Futureproofing Flexibility

July 8, 2002
Designing Tomorrow’s Building Infrastructure Today
The building owner of the 21st century has two major responsibilities: providing exceptional value to tenants, while maximizing building profitability. Today, buildings are measured – and ultimately survive – by how well they utilize and function in a high-speed or “wired” world. To meet the needs of the new electronic environment, a building must provide unlimited bandwidth and easy access to the latest amenities. Owning and operating a “smart” building infrastructure achieves this by providing an additional source of revenue, reduces cost to operate and maintain the building, and allows “future proof” flexibility to provide exceptional value-added services to the tenant.The stunning growth of information technology, and the resulting demands on building infrastructures, has strained new and existing buildings. Current building infrastructures cannot keep up with the addition of rapidly growing multiple data and communication networks. Buildings once thought to have a life-cycle of 50, 75, or 100 years have been rendered functionally obsolete in less than a decade because their infrastructure has a three- to seven-year life-cycle. By designing and installing a scalable network, while minimizing re-construction costs, the infrastructure meets technology demands. To achieve this, the building owner or developer should include the infrastructure in the architecture and structural design phase of the project, making it not only another part of the sub-system but the network over which all of the building sub-systems run.There are three kinds of building infrastructures: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The Good is the infrastructure that plans for the future by providing the building a Multi-tenant Data Network, or MDN, creating a “smart” building. The Bad is the common infrastructure of today, which engineering consulting companies are recommending to architects and developers, with its bloated loads of unused “just-in-case” fiber and copper. The Ugly is yesterday’s unmanageable chaotic mess of low-quality copper, that really only covers phone lines, or individual cables that bloat the riser and only benefits the provider that owns them. The majority of owners and developers are overspending both in build-out and in excessive use of square-footage while not receiving the best solution or adequate preparation for future needs. In working towards an optimal building-wide distribution design for data, voice, video, and building automation systems, developers have discovered that it’s easily accomplished with better overall infrastructure planning, design, and implementation, which in the long term is less expensive to build and saves rentable space.The MDN is much simpler to design and deploy than other infrastructures. The advantages of the MDN come from two critical differences. First is that it is an active Ethernet network with powered intelligent components that route traffic (voice, data, video, building automation systems) securely over the same set of fiber and wires. Bandwidth is scalable to a Gigabit to each end point (a thousand times more bandwidth than a typical business uses for all its combined technology needs) and as networking technology evolves more bandwidth will be achieved over the very same wires in the future. Second, the MDN involves running an active line to each unit from the get-go. All services are provided across that wire so there’s no need for extra fiber and copper runs, which take up a lot of expensive space in the riser “just in case.”Matthew Cleary ([email protected]) is senior networking consultant-MDN Solutions at OnShore Inc. (www.onshore.com), Chicago, which provides networking evaluation, design, and implementation services.

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