Wiring to ensure quality and constant connectivity in commercial developments has become a larger part of the job for electrical contractors. A road map for success would be helpful. WiredScore may be one solution.
Begun in 2013, WiredScore, New York, was created to address the growing sophistication in digitized offices, offering guidance and a certification program. While seeing a strong global reach, Wired Certification is finding its biggest adoption in the United States. It will soon extend certification to multifamily buildings (WiredScore Home). More than 3,000 buildings have been Wired-certified, representing more than 650 million square feet.
High-speed internet is a must-have today. Creating a digital infrastructure where power meets robust telecommunication requires an array of tools.
“What we are looking at (WiredScore) is everything that plays into the internet-connectivity experience (speed, seamlessness, and resiliency),” said Lars Olsen, head of Midwest, WiredScore. “To get to a desired level of user experience, you need to focus, to plan and execute a foundational internet infrastructure. All these devices including the internet of things (IoT), power over ethernet (PoE), a landscape of sensors, all live in a low-voltage world. We are only going to see more of that.”
Olsen favors “digitization” as the term to describe the telecommunication evolution going on in the office space. IoT, 5G and sensors powered by PoE are some of the tools. A wireless architecture might include one or all these elements, but wireless is simply one tactic.
Good connectivity bones
“We often think about a building having good bones when considering investment,” Olsen said. “You also need to consider the bones that provide good physical support for connectivity. These include a building’s risers, conduit, multiple fiber and several wire-entry points. All contribute to effective communication, be it Wi-Fi 6, or 5G, or PoE. A smart and secure location for digital infrastructure, one that avoids water damage is also important.”
It’s surprising how a digital infrastructure needs more space, not less, as it must accommodate hardware, fiber and other components.
Olsen cited 5G as an example: “If committing to 5G, data does travel at a much higher frequency, but it has short signals, so you need boosters and wired access points. Unfortunately, 5G also struggles with penetrating building walls. You might need to install antenna signal boosters.”
One of WiredScore’s tenets is delivering electrical resiliency.
“Resiliency is as basic as keeping the power on and the digital infrastructure running,” Olsen said. “Connectivity backup is important. In multifamily, telecom equipment with managed networks might need battery backup for switches and routers to keep the internet working. In an office building, you might install secondary power sources in multiple locations to avoid a single point of failure or power bottlenecks. You might want to house telecom separately from utility equipment.”
Olsen added that the need for properties to be operationally resilient becomes more pointed depending on business.
“Clients representing banks or other financial institutions need their buildings to be digitally resilient. If their internet goes out, that is a major problem. Facility managers—who now digitally monitor their building’s energy efficiency, HVAC, maintenance, room occupancy control and so on—need 24/7 connectivity,” he said.
For Olsen, getting up to speed on WiredScore’s certification program can only benefit an electrical contractor. The advances and robustness of the digital infrastructure and what kind of experience it brings to tenants is measured by certification levels. The more complex or aspirational the successfully executed digital infrastructure, the higher the certification (see below). A contractor’s experience can be one more voice in bridging that conversation with owners or developers when planning and designing a building’s connectivity. The contractor can also catch engineering conflicts that need to be addressed to ensure project success.
Olsen shared that properties with name recognition tend to be technology-forward to attract and keep tenants. He has found these owners and developers are seeking out Wired Certification.
“The new Hudson Yards in New York is one example,” Olsen said.
Hudson Yards is considered one of the largest private real estate developments in the country. State-of the-art connectivity allows for many features, including heat mapping to track crowd-size, energy usage and air quality monitoring.
“Then there are major upgrade projects of older office spaces transformed to be operationally relevant with powerful and reliable internet connectivity,” Olsen said. “Willis Tower in Chicago is a good example.” (See “Working Al Fresco: The outdoor office concept” in the June 2020 issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.) “For many tenants and organizations, connectivity is a central business function. It must also be resilient,” he continued.
Wired Certification follows a progressive structure similar to programs like LEED, which starts with a basic certified level, followed by silver, gold and platinum.
“With our program, our in-house engineers look at building plans and set it against our scorecard,” Olsen said. “They look at what the building currently provides and what it needs to perform at a certain level. We are seeing an increased interest from larger asset managers who want their entire portfolios certified.” Brookfield Properties is one such firm.
With its U.S. headquarters in New York City, Brookfield is both a developer (30 active projects) and a management firm (600 properties). It committed to Wired Certification across its office portfolio in Washington, D.C.; Bethesda and Silver Spring, Md.; and Arlington and Reston, Va.
“Connectivity is the heartbeat of any business operating in a commercial office space,” said David Bevirt, formerly the senior vice president of leasing for Brookfield. “Without reliable, high-speed internet, businesses cannot function. We will be marketing all of our buildings as LEED-certified, Energy Star, and now, Wired-certified.”
The city of Chicago currently has the largest concentration of Wired-certified platinum buildings. Riverside Investment & Development was the first in Chicago to earn Wired Certification for its 150 N. Riverside property. The 54-story skyscraper sits on a two-acre site alongside the Chicago River. Tony Scacco is chief operating officer for Riverside, which, like Brookfield, develops and manages properties.
“The tenants who lease out space and the brokers each have a perspective on how technology can benefit the occupant needs of their buildings,” Scacco said. “The best way to convey this are through third-party certifications. Maybe that includes benchmarking, comparing how your building stands when it comes to connectivity versus competitor developments. We’ve had LEED certification for building sustainability, WELL for health and wellness, yet no real way to benchmark telecommunication infrastructure until WiredScore.”
Benchmarking is one of several features within Wired Certification. Other features include process review to ensure success, technical support and marketing to assist building owners best communicate their building’s connectivity capability.
Scacco explained his firm learned of WiredScore through certifications in New York City and brought the program to Chicago. To date, the company’s properties are either Platinum-certified or pre-Platinum certified.
“When we developed 150 N. Riverside and considered where to innovate in our telecommunication, we didn’t look to other office buildings,” Scacco said. “Instead, we turned to trading centers as the model. One of the things that was clear with trading centers was the demand for fully isolated and protected private fiber optic feeds.”
The Riverside property applied the same approach by providing tenants with their own fiber feeds. Further, the central fiber backbone is located off-site to avoid disruptive on-site downtown maintenance (street tear-up, open manholes).
“A traditional office building has empty voice/data risers and tenants installing their own cabling—not in conduit—in the riser down to the NetPOP rack room,” Scacco explained. “The vertical feeds would almost always be copper wiring. We, on the other hand, installed microduct cabling, wherein each tenant receives one or more dedicated, secure ‘innerducts,’ including their fiber requirements within the innerduct(s). Each of the small innerducts can take a 96-strand fiber pair.”
Dark fiber (run but unused) is available for future needs, offering tenants additional options.
“We give tenants the pathway to implement dark fiber connectivity to their co-location data centers,” Scacco said. “As an example, Bank of America has dark fiber feeds to their space at 110 N. Wacker [in Chicago]. This gives them significantly enhanced capabilities for redundancy, diversity and scalability for their networks.”
Other platinum-earning features at 150 N. Riverside include an automation system that is web-enabled, fully integrated and tenant accessible for lighting, security, energy, life safety and more. Wi-Fi is available indoors and out. The building also has a redundant power supply featuring two separate utility substations and a 12-kilovolt riser to floor-to-floor electrical rooms. Riverside’s commitment to advanced and thorough connectivity extends to its other properties.
“When we developed 110 N. Wacker, we wanted it to be 5G, but it preceded 5G’s bandwidth finalization,” Scacco said. “So, we invested in what was essentially a radio that could capture the full spectrum of 5G to reliably guess the operating bandwidth.”
To better accommodate 5G, the property was equipped with the city’s first 5G-capable distributed antenna system network.
“At some point soon, we will see a convergence (wired, wireless, cellular),” Scacco added. “When it comes to property technology, I see the most ‘bang for buck’ residing in the integration of disparate systems [HVAC, lighting, elevators, access control, indoor environmental monitoring, etc.] and the conversion of those systems from being reactive (operate when asked) to predictive (operate based on machine learning). Creating a seamless experience for our users while simultaneously maximizing their health, wellness and productivity is the goal.”
To accomplish that goal, Scacco and others will turn to electrical contractors that can handle a digital infrastructure that might integrate several areas of a building. Forward-thinking developers will look for like-minded contractors. WiredScore could be a road map when low-voltage meets high-voltage.