Fifth Floor, Education

“We started Paganini Communications because of a request from one of our large electrical service accounts that wanted the same level of quality and service for their telecommunications needs as they were experiencing with our electrical side,” said Michael K. Paganini, owner/president, Paganini Communications Inc., San Francisco. The company was founded in 1998 by the team at Paganini Electric Corp., an electrical contractor in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1948.

“We got to a point in the industry in the ’80s when low-voltage work started becoming more of a specialty type of install. It was a new line of business that fit with our company,” said Larry Andrini, vice president of Paganini Communications. Andrini has run the company since 2003 as a separate entity, although it shares office space with Paganini Electric. The communications company has an office staff of five and a field staff that varies depending on need but has included as many as 24 field technicians.

“Many times we’re asked to provide cabling services as opposed to electrical services and vice versa,” Andrini said.

That was the case with a project for San Francisco State University (SFSU) for which Paganini installed the cable infrastructure for the voice, data, Internet, Ethernet and wireless. It was completed in 2007 and given an Award of Merit by California Construction magazine, an honor shared by the owner/project manager, The Westfield Group and by Huntsman Architectural Group; engineers Flack & Kurtz; Swinerton Builders as a subcontractor to Westfield; Cupertino Electric Inc., (CEI) as the electrical subcontractor to Swinerton Builders; and Paganini Communications.

“It was a high-profile project that we are happy to have worked on,” Andrini said.

“SFSU has always had a presence in downtown San Francisco, largely in the form of our College of Extended Learning,” said Zelinda Zingaro, director of campus space administration. “Our lease was coming up, and we wanted to expand our presence downtown. A decision was made to move our College of Business Master’s Degree Programs downtown. With the requirements for that and for the College of Extended Learning, we sought new space in downtown San Francisco.”

The location of the new 125,138-square-foot campus was not in an ordinary office building, but in the Westfield San Francisco Centre, the largest urban shopping center west of the Mississippi River. The building on the city’s main street, Market Street, once housed The Emporium, a department store dubbed “The Grandest Mercantile Building in the World” at the beginning of the 20th century. While the building was gutted—it was a new construction, not a renovation—signature features were retained: the 1896 exterior Beaux-Arts facade and a 102-foot wide, 1900s steel-and-glass dome (raised during construction) that now tops a 200-foot-long atrium.

“The San Francisco Centre offered us direct access to BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit], Muni [San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency] and Market Street public transit, excellent parking options, and unfinished space with sufficient column width that allowed us to build appropriately sized classrooms while meeting […] all building code requirements,” Zingaro said. “The historic aspects of the building, combined with the opportunity to build out space as new construction was very attractive and resulted in a truly remarkable new downtown campus for San Francisco State.”

Two of the university’s nine colleges are at the campus. Together, the programs of the College of Extended Learning, the SFSU graduate business programs, and other SFSU departments and programs serve up to 1,500 students per day at the location, which includes office and administrative space, 32 classrooms, five study rooms and nine computer labs.

Each of the computer labs has 15–21 computers. While some of the SFSU programs at the downtown campus include computer classes in which students use the Internet. Other programs, such as Digital Video Intensive, make use of the infrastructure for file serving, so students and instructors can share files with greater ease. The university also recently implemented Apple Final Cut server, a collaboration server for video editing that allows video files to be accessed remotely.

To meet all these computing needs, an extensive telecommunications network was installed for the campus.

“In this day and age, telecommunications is very important,” Zingaro said.

An odd job

“It was an atypical install because of the requirements. There was lots of fiber and copper to the desktop,” Andrini said.

The company used approximately nine International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sound and communications technicians trained in voice/data/video to do the build-out and used Uniprise Solutions by CommScope for the cable infrastructure of the voice, data, Internet, Ethernet and wireless.

Since the SFSU campus is situated on the fifth and sixth floors of the center, Paganini ran fiber and copper-tie cabling from the IDF closets on those floors to each of the individual computer labs. A remote satellite closet was built within each lab where the networking equipment was mounted. From those closets, Paganini ran fiber and copper cables to the various workstations.

“That design was done specifically for the SFSU installation so that each lab could have its own stand-alone network and was designed with the future in mind,” Andrini said.

Both multimode and single-mode optical fiber from the SFSU main telecommunications room to the building’s telecommunications service entrance room were installed. That allows SFSU to connect to faster telecommunications services than the DSL or T-1 services provided by using the building’s copper twisted-pair backbone telephone cabling.


The fiber cable has been pulled but is not connected to the SFSU system. Therefore, the university will be able to upgrade to it later.

“As the Internet speeds up and as we are able to connect to the fiber network underneath the city of San Francisco, the metro area network, and California, one that ultimately goes overseas, it will be significantly faster than what anybody knows as the Internet today, so that sets us up for that,” said Craig Abaya, director, digital media and entertainment programs, SFSU, College of Extended Learning.

“Things have been put in place that will allow us to be able to collaborate, watch video and do many other things much faster than is the norm at the moment,” Andrini said.

“The installation of Category 6 UTP cabling to all telecom outlets and optical fiber cable to some outlets, even though these capabilities might not have been needed on day one, prepares the university to upgrade the speed of their local area networks. By going to the effort and expense of installing defined cabling pathways (cable tray and conduit), the university gives itself the flexibility and opportunity to add or change cables as technology evolves, while causing less disruption to their facility than might otherwise be the case,” said Michael T. Burke, RCDD, associate, Flack & Kurtz, San Francisco.

Paganini Communications coordinated with CEI and Swinerton regarding the routing of both the cable tray, which was done by CEI, and the cable.

“Design of the floor and facility itself was atypical with the atrium in center of the building,” Andrini said. “From the fifth and sixth floors, you could walk to the center of the building and look down into the mall. That meant that it was not a typical installation because the cable tray had to take a different route than one normally taken, due to the architecture. It had to go all the way around the perimeter of the atrium, as opposed to being able to cut through the center of the building. In addition, since the other trades had installed their equipment prior, the cable tray for the telecommunications equipment had to be routed in the ceiling around the equipment built by all the other trades.”

Then there was the installation of the cable itself.

“The cable infrastructure was a work in progress that involved more coordination with Cupertino and Swinerton due to the mandated routing of the cable tray around the perimeter of the atrium and the many variable obstacles, such as wall penetrations, drop and raising of cable tray elevations, tray-to-conduit sleeve transitions and fire sealing,” Andrini said.

Specifically, Paganini ran high pair-count copper cables for the voice systems, RG-11 coax cable CATV, and fiber optic cable on the fifth floor. From there, it dropped down through other riser closets stacked above each other to the closet in the basement. The cables then exited the riser closet and ran down the corridor in the basement to the main point of entry (MPOE). Four-inch conduit runs that were fastened to the ceiling of the basement offered access to the MPOE.

Since the ceiling in the basement was 25 feet high and the run was several hundred feet long, pull cans were installed per code to allow for the installation of the fiber and copper cables. Paganini used a man lift so that its technicians could access the pull cans. Paganini also tested the copper and fiber cabling infrastructure with Category 6 testing procedures and used a Fluke DTX-1800 cable analyzer.

While the SFSU campus did not have to be completed for the grand opening of the building in September 2006—it was completed in January 2007—when it opened, it became part of the overall $460 million project, a joint venture between The Westfield Group and Forest City Development. The united 1.5 million-square-foot, nine-level center is home to Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom and to 170 specialty stores and boutiques, restaurants, an international gourmet marketplace, a nine-screen state-of-the-art movie theater, 245,000 square feet of office space and SFSU.

Busy bees

It was a busy construction situation. More than one hundred stores and retail establishments were under construction simultaneously.

“We were building out two floors in the building at the same time as all the retail stores, the lobby, the theaters, were being built. All the different contractors and trades on-site were utilizing the same facilities. Deliveries were to one loading dock located in an alley in the middle of the city. Arrangements for delivery of materials had to be arranged two days in advance. We shared the few freight elevators to transport ourselves and our materials,” Andrini said.

“It was a complicated project,” Glenn Ashton, Swinerton’s project executive, said. “There were miles of data cables to every classroom and to classroom tables to accommodate the needs of the students. It was a lot more intense than a typical tenant-improvement project. In the end, everything worked. Paganini got it done, and when they needed to, they stepped up and worked overtime to make the schedule.”

CASEY, author of “Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors” and “Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries that have Changed Our World,” can be reached at or

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