IT Infrastructure Remains an Afterthought

The corporate information technology infrastructure is a necessary element of any building design project. Critical design elements such as cabling systems, Data Center MEP loads and audio-visual systems can significantly change a project in complexity, efficiency, and cost.

Technology has become the lifeblood of today’s organizations. The infrastructure supporting IT systems is no less important in the design and construction of a facility than electrical service and water utilities. Unfortunately, many decisions related to the construction of IT systems are delayed until costly revisions are required and compromises must be accepted by the owner and/or end user.

Convergence has not just brought voice and data together; it has also allowed other technologies such as security, video and building automation to be connected via the corporate network. What were once separate systems behind locked doors and under desks now reach out to diverse corners of the facility including mechanical and electrical spaces, board rooms, parking garages, and even door jambs.

Today’s architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) teams are made up of diverse experts with equally diverse points of view. All are faced with a myriad of challenges during design and construction. IT professionals, architects, constructors and other project stakeholders all speak different languages and generally have different agendas. The ability to properly discover, document and communicate IT infrastructure requirements, first verbally but more importantly within construction documents, is vital.

Owners are often not able to articulate their needs clearly and the traditional design team often isn’t equipped with the specific knowledge or experience to ask the right questions. Without the ability to thoroughly communicate IT needs across the entire spectrum of stakeholders, integrating a quality technology infrastructure into a project on time and within budget is virtually impossible. Many critical design elements such as cabling systems, critical MEP loads and audio-visual systems are not considered until very late, many times too late, to be economically or effectively integrated into a construction project.

Behind the Wall
A building’s IT infrastructure includes the spaces, pathways and associated systems that provide telephone service, network and web access, data storage, wireless networking, audio/visual controls, and an ever increasing list of building systems. Servers, boardroom presentation equipment, and wireless devises do not stand alone passively like most furniture. Each of these systems consumes space, requires power, generates heat and needs connectivity throughout the facility. By planning, designing and integrating the infrastructure necessary to support building technology early in the process, and not as problems emerge; construction and design teams will avoid costly redesign and construction delays.

For example -“ imagine a medium sized, mission critical server room that requires 1Mw to 1.5Mw of uninterruptible power. When considered early in the project, along with associated systems and services required supporting the space; all is well. But what if the building’s core and shell mechanical and electrical systems did not take this critical load into consideration? Do the building’s electrical service, switchgear and distribution have this capacity? Can the building’s chillers and air distribution system provide enough heat exchange to cool the space on a 24/7 basis? Do these systems possess adequate redundancy for unexpected failure or routine maintenance? If these questions, and others, aren’t properly answered or the budgets for these systems are found to be inadequate, what then?

The IT infrastructure simply must be included early in the design process. Budgets must be appropriate and the design and coordination must be comprehensive to allow the constructors to provide quality installation. To meet these demands and address the complexity, we have developed what we refer to as the “OneInfrastructure Process,” which encourages the design and construction teams to view a project’s IT infrastructure as an integral part of the entire design and construction process, and not simply a piece that can be integrated at a later stage.

Technology is indeed the lifeblood of business today. The greater communication, efficiency and productivity resulting from technology continue to enhance the ability of organizations and individuals alike to do their work. With this increased role, however, comes increased dependence. Ensuring technology not only functions, but does so at an optimal level is a high-stakes game companies cannot afford to lose. This demand is not going away. Designers and constructors must see the infrastructure supporting their client’s technology as an integral part of the entire project and not simply an outside consideration that can be addressed at anytime.

John Jankowski is president and founder, JanCom Technologies Inc. Founded in 1997, JanCom Technologies specializes in providing technology infrastructure; audio-visual and critical power systems consulting and engineering services. John can be reached at [email protected].

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Richard Blanchard
Rick is the Managing Editor of Corp! magazine. He has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Port Huron Times Herald, Lansing State Journal and The Detroit News, where he was most recently assistant business editor. A native of Michigan, Richard also worked in Washington state as a reporter, photographer and editor at the Anacortes American. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.