Building Cabling: How Far Have We Come?

With all the talk about advancements in so many categories of building cabling, wireless networks that support in-building communications, resilient mission critical infrastructure, and adding new intelligent amenities into next-generation real estate, how far have we really come in 30 years?

Thirty years ago is a long time. In many cases, it’s about a full career for many people. When you take a look back at the general concerns of the industry, you might see we have only scratched the surface in many regards when it comes to improving building amenities.

I wrote the following two articles when most communications were done on wired networks. Wireless networks were in their infancy and not a large concern in any building. There were some wireless local area networks (LANs) in some manufacturing applications and some rare instances in corporate office applications, but the vast majority of networks back then were made up of shielded and unshielded copper pair. Some large installations used a lot of coaxial cable.

From the article, "Cabling: A hidden asset," published in Network World, Mar. 24, 1986.

Cabling distribution has become a critical concern for tenant telecommunications managers and property managers in multi-tenant facilities. The responsibility for vertical distribution of cabling rests upon the property manager. Horizontal cabling capabilities must be considered by end users. Management needs to assess what is in place in the total cabling distribution, establish a cable management software package, and establish a long-term plan for the evolution of the current cabling system.

From the article, "Cabling Issues When Leasing Space," published in Business Communications Review, Mar.-Apr. 1987.

Inside wiring has become the responsibility of property managers and building owners. Often they are inheriting the cabling errors, poor record keeping, misuse and mismanagement of the regional operating companies and tenants who formerly controlled the wire closets. Managers are advised to assess the wiring needs of their organizations, starting now, because "tomorrow will be twice as bad."

Is tomorrow twice as bad? Or worse?

When it comes to managing commercial buildings and their network infrastructure, we are here now (tomorrow), and we still see many of the concerns brought up 30 years ago as a current issue. Getting a good handle on in-building networks is still a challenge for many property owners and managers. They have kicked the can down the road in many cases but now are faced with having to provide a real, resilient network infrastructure if they want to attract first class corporate tenants. This means spending money.

I have been to several conferences where I have spoken to marketing and key sales directors of various cabling and wireless infrastructure providers who have told me they could not make a sale for over a year or two to certain property managers. Now, they are being told to get something proposed to the property managers immediately because their potential tenant is asking for things they just don’t have in their buildings. Suddenly, they need it installed yesterday, or they will lose the lease.

How many buildings and campuses have made it this far with only a minimal amount of real investment when it comes to the network infrastructure supporting the buildings?

What about the connectivity to the central office and to the outlying substation supplying power to the building and/or campus? Has anything changed from the “horse-and-buggy” approach of a single connection?

Expectations have been raised because there are so many new applications and so much device technology out there that require bandwidth and power redundancy. Property owners are faced with key decisions to add capabilities, or let the building fall farther into technological obsolescence.

If they are dealing with a potential tenant, all of a sudden, they need something in place today. Class A tenants have mission-critical applications. Mission-critical applications require a more robust infrastructure. There cannot be any single point of failure in both the broadband connectivity area as well as the power (electrical) area for the mission critical applications.

What was hoped for is now required

Redundancy in network infrastructure is becoming a requirement on many site selection committees’ list as is redundant power sources for a building or an intelligent business campus. Buildings and campuses that have not been upgraded are becoming less likely to win new tenant contracts from those who require more resilient infrastructure in order to compete in today’s global markets.

Can most buildings be retrofitted to provide these new robust intelligent amenities? In most cases, yes. It is an important investment many real estate owners and property management companies have been told about for more than a couple of decades. “By tomorrow, you better improve the network and power infrastructures within your properties, if you want your properties to attract and sustain first-class tenants.”

As of today, tomorrow has come.

About the Author

James Carlini

Contributing Editor

James Carlini, MBA, is a strategist for mission-critical networks, technology and intelligent infrastructure. He has been the president of Carlini & Associates since 1986. He is author of "LOCATION LOCATION CONNECTIVITY," a visionary book on the...

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.