The huge rise in Smart Buildings and Smart Technology implementation is driven by a variety of factors – these could be categorised by economic, technological, and energy efficiencies. For example, energy consumption of the building itself – with HVAC systems, heating, lighting and power usage is monitored and automated autonomously, ultimately helping to reduce both the carbon consumption of the building, cost of electricity and heating.
However, in terms of existing commercial buildings where this smart technology is just as applicable and vital, there is still a huge lack of even basic fibre-optic or high-performance data cabling. Of course, it’s far more straightforward implementing such technology into a ‘new build’, than it is overhauling an existing building – but it can be done, with the correct survey, planning and experience. The problem for many is that given most buildings without such existing technology and structured cabling were built before much of this technology was ever a consideration, their construct and architecture is rarely forgiving or accommodative for such implementation – thus in-depth surveys (occasionally with the expertise of a QS if warranted), robust planning and and some ultra-lateral thinking are some of the essential requirements when carrying out such a project.
Elements of a Smart Building
Everything on one network, one cable per unit.
Each ‘dot’ colour can be matched with a use-case on the interactive graphic.
Voice & Data ◉
Fully-catered for in a Smart Building – with the use of Cat 6a cable as the backbone of the network, and data outlets placed where required, staff can enjoy constant communication wherever they are in the building – or even out of office. The increase in shared workspaces and ‘hot desking’ in recent years means the provision of outlets at each desk can allow staff high-speed and safe connectivity instantly.
With the surge in ‘BYOD’ in workplaces, there is a growing need to support ever-more devices and equipment accessing corporate networks. Cat 6a as the backbone of the network, means the building can achieve up to 10,000mbps at a frequency of 550mhz (cable length-dependent). Thus, the LAN network is fully future-proofed for years to come, and WLAN can be upgraded (PAP) as and when required.
By 2022, most aspects of building security are capable of running on an IP basis. Again, with the use of PoE data cabling, 2 key elements of Power and Network are delivered via one cable. Examples such as door access control units, facial recognition units for entry, which collect data such as Person A entered the building at 09:04am, travelled to board room on floor 2 via lift 4 and left this room at 10:27am. To achieve such a use-case as this, a well-planned & structured network backbone is pivotal.
Building Mgt. (BMS) ◉
Building Management Systems (BMS) have evolved hugely in recent years – driven partly by the evolution of data cable and capabilities. BMS is ultimately linked by an IP network, with elements such as CCTV, Sensors, temperature & lighting controls etc. They are now seen as a key requirement by Facilities Managers for large commercial spaces – and again, vastly increase efficiency & effectiveness of security, energy, productivity, employee wellbeing and more.
These can monitor anything from room occupancy levels, energy consumption, air quality and so much more. These too can be run in parallel with the existing IP network in the building, and similarly achieve both power & network from one cable.
Intelligent lighting (IP) allows for high density yet efficient lighting in smart buildings. By running these on IP, not only are they powered by PoE, but also feed into sensors & controls that link with the building management system. An efficient & intelligent solution via one cable.
Audio Visual systems need a well-planned and resilient backbone network to serve them effectively. For example, conference room environments where one room could require high-speed incoming data connections for Voice, Video Conferencing, Presentation software etc.
Backbone/Supporting Infrastructure ◉
We are regularly faced with the question of which cable to ‘opt’ for as the backbone of networks. It usually comes down to Cat 6 vs. Cat 6a – both have the capabilities of 10,000mbps, however Cat 6 can only be run to a maximum of 55m to achieve this. Cat 6a can run at 10,000mbps with a frequency of 550mhz up to 100m. In situations where cable lengths outweigh this, we’d identify suitable locations at point of survey for further network centres/cabinets which are then ultimately served by Cat 6a uplinks.