There’s no way around it: For businesses to thrive in today’s digital economy, connectivity is non-negotiable. Especially as companies move toward completely cloud-based infrastructure, advanced in-building communications greatly impact productivity and efficiency. But, access to high-quality, dependable technological infrastructure doesn’t start with a business’ IT department – it starts with the building in which it resides.
Many building owners recognize superior connectivity can set their building apart from its competitors. But, they may not be aware of the best practices to achieve this.
For those seeking to design or identify an office space with optimal connectivity and telecommunications infrastructure, consider the following criteria:
Outside Plant & Point of Entry Planning
The essential first step to ensure ISPs can easily access the facilities and provide business tenants with internet service is adequate planning of outside plant infrastructure. Whenever possible, underground entrances are highly recommended over aerial pathways to reduce the risk of damaged wires caused by a variety of factors including high winds, human tampering, vehicular impact, and even animal chewing. In 2011, Level 3 Communications (News - Alert), owner of an 84,000-mile fiber network, estimated that 17 percent of its network damage was caused by squirrels chewing through aerial fiber lines. This could be avoided if these lines were contained within underground conduits. Though it may cost more initially, it will reduce maintenance costs over the long term.
In addition to cost savings, this aspect of resilient building design increases tenant satisfaction by offering assurances and protection against potential service disruption. From a service reliability standpoint, the advantages of underground utilities far outweigh any of the downsides, and the risk of excavation damage can be mitigated by having multiple, diverse pathways and/or encasing conduit runs in concrete.
Telecommunications Room Planning & Design
A telecommunications room should be designed with the service providers in mind. A well-planned telecommunications room includes the proper space and controlled environment to protect the equipment used to service the building’s tenants. In addition to the space and layout, the room should be located above FEMA floodplain levels, incorporate climate control, and include proper fire detection/suppression methods to mitigate risk of damage to the equipment.
Under-calculating riser capacity is a common mistake that can be expensive to upgrade once the building is complete. All risers should be sized properly, based on building square footage, and should be protected within a closet or room while remaining easily accessible to building personnel and telecom providers on each floor.
For a building to have best-in-class connectivity, it must have multiple forms of electrical resiliency supporting its telecommunication services. Incorporating diverse electrical feeds reduces the risk of power failures. For the highest degree of reliability, a building should have electrical feeds from diverse substations, rather than a single location. A back-up generator should also be available for tenants to tap into in the event of a prolonged power failure. The generator should also support the electrical panels servicing the telecom room. Many tenants experience internet outages when they are tied into a back-up generator, but their ISP is not.
Mobile coverage within commercial buildings is typically not top of mind for developers during the construction process, but it’s just as important as hardwired connections. Larger floorplates paired with metal or concrete walls can lead to inconsistent mobile coverage. Especially as building owners look to utilize materials that increase efficiency such as thermal shielded glass, mobile connections, and radio frequency coverage drastically decrease.
To avoid the lack of mobile connectivity, it is important to understand the future coverage in the building by using predicative analysis tools based on the building materials, location, and size. This predictive radio frequency test will determine if the coverage will be adequate or if other steps need to be taken. To prepare for mobile coverage solutions, a building can create a dedicated head-end room, conduits, and wall space throughout the riser for a distributed antenna system or small cell solution. Planning for this infrastructure in advance will significantly reduce the amount that a DAS operator or mobile provider needs to invest in the building.
Readiness & Access
Buildings should conduct their telecom due diligence by contacting nearby ISPs to have them vet and confirm their serviceability. This will enable providers to plan their installations and will enable future tenants to ensure that the building can meet their technology requirements.
By bringing technology to the forefront of the design process, buildings will be better equipped to provide the internet infrastructure businesses require to thrive and integrate new technologies.
John Meko is WiredScore director of engineering, USA (https://wiredscore.com/en/).
Edited by Erik Linask