Ampetronic enhances historic Parliament Hall

As legislation changes to ensure that, when it comes to education, nobody with a disability is at disadvantage, Ampetronic induction loops are becoming increasingly common in colleges and universities throughout the UK. But whereas the proximity of other loop-equipped rooms and metal loss have to be overcome in the majority of such installations, a recent example at the University of St Andrews provided a very different challenge.

Nowadays more famous for its golf courses, St Andrews is a very historic town, its 1413-founded university the oldest in Scotland. One of the university’s most iconic buildings is Parliament Hall, now part of St Mary’s College but originally constructed as the lower hall of the King James Library. Completed in 1643, its name derives from the fact that the Scottish Parliament sat in the hall from 1645-1646, due to an outbreak of plague in Edinburgh.

These days it is used primarily as a debating chamber by the University Debating Society and as a hired venue for a wide range of meetings, conferences and events. But when the induction loop was installed, the historic fabric of Parliament Hall meant that it had to be done extremely carefully.

“We’ve used Ampetronic induction loops in the majority of our lecture theatres and meeting rooms. They’re high quality, reliable, and we know they work well,” says Tommy Bruce of the university’s Media Services department.

“When the decision was taken to upgrade Parliament Hall and, as part of that, to install a state-of-the-art AV system, it was a straightforward decision to choose an Ampetronic induction loop system.”

Installed by Arbroath-based Streamtec, the entire AV system was designed and installed with great sympathy to the building, the only visible giveaways being compact loudspeakers mounted along the picture rail, a small ceiling-mounted data projector, ceiling slot for a drop-down screen and a wooden lectern-cum-control cabinet which houses a desk microphone with the control panel and equipment, including the Ampetronic ILD500 loop amplifier.

With no adjacent loop systems or metal loss issues to deal with, a simple perimeter loop mounted on the wooden floor, beneath the carpet, was required.

“It’s a listed building, so the entire installation had to be very sensitively handled,” says Tommy. “For example, the panelling couldn’t be touched. Historic Scotland had a lot of input and the overall result is a high quality system that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the building at all.”

A wide range of sources can be patched into the system, including laptops, CDs, DVDs, background music sources and tie clip or handheld radio microphones. The system’s audio outputs feed directly to the induction loop, ensuring that anyone with a hearing impairment enjoys all the audio elements of any presentation.

“We are often called upon to design systems for modern buildings, where the potential for interference from a number of sources means that those designs are necessarily complex,” says Ampetronic managing director Julian Pieters. “At the University of St Andrews, we have done a number of those installations in teaching rooms.

“However, the Parliament Hall installation proves that Ampetronic systems are also an ideal solution for where less complexity is required. With sympathetic installation by Streamtec, we are able to bring an extremely historic building into line with 21st century legislation, meaning that hearing impaired users can get just as much enjoyment from this unique facility as everyone else.”