It’s only technology:

In the decades after the Civil War, the cities of Chicago and St Louis with their existing waterways were equally poised as emerging locations that could take charge of the industrial/technological upswing; both cities were gateways to the West. Chicago succeeded and grew exponentially. Growth in St. Louis sputtered.

Why? It was because the latter city failed to follow up on the cues that would make it the technological giant it had the potential to become. It didn’t plan ahead for the future. In the same vein, your company may be bordering on technological greatness but unaware of the importance of embracing technology.

According to James Carlini, president of Carlini & Associates Inc., East Dundee, Ill., the network infrastructure of a building today is as critical as the coming innovation apparent in the 19th and 20th centuries in Chicago and St. Louis. In the St. Louis example, the city restricted its options and basically closed down innovation to protect its infrastructure, failing to maintain and upgrade it to encourage additional waterway and other transportation. This, in fact, stunted that growth, he said.  

“If we don’t move ahead, we’re going to move further and further behind,” said Carlini, who hosted a seminar during the Building Industry Consulting Services International Inc. (BICSI) Winter Conference. Carlini was involved in the planning of Chicago’s emergency 911 center and said that while a fiber optic network was eventually chosen for the location, planners and others on the project initially opposed his plan.

“The old adage of ‘location, location, location’ has changed to location, location, connectivity as the three most important points in real estate today,” Carlini said. “No connectivity equals no economic development, no jobs and no future. DSL is too slow; it’s nothing. T1, that’s nothing. If you’re building a facility and you are looking at high-speed networks, you should be looking at fiber. Leading-edge organizations do not maintain their position using trailing-edge technologies,” he said.

Carlini said cabling should be able to be used in a building for 40 years or more. “But no one is thinking long range and future proofing their infrastructure. If you don’t, in the long run, you’ll spend more money switching cabling and communications technologies every five years,” he said.

In “What Happened to My Division 17?” another preconference seminar, John Kacperski, RCDD and a consultant with WTC Inc., Los Angeles, addressed the Construction Specification Institute’s MasterFormat 04 changes—which include the move from 16 Divisions (1–16) to 49 Divisions (00–48) in effort to plan for unforeseen technologies over the next 40 years, he said.

The new divisions for the electrical industry include Fire Suppression (Division 21), Electrical (Division 26), Communications (Division 27), Integrated Automation (Division 25),Electronic Safety and Security (Division 28), Transportation (Division 33—includes traffic signals), andPower Generation (Division 46).

Division 17, which was not officially adopted by either CSI or the industry, is frequently used to specify new technology, such as VoIP and others.

At the show, where technicians earn continuing education credits to maintain certification, this year’s sessions took a finer focus. With the overlying theme of continued information transport system (ITS), information technology (IT) and datacom advancements, integration and convergence was evident in many of the sessions. The general session “Convergence—Will You Remain Viable?” by Philip Lofgren, senior associate, WB Engineers, Boston, alerted attendees to this concept.

“As a technologist, do you welcome change or resist it?” Lofgren asked the audience. “Sometimes you must be willing to leave your comfort zone to remain viable. There’s a merging of distinct technologies. It has already happened and the wave of convergence has intensified, with standards-based networking moving to open architecture.”

Lofgren said ITS consultants should be setting the standard by accommodating the most reliable and forward-thinking technologies in their designs. “The idea is to be able to create sustainable designs that allow one to move technology in and out in a cost-effective manner over the lifecycle of the building.” He said it is up to the technicians to decide whether or not to steer their company in the direction of advancing technology.

“Convergence will prevail,” Lofgren said. “A shared ITS infrastructure results in economies of scale in the initial installation, ongoing maintenance and support. Other incentives are reduced design costs and efficient utilization of spaces and pathways.”

Technology will continue to advance as disciplines merge. Whether you call it information technology, integrated building systems, information transport or any other term, soon they will meet.                 EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.