Wired Production Group Goes Green

We can all probably agree that the last two years have been crazy. If you’re in the event industry, it was particularly unpredictable. We had a year of canceled events and shows due to COVID and had to quickly transition to totally virtual events. 

At our company, we had an extra drama to deal with. In August 2020, a derecho destroyed our corporate building and warehouse. What’s a derecho? It’s a widespread, long-lived wind storm with rapidly moving thunderstorms. Derechos produce destruction similar to the strength of tornadoes, but the damage is usually directed along a relatively straight path. The term “straight-line wind damage” sometimes is used to describe derecho damage. The wind damage swath in the derecho that impacted our community spread over a 700-mile stretch from Nebraska to Indiana with wind gusts up to 140 mph.

Warehouse structure with parking lot showing damage to the wall, roofing, and equipment inside as well as parked vehicles

With all the upheaval over the past two years, our team decided to reflect on the changes in the event industry. We’ve been working to identify ways we can improve how business is done. 

Energy Saving In The AV Industry

In the AV and event industry, it takes a lot of energy – mentally, physically, and environmentally – to produce any size event. Whether you’re running a generator to power a small stage setup or you’re driving semis across the United States to work on a concert tour, the events industry consumes a lot of energy. So how can AV professionals working at events make small changes to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment? That’s a question our company decided to think about.

After the derecho destroyed our building, our President and CEO, Ron Rausch, led the conversation with our team to determine the environmentally-friendly changes we could make to our facility as it was being rebuilt. We also brainstormed ways we could operate our business differently to make a more positive impact on the environment. 

The COVID shutdown allowed us time to get our plans in order and decide how we wanted to move forward to improve our daily operations and make a positive move to do our part in the greening of the AV industry. 

Consider Using Solar Power

While we can’t always control how much energy we use on-site at events, we can control how much energy we consume and what type of power we use when we work at the office or in the warehouse. 

Installing solar power helps businesses cut electrical bills significantly and gives you an immediate impact on your bottom line. Solar energy not only increases your profitability but it also cuts down the use of fossil fuel. 

Eagle Point Solar in Dubuque, Iowa offers customized solar energy solutions for any size commercial business. We connected with Eagle Point Solar after we started looking into using solar energy for our new building. When we got into the nitty gritty details, we knew that solar energy was a great option for us to help improve our energy consumption issues and help the environment at the same time.  

In 2021, our solar energy system was installed. In addition to the over $425,000 in savings we’ve estimated over the next 25 years, it is estimated that we will offset 1,597.56 tons of CO2 for the lifetime of the solar panel system. This is the equivalent of:

  • 40,138.67 trees planted
  • 175,731.47 gallons of gas consumed
  • 5,591.46 tons of waste recycled instead of land-filled
  • 1,677,436.78 pounds of coal burned
  • 180,064,850.75 smart phones charged

There are so many benefits to using solar on your building. It’s worth considering installing solar panels if you are building a new facility or remodeling.

LED Lighting

When we wanted to improve the energy efficiency of our 20,000+ square foot warehouse, we knew lighting would be a big upgrade – and something that would be worth the effort. Our construction crew installed high bay LED industrial light fixtures in both areas of our warehouse to be more energy efficient. In addition to maximizing energy savings with the LED upgrades, the lighting quality is improved over the incandescent lighting fixtures we had in our old building. 

Two images of different LED lighting fixtures in a high-bay warehouse space

Not only did we upgrade our lighting fixtures in the warehouse for energy efficiency, but we also upgraded the lighting in the office areas. Each of our new offices and restrooms include LED lighting fixtures with motion sensor auto-shut off. 

We also opted for larger auto shut-off fixtures in the reception area as well as can lights on a switch to ensure our office is welcoming and nicely lit for our guests. These LED lights and auto shut-offs make almost all of the lights in our building energy efficient.

Auto-shut off light fixtures on the ceiling helps make office areas more energy efficient

PRO TIP: LED lighting upgrades are not just for commercial buildings — they’re easy and affordable to make the change at home, too! Check out some of the details from Alliant Energy on how you can upgrade and save through their rebate program

Green Building Upgrades

Before the derecho in 2020, we didn’t really think about the various types of buildings in Cedar Rapids and notice if the walls were made out of cinder blocks or precast concrete panels. Since the derecho, it’s definitely something we notice. 

During the 140+ mph winds in the Iowa derecho, the west wall in our front warehouse collapsed. The cinder block wall was not built for that type of wind speed. In areas that have common natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, there are standard building requirements so that buildings are built from materials to better sustain natural disasters. Derechos are unexpected and definitely not common. It’s not a natural disaster that most building designers and developers plan for in Iowa!

During the Iowa Derecho of 2020, our warehouse cinder block wall collapsed as well as our roof was ripped off the building.

When we started planning to rebuild, Ron told the construction crew that we needed to go with precast concrete walls. Precast concrete walls are stronger, more cost-effective in labor, and are faster to install. This type of wall also incorporates insulation that is bonded into the precast concrete to create an R13 insulation value in the walls. We were able to connect with Fabcon Precast to bring this type of wall to our facility. 

The high-thermal mass of concrete walls prevents air leakage, which accounts for the most significant percentage of energy loss in buildings. This installation is also expected to drastically reduce heating and cooling costs compared to the weaker, less efficient construction of the cinder block walls we had before. 

Digital Inventory and Invoicing

Before the pandemic and derecho, our warehouse team made the recommendation to our management team to move to a digital inventory management system called Flex. This tool eliminates the inventory tracking issues we had in our previous inventory management system, moves away from printed pull sheets for our crew so we reduce paper waste, and our inventory is accessible in a cloud-based system so our team can access anywhere and everywhere we go. 

Flex Rental Solution In Action at Wired Production Group

Technology Disposal and New Purchases

In the derecho, Wired Production Group lost more than $1.55 million in equipment, $1.65M in the cost of our building and warehouse, and just over $200,000 in vehicle damage. This included everything from our air conditioning units on top of the building to video equipment to audio boards to chairs in our lobby. The loss was devastating, but watching the equipment beyond repair get tossed to the curb was even more heart-wrenching. 

As we sorted through the equipment, we knew we had to do what we could to salvage any damaged pieces, and we had to determine what was beyond repair. We provide our clients the best technology out there for their events. So we had to ensure our technology was functioning properly and going to provide the desired results on-site. 

Damaged equipment, technology, office furniture and more due to the Iowa derecho in 2020

When we purchase new equipment, we buy it with the intent of using it to its maximum life expectancy. Our management and purchasing team avoids purchasing products with low life expectancy because properly disposing of old and broken technology is not always easy. 

While it was easy for us to have all of our steel roofing hauled away to a recycling facility, it wasn’t as easy to effectively dispose of ripped projection screens, water-soaked microphones, and lighting consoles with broken buttons and displays. 

After all the sorting was done, our team spent about 1,250 hours testing, recovering, and properly disposing of all the AV equipment and office materials that were damaged in the derecho. It will take us years to replace everything that was lost. We are dedicated to investing in high-quality, long-lasting products when it’s time to make each and every replacement.

AV Equipment Upgrades

While evaluating our new equipment purchases, we are leaning toward more power efficient lines of products. High-quality AV technology is not inexpensive by any means. We’re working to invest in the best equipment to provide the best event and video production services to our clients. 

In the lighting department, we have focused all of our upgrades on LED lighting fixtures like the Chauvet Maverick Storm 1 Wash that we love to use on our stages. LED lighting fixtures provide huge energy savings and reduce heat from the fixtures. It’s also a lot easier to come by replacement parts like gels and bulbs that are more eco-friendly. 

Staging rig with LED light fixtures and moving lights

When it comes to our audio department, it’s not just about power. It’s about size and packing. Our team of audio engineers along with our systems design and integration engineer are building audio systems that reduce the power consumption with less amplifiers that do more work. The racks are more efficiently built when it comes to packaging, which directly affects the size and number of trucks it takes to move the systems. The more compact, the less space they’re going to take up when we travel across the country to produce the concerts, conferences, and other special events. 

The video department has been thrilled to invest in new laser projectors. These projectors do cost more to begin with, but they save a significant amount of money over time as they require much less maintenance than most standard projectors. They draw less power, they’re brighter, and if there is even one less bulb we can replace in the course of a year with each projector we own, that counts for something!

The crew has been most excited about a new technology we’re implementing in 2022 for our clients called Shoflo. Shoflo is an all-in-one platform that will be used for our clients to collaborate directly with our crew as we produce and manage their events. This platform will be used for our live streaming events, building our run-of-show documentation with our clients, and teleprompting for any video productions as well as live events. This tool is completely digital and will be operated through our iPads on-site at events rather than printing paper for our crew that will no longer be needed once the event has ended. 

Electric Vehicle Upgrades

In 2022, we are adding our first electric truck to our fleet. The Ford Lighting truck will be fully electric and will have a range of 300 miles. We will be installing electric charging stations at our offices to accommodate more future electric vehicle purchases. We’ll evaluate the efficacy and work toward future purchases to expand electric vehicles across our fleet. 

Little Changes, Big Impact

We also made other changes throughout our new building to help with energy efficiency, like high-efficiency toilets, automated water faucets, water bottle refill stations, and other cool features to reduce waste and increase our energy efficiency.

We understand that we work in an industry that historically consumes a lot more energy than it saves. Concerts require large amounts of electricity usage, corporate conferences use a lot of space that has to be well-lit, heated, cooled, and creatively designed to host hundreds or even thousands of attendees, and it’s normal for AV professionals to bring tools that add to the basic energy needs of event production. 

It’s up to all AV production companies and the event industry as a whole to make little changes and focus on the big impact we can make. 

PRO TIP: One big impact you can make is to host your events at facilities that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. In the LEED program, a building project is awarded points in categories for compliance with established sustainability standards. Architects, designers and building owners plan a project in order to acquire points in the program to achieve a level of certification for the building project.

LEED certified buildings have gone through very stringent building requirements to ensure that they used energy efficient best practices through the design, build and after the build process. By just having your event at a LEED certified building, you know that the facility meets high green standards.

Sample of LEED certification on commercial building

Stay Focused on Green Events 

As a company we are taking time to recognize the challenges we are up against and are consistently looking for new ways to create sustainability in the AV industry. It’s up to us to make these changes. We encourage you to do the same. 

Every day is an opportunity to focus on how we can do better for ourselves, our clients, and our world. Developing live, virtual, or hybrid event plans through green event practices allows us to continue to produce events for many years to come. We encourage our clients to stay vigilant in their efforts to create more sustainable events. 

For more information on how our team of video and event production professionals can help you stay focused on green event planning initiatives, contact us.