touch overlays)
Sony (HD PTZ cameras)
Stewart Filmscreen (projections screens)
Tannoy (ceiling speakers)
Univox (assistive listening)

Written by Cindy Davis, Special to InfoComm International®