Caster Communications has grown steadily since 2013, doubling the size of its team and expanding its contract service providers all to support more and more tech clients across the globe. But space has become a challenge.
Caster’s owner had bought the agency’s building in 2001 but had leased the main floor if the building to an interior designer. The agency had been working in a split office space, part of the team on the second floor and part of the team plus conference area on the lower level, but the bigger team and the demand for upgrading the building’s entire technology and network infrastructure forced a hard conversation with the tenant about the agency reclaiming its space and moving forward on the entire 4,200 square foot building renovation.
The Tech Decision
Caster’s President and Founder, Kimberly Lancaster, designed a new office that is at once technologically smart and locally sourced. Caster Communications is a veteran in the tech industry, with clients serving smart office spaces: Control4 and InFocus.
The building was renovated from basement to second floor adding new office spaces, cubicle areas, a phone booth, a full kitchen, break room, and coffee bar, plus multiple conference areas including the large conference room and multiple off-shoot and private huddle spaces.
Aside from building restructuring and design, the office received technological upgrades from Caster’s clients Control4 and InFocus, to automate the entire building and bring fast-paced, collaborative conferencing to the table for Caster to use with its clients and remote account manager, all new wiring for faster upload/download speeds, all new LED lights, plus full lighting control and security/fire system upgrades.
Kimberly has Control4 automation in her primary residence in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and in her ski house in Vermont. Like many homeowners and small business owners, Kimberly designed the office to have Control4 for the convenience of automating and being able to remotely manage the building’s lighting, temperature, music, and more.
She worked with the integrator to design scenes that would suit the office environment, including Welcome, Good Night, and a Pilates scene for weekly Wednesday classes in the conference room. Caster also added its first full video conferencing system with InFocus including two Mondopads and the JTouch interactive whiteboard to facilitate decision making, collaboration, and relationship building with clients.
The Mondopads also allow Caster to conduct high-definition video conferencing with our remote employee in Toronto and clients in other cities or across the globe. With local custom integration dealer Robert Saglio Audio Video, the automation, lighting, AV and collaborative technology project was managed by the company’s lead technician, Jeff Mitchell.
With moveable tables to accommodate different size meetings up to 20 people, the conference room features Control4 including Triad and Pakedge, plus InFocus video and collaboration technology for the ideal meeting space. Two Mondopads let the Caster team display presentations and video-conference with clients; the two screens let one to multiple people be onscreen simultaneously while the second Mondopad is used for presentations, whiteboarding, screen-sharing and more. InFocus’s collaborative tech is a key tool for conferencing with Caster’s remote account manager who is based in Toronto.
Caster’s longest running client, home automation provider Control4, is the primary control system including a Pakedge network with three wireless access points and a private guest network. With automated lighting and comfort, staff can adjust temperatures or turn off the entire building from their car when they’re leaving for the night.
The office has custom lighting scenes such as “Kitchen” and “Welcome,” which greet team members, and “Good Night” provides a well-lit exit. “Pilates” simplifies Caster’s weekly workout; the scene dims recessed lighting, cools the room, and fires up the Triad One for the instructor to connect her class playlist. Kim even has a “Working Late” button which creates a light path to the restroom and kitchen, dims her overhead and cove lights to 60%, while making sure the rest of the office is shut off and exterior lighting is on.
The office also has 6 Amazon Echo’s placed throughout the building for equally convenient voice-controlled scenes through the Control4 Alexa Skill.
Caster Communications features an en-suite apartment with a murphy bed for overnight accommodations for out-of-town guests including employees, clients, and even media. With a full bathroom with heated floor, kitchenette, LG smart TV, Amazon Echo, lighting control, the “Caster apartment” is the best overnight stay in town.
The installation process was timed with the renovation which spanned six months and included a full rewire of electrical and CAT6 plus custom lighting and network design. It required all of the contractors – HVAC, electrician, Control4 dealer, central vacuum installer, and the contractor all to be on the same page. The agency was working during the renovation, which was up against CEDIA – the firm’s biggest work event of the year.
The electrical system was challenging, including an outdated X-10 lighting system and archaic transformers that handled the low voltage scattered throughout the building. The Caster building had been an art gallery, and as walls were added and removed and ceilings adjusted to work with new spaces, the volume of unknowns were finally solved. Lights that had never worked in 20 years had their lines traced, marked, and prepared to become part of a lighting scene.
The inbound data lines were also a challenge, solved with Verizon fiber optic runs, so the enterprise level network could take advantage of the upload and download rates needed. The third challenge was typical in any new lighting installation: designing scenes — especially for 14 people and hundreds of scenarios. How do you one, get it right and two, keep it simple for everyone to use. For example, if “Good Night” turns off the entire building, how does it react to an overnight guest on the second floor? How does it impact comfort? Can “Good Night” override “Working Late”?
Kimberly designed the scenes with the integrator Jeff Mitchell, based on the flow and needs of the office space. Some lights required tweaking once the team moved in; for example, “Good Night” extended the porch light timing to allow employees time to get to cars, and slowly dim to not annoy the residential
Finding top talent in Rhode Island is challenging enough, retaining top talent when your office space is compromised and unappealing is beyond difficult. The redesign accomplished two things – it allows Caster to consider a significantly wider talent pool but provide remote employees plenty-of-options for face-to-face team collaboration; it produced a gorgeous, enviable office space that gives everyone a space to call their own, work quietly, brainstorm loudly, interject easily, and simply enjoy their work day.
When employees come in each morning, they activate the “Welcome” scene to turn on the lights across the building and start the thermostat. At the end of the day, “Good Night” shuts all the lights save for under-cabinet lighting in the outward-facing kitchen, and a porch light that stays on for 30 minutes for a safe exit on dark, icy nights.
The revamped Rhode Island building can now easily accommodate the PR firm’s workforce. Thanks to the patience of the entire Caster team and clients during a six-month remodel that at times knocked pictures off the walls in the middle of conference call, a trusted integrator, a great electrician, and a fantastic construction crew that listened to the needs of the agency and building owner, Caster’s structure and building technology has the firm poised for growth well into the next decade.
The Caster building honors the agency’s Rhode Island character while it reflects their commitment to the global technology stories they preach.