Developing Issues

Q: We're refurbishing an existing building. What are the most important technological considerations today? A: Whether you're involved in a new development or upgrading an existing structure, several issues arise.

By: Rajesh Goel, Brainlink International Inc.

Q: We’re refurbishing an existing building. What are the most important technological considerations today? 

A: Whether you’re involved in a new development or upgrading an existing structure, several issues arise.

Conduits, Conduits, Conduits. You can never have enough telecom space or conduits. Ensure each floor has sufficient conduits for telecommunications. Talk to your local telecom consultant, check the code for what it requires and really consider doubling it.

A challenge we face in older buildings is that sometimes conduits don’t
reach the upper floors, or current conduits are out of capacity because
they were too small or they’ve been clogged with gunk–cables that
are no longer required, cables run by defunct providers and so forth.

Electrical Supply. More and more firms are requiring 120V and 208V circuits, especially in their IT closets. Further down the road, we see a growing need for more power. Does your electrical wiring plant have sufficient cabling to handle higher loads? Can your local electricity provider deliver enough power? In some locales, the electric company has problems delivering sufficient power. Investigate whether you can use alternative or additional suppliers. And find out whether your local code allows you to use diesel-based generators.

Investigate Efficiency. The largest expense in data centers and office spaces is the heating/cooling/electrical system. For data centers, heating/cooling/power costs are their largest expense, far exceeding salaries, bandwidth and equipment. In offices, we see more and more clients creating or building IT closets, and the cost of cooling these
small spaces using traditional methods is expensive.

Some alternative power sources to consider: If you have a high-rise tower, can you use the wind differential to your advantage? Whether you’re in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles, properly using the altitude and wind direction could reduce your cooling costs immensely. Furthermore, if you’re in the Midwest wind plains or the Southwest, can you use a solar farm to provide additional power? One of the most interesting power-efficiency systems we’ve seen uses a closed-loop heat exchanger utilizing a local lake as a heat sink. This can be done in any coastal city–or just about anywhere else where there is a lake or a river. Water moves in a closed loop, gets chilled by the river or lake, moves to the top of the buildings, cools the air in the buildings by soaking up excess heat and dumps that heat back into the lake. Nothing is exchanged except heat, there is no pollution and the system is low maintenance.

Provide Telecom Defense in Depth. Is your facility held captive by a single local telecom provider? Or can you connect to multiple providers? Tapping into the nearest fiber junction, where multiple providers offer Internet connectivity is a huge asset to a building and its tenants. If your facility provides access to power from multiple providers or sources and can offer Internet connectivity through multiple providers, then you can position it as a destination for firms that need redundant circuits, as well as high availability and systems uptime. Trading floors, bank back offices, disaster recovery sites and headquarters for regional banks and manufacturers are all examples.

Smart-cards Integration. A lot of the older buildings rely on a security guard with a loose-leaf notebook to control facilities access. Newer buildings give you a badge. Smarter buildings use badges that can be integrated into the tenants’ security systems–so one badge controls access to the building, the tenant offices and the sensitive areas, and the tenant can pull log data from the building security into their own reporting system.

Does your building do that? Having a good security system that allows
reporting and staff monitoring gives tenants the flexibility to manage
their staff more effectively. Deleting their building ID locks the
ex-employee from tenant spaces. Changing or replacing one card updates all credentials, et cetera.

Wireless Telecommunications. More and more, the cell phone is the lifeline. For many people, their cell is the only way to reach them. When building a new site or upgrading an old one, test your location and building materials for wireless connectivity. Many pre-war buildings play havoc with WiFi and cell phones due to the materials used in their construction. And cell companies are always looking for new locations to place their towers. It makes sense, ensuring that your building materials don’t block cell signals and potentially even generating revenue.

Whenever a client says they’re looking to move, the first thing we look at is who can provide Internet connectivity there. How good are they? Where’s the nearest exchange? Can we get diverse-path routing for telecoms? The second consideration is available power and cooling. What can we put in there? How can we best utilize the space without overspending? Third, will their cell phones work in the new location? We test phones and data cards from AT&T/Cingular, Verizon and Sprint.

Last, we look at geographic factors: suitability for commuting, nearest hospitals, companies in the area, emergency response capabilities and so forth.
Are you doing the same?

Rajesh Goel is chief technology officer at Brainlink International Inc. (or the Technologist), which assists companies in selecting and managing their mobile workforce, including PDAs, email integration and new mobile applications development appropriate for the real estate and commercial property markets.