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Why the US National CAD Standard Matters to FM

Posted on 11/30/2015 4:40 AM by Dr. Walter Black

Imagine the internet to the President’s suite is down.  You pull up the drawing on your iPad to find the broken equipment or cable and it’s not in the rack!  Madly scrambling, you finally call the installation company who mentions they rehabbed that system 18 months ago.  “Who did you give it to?” you ask.  “We turned it in, but we can send you an archive copy…tomorrow.” 

Another angry call from the President.  Then you notice another drawing not in the index but referencing the rack in its file name.  You open it and find a later Issue or revision number and date, but a different, non-standard, file name.  So you make a mental note to talk to…someone tomorrow about file update procedures.

 This is an example of how the National CAD Standard (NCS) V6 sections on file naming, issue noting and floor numbering are critical to creating, archiving and recalling the correct sheet from the sheet set.  NCS V6 UDS Sections are also recommended for BIM implementation and can help reduce the expense of transferring building data from design applications to facility management applications. Let’s take a look at another example of how standardized symbols and CAD standards can simplify facility operations:

What the #$@% does “T” mean?  You’re preparing for a company-wide teleconference and can’t identify the access port for the video feed on the wall.  One port says “T” and the other “S”.  So you quickly look up the room drawing and find 2 unfilled triangles. One is marked “T” with a DB9 connector, so “T” probably doesn’t stand for telephone.  The other is marked “S” with an RCA connector, so it could be a speaker output.  But there are no other annotations or legend references on what these mean.  So you go to the drawing set abbreviations schedule and are still no better off. 

This Never-Never Land is the result of poor, non-standard symbols and abbreviations.  In NCS V6 UDS Module 5: Terms and Abbreviations, there are over 2600 terms used in buildings, including new communications terms.  In it you find “T” means tread and “S” means south—so you still don’t know anything.  If the NCS abbreviations had been used, you would know that the “T” should be “TPAN” for touch panel—a touch screen remote control used with the teleconference system and that the TPAN is mounted on a nearby desk.  You would also know that “S” should have been “SRC” for source of the teleconference signal and you would need an adapter to hook up the video camera.

What do those triangles mean? Since you are still stymied about the triangles, which you know are used for telephone and data ports, you search for the symbols list and find it has 2 unfilled triangles, one marked data and the other phone.  You also find 2 filled triangles marked data and phone.  How can the same symbols represent different objects?  Now you need to search for the diagrams sheets to find the answer.  NCS V6 says: “Symbols are graphic representations of objects, line types or materials.”  Symbols, in other words, should be simple representations of complex technology, and can be standard shapes or may resemble the equipment or materials.  In earlier NCS versions, there was some confusion about port symbology.  In NCS V6, 48 new AV and communications symbols were added that follow the ANSI J-STD710 standard, which agrees with the BICSI and TIA symbols for ports.  See the sample classroom floor plan (Figure 1), which shows:







  1. Data port triangles are filled, open triangles are phone, a split triangle with one side filled is a data and phone port, whereas a split unfilled triangle is a miscellaneous port.  See Figure 1 for examples of different NCS V6 ports and Figure 2 for a possible solution for this scenario.
  2. Many of the symbols look like what they represent (e.g., screens, projectors, speakers).
  3. Each symbol has attributes defining mounting, technology and a legend reference number.
  4. There is a clear side legend which follows NCS UDS guidelines which shows the legend number, the symbol and a short description of each.



In the above example, the Figure 2 floor plan drawing shows the two wall ports with three connections and how other devices are connected to wall ports—even down to the desk number upon which the control panel is mounted.  If it had a good legend, as shown in Figure 1, you’d have a clear understanding of how the teleconference needs to be set up—because the drawings and the abbreviations would all follow NCS V6.

In earlier NCS versions, there was some confusion about port symbolism.  In NCS V6, 48 new AV and communications symbols were added that follow the ANSI J-STD710 standard, which agrees with the BICSI Data that port triangles are filled, open triangles are phone, a split triangle with one side filled is a data and phone port, whereas a split unfilled triangle is a miscellaneous port.  See Figure 1 for examples of different NCS V6 ports and Figure 2 for a possible solution for this scenario

In all of these scenarios, operations and maintenance personnel needed to rely on the paper or PDF documents derived from CAD or BIM, but these efforts were hampered by a lack of adequate Sheet consistency.  Clearly, the U.S. National CAD Standard was not followed, as it provides uniformity in sheet organizing and naming, sheet legend notes, correct symbols, and symbol attributes, as well as using recognized standard abbreviations. In addition to redrawing 1300 symbols to ANSI dimensions and adding 110 new and revised symbols, the newly released U.S. NCS V6 also includes BIM implementation guidelines, new and revised “Communications Terms and Abbreviations”, and updated Uniform Drawing System (UDS) sections on file naming, scaling, floor numbering, and text notes.

Don’t buy into the idea that just because paperless design and 3D BIM are hot new items that CAD standards should be left to geeks using drafting desks – ensuring the most recent NCS version is always followed they can save you trouble and improve construction and maintenance documentation in your building operations.

Dr. Walter Black is the founder of AVSymbols.com.

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What Certification Framework is Right for Your Green School

Posted on 11/24/2015 10:15 AM by Patti Mason

Whatever your motivation for pursing a third-party certification on a new or existing school building, in addition to environmental and health benefits, green building standards and rating systems are effective tools for stakeholder engagement, decision making and goal setting. Documentation and verification requirements, prerequisites and checklists all allow schools to easily demonstrate excellence and innovation. The educational system exists to provide a very similar service to students as these programs provide to project teams and taxpayers.

As more schools make the move towards being green, they have a growing list of programs to choose. The most prominent in our state, LEED for Schools, CHPS, and WELL, are examined below.

LEED: The U.S. Green Building Council created LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in response to a need in the building industry for a voluntary and flexible rating system to define, measure and recognize green buildings. LEED began by serving new commercial class A office buildings but has since created adaptations to address the specific needs of a wide variety of building types, including schools. The LEED for Schools rating system examines and awards points for everything from reducing waste during the construction process to commissioning the building’s HVAC systems. The program also awards teams for mitigating issues specific to learning spaces, like acoustics.

CHPS: The Collaborative for High Performance Schools has criteria for new and existing schools similar to LEED that is intended to help school districts reduce operating costs, achieve higher student performance, and minimize environmental impact.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools is one of the first Colorado schools to develop a case study on this particular set of criteria for existing schools. The district realized that a step-change in school building efficacy would require a more holistic approach so they have adopted the seven CHPS metrics related to a school’s current state of health.

WELL: The WELL Building Standard is still relatively new to Colorado and focuses heavily on physical health and occupant behaviors. It is a good fit for schools with a current or desired culture of health and wellness. WELL, which can be achieved in conjunction with LEED, explores the intersection between individual health and wellbeing and environmental sustainability. The performance requirements are set in seven categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Each of the categories have their own features matrix used when grading the buildings compliance.

Colorado’s Finest Alternative High School has implemented the WELL framework into their modern learning environment. The open environment teaches respect and creates positive behavioral habits, and gives the students a chance to interact in a positive environment.

All three programs provide a framework for delivering a green school building. To be successful, a school must first evaluate its sustainability culture and understand how critical the occupants will be in maintaining the school after it is open. The criteria lays the groundwork and certifies the building, but the faculty and staff are critical to ensuring that the building’s sustainability attributes are maintained long after construction ends.

Each year, USGBC Colorado’s Green Schools Summit offers an opportunity to examine how far Colorado has come in its journey to transform K-12 school buildings. The Colorado Department of Education’s BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant program, which requires recipients to pursue LEED for Schools or CHPS certification on new construction projects when possible is a clear contributor to the growing number of third-party certified green schools. Green schools champions found at public, private, and charter schools throughout our state are also helping Colorado stake its place as one of the greenest states in the country.

Patti Msaon is Executive Director of USGBC Colorado.

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