Project Design: Adopting the J-Standard

Back in 2014, the main bodies governing our industry—CEDIA, CEA and InfoComm—teamed up to create a task group with the sole purpose of creating a universal standard set of symbols for illustrating AV installations on architectural floor plans. In January this year the ANSI-J-STD-710 standard was born.

This standard is intended to provide a globally applicable set of drawing symbols with some regional variations. The regional variations are mainly on the small power and lighting side, as there are already a few differing standards for these widely used in the UK, Europe, USA (and surrounding) and Asia. This was a game changer as up until its release, especially in the UK, there was no standard; the symbols used for AV differed wildly depending on who had drawn them. This obviously led to problems and confusion for other consultants and trades working on projects with integrated AV.

Being a design consultant the lack of a standard in the UK meant we had to use different symbols for different integrators as some already had their own set of symbols when we started working with them. Before the J-Standard we’d tried to implement symbols from the CEA standard which was more commonly used in the US, but as it wasn’t recognised in the UK integrators were reluctant to use it. The difference now is all of our plan drawings are done using the J-STD-710 symbols, which our dealers are happy to adopt as they represent the correct way to draw AV installations on architectural plans. In fact, as a D-Tools partner we spent most of the summer developing our own set of J-standard compliant symbols for use with this software.

Apart from standardising AV symbols and clearly communicating what is required on an installation, one of the most useful aspects of the J-standard is the way it breaks symbols up into categories and assigns a colour to each: Audio Video is orange, Communications is green, Safety & Security is Pink, Environment is blue, Control is purple, Furnishings are brown, and Electrical is yellow.  As we were developing our symbols it became apparent that we could use the J-standard colour categories to propagate across schematics as well as on plan drawings. 

So what are the benefits of this standard? Well here are a few key plus points:

Professionalism. If the J-standard is adopted industry wide it will help all the stake holders on any project know what to expect from an AV integrator. Over time the symbols will become familiar and therefore easier to understand rather than every integrator having his or her own symbols, thus improving the overall perception of professionalism from our industry.

A common language. The J-standard affords our whole industry a common language to communicate what is required on each project for the AV installation. This means if a project is properly documented any integrator would be able to easily work on any project regardless of who designed it or did the original installation. This is a big benefit to those clients who loose their favourite installer due to a difficult financial climate or other external forces beyond their control.

Colour coding. By fully adopting the J-standard’s category colours across plan and schematic drawings we are able to provide integrators using our drawings a quick visual reference of what each cable is doing. If they see a purple cable they know straight away that is to allow one device to control another.

Clear communication. The importance of clearly communicating how you want an installation to be set out and your requirements of other trades and consultants to help deliver this is paramount from an early stage. The J-standard not only gives you the tools to do this but it also sets out the best practices in how to achieve this in the clearest way possible.

More complete information. One of the best parts of the J-standard is it gives a structured way of providing additional information about items being installed. It allows you to show the mount type; wall, ceiling, floor, etc. It also provides for primary and secondary technology information. For example, primary technology on a speaker icon might be adding an S to indicate this is a subwoofer. Secondary technology a P to indicate the subwoofer is powered and therefore will need a mains socket outlet installed nearby.

We have learned a huge amount from adopting the J-standard. It has taught us that we can and should convince integrators we work with about the importance of standards. Being a non-end client facing design consultant and only working with integrators, in the past we have tried to provide each of our dealers with their own style of drawings. The J-standard showed us that this is something we should avoid and helped us to focus in on making all our design and documentation processes more efficient through standardisation. The fear before was that people within our industry and, to a lesser degree end clients, would be able to spot our drawings a mile away. Standardisation has dispersed this fear as we move towards people having a greater respect for our drawings and industry kudos for the integrators we work with.

The ANSI-J-STD-710 can be downloaded from the CEDIA website, where they also have a complete set of the symbols ready for use in drawings in a multitude of different formats from AutoCAD & Visio to image files all available to purchase.

Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then Keith worked in numerous high-end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break, he started Jones designs in August 2009 which has recently morphed into a Ltd. company calleddesignflow with his business partner, Kelly Ashforth. designflow aims at increasing awareness of design in AV and help installers win jobs and create proper documentation for them.