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Converged Technologies

15 July 2005

Occupiers, developers and landlords have traditionally installed separate systems for each individual building service but a new integrated solution has been developed that can save clients up to 30 per cent on capital expenditure costs. Nigel Miller explains

TRADITIONALLY, by installing separate cabling systems for IT, fire, security and building services such as air conditioning, there has to be a cabling infrastructure, a project team including designer, installers and project manager, as well as an implementation schedulefor each installation. This is not only difficult to manage but it also leads to massive increases in cost for the end user because so many specialists are required.

But not any more. Hurleypalmerflatt, working with specialists TourAndoverControls (BMS), ADT Fire & Security Plc (fire and security), and Molex Premise Networks (structured cabling) in a consortium called the Converged Building Technology Group, has developed a solution designed to overcome the problem of the traditional process of installing every building service separately.

An integrated structured cabling system has been developed that uses readily available IPbased system components to deliver a modular non-propriety open system. This can be incorporated in any building and overlays all services on the ICT network and, therefore, it can be managed as one design specification, one project team and one major electronic control and monitoring system.

This integration of key building services not only ensures that all systems have a common infrastructure that is operational more quickly, but also saves thousands of pounds in capital expenditure. The cost savings are plain to see. The Converged Technology Group has brought in an independent cost management expert, Turner & Townsend, to challenge the system from an expenditure point of view (see page 30).

Both sets of results prove that integrating systems over an IP network is a viable, financially beneficial alternative. Another major cost advantage to this approach is that the structured cabling system is moved to CAT A stage and becomes an enabler for other systems, which in turn reduces proprietary cabling and associated costs.

This flexibility is also apparent when upgrades become necessary because the system is scalable over the life of the building making alterations easier and faster while representing less of an overhead.

Maintenance is simpler too because the entire system can be managed by one facilities team (rather than disparate epartments) and, in the long-term, this allows for easier deployment of IP compatible equipment, future proofing and a common infrastructure upgrade path. This approach delivers savings in operational costs because only one network is being checked and maintained.

The benefits speak for themselves but there are always barriers and most of these are perception based or attitudinal. The main concern is that as all systems are dependent on one network, if one fails they all do. These concerns can be eased however as, even though all systems are overlaid on a physical structure, they are not interdependent and are all backed up with secure, robust systems that protect each of the individual services.

The only real barrier is the cost of retrofitting this type of system unless a complete refurbishment is being undertaken. To deploy integrated building services, consideration is necessary during the initial design phases of the scheme. This requires a new way of approaching building services and a different methodology – traditionally the structured cabling system for voice and data is left to the end of the construction process. This new and improved way of working is already being embraced by forward-thinking clients, contractors and occupiers.

The integrated system, which is proven to deliver considerable savings, can simplify maintenance and improve management, will quickly pervade the industry and will, within a very short time frame, be the only way to go.

Converged HQ
The Wellcome Trust is one of the first organisations to embrace the concept and associated benefits of converged technology. The Trust’s £100m London HQ on Euston Road in London, which was officially opened by the Queen in December 2004, is stunning from the outside (designed by Hopkins Architects) and is also state-of-the-art inside. Hurleypalmerflatt was brought in three years ago to conduct a review of new physical and IP based technology, design of the Structured Cabling Network/LAN and management of the installation of IT infrastructure to the new HQ complete with links to the Trust’s three neighbouring buildings. The Wellcome Trust needed a solution that enabled it to be at the forefront of technological advancements, provided it with control and flexibility as well as an ability to adapt as necessary in the future.

Hurleypalmerflatt’s solution was founded on the principles of converged technology and future generation data network communications that led to a number of its key building services, including data, voice, information systems, wireless and AV, being run over the IT network. It also undertook an early review and evaluation of IP Telephony (at the time an emerging technology) and, following an analysis of the leading manufacturers in the field, helped the Trust select a company to fulfil their needs.

Intelligent Infrastructure Management technology was deployed to help assist in the management and routing of the IP services deployed. The Wellcome Trust’s HQ, therefore, is home to an advanced Cisco IP Telephony System, Systimax iPatch intelligent patching and a core/edge network comprising Systimax Cat 6 cabling and Cisco’s latest switch technology. This is able to provide IP services including data, voice, video, lift and lobby based information systems, meeting room allocation, audio visual broadcast services and wireless communications throughout the building.

All these technological solutions have given the Trust closer management and easier maintenance of a wide range of services today and, because they are overlaid on the same cabling, it will give them more flexibility in the future. In short, it has given the organisation more control.

... Nigel Miller is Director at hurleypalmerflatt

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