Connectivity Case Studies: TECHNOLOGY IN REAL TIME

By Franklin, Howard | Journal of Property Management, May 2000 | Go to article overview

Connectivity Case Studies: TECHNOLOGY IN REAL TIME


Franklin, Howard, Journal of Property Management


As high-speed access and broader bandwidth become givens for business tenants of all sizes, the question is not if your buildings need telecom services, but what and how. But the quest for bandwidth often runs head on into the physical and fiscal realities of building management Two companies share solutions for effective connectivity.

Give Us Power!

A successful telecommunications installation requires planning, programming, and most of all power. That was just what was in short supply at one downtown Seattle office building in late 1998. As a central location and easy access to fiber gradually prompted a shift from mixed office tenants to equipment sites for major telecommunication providers such as Worldcom, Level 3, and NextLink, the unusual power demands of these high power users began to exceed the building's capacities. Many of these tenants had long-term leases so addressing their current and future needs, as well as providing power for new tenants, became critical.

"Because the needs of a telecom 'hotel' (which consists of mostly equipment rooms with little conventional office space) exceed those of normal occupancy, we wanted to increase the power to the building to 8,009 amps," says Tim Jones, vice president and regional director for TECH-SOURCE Services Inc., which oversaw the installation. Negotiations with Seattle City Light and Power soon had extra amps installed as close as the alley behind the building, but a survey of the conduits and power closets of the 34-story building revealed no space left to run the cabling up through the building's core.

Anyway That's Up

One alternative was to take over additional rentable square footage in the building for electrical equipment. But just as the special requirements of these telecom providers created a problem for the building, they supplied the solution. Constructed as a standard CBD office property a decade before, the building had six high-rise and six low-rise elevators to serve its tenants. But with almost 50 percent of the building occupied by equipment and a few technicians, the ride capacity of the elevators had decreased. Why not turn ore of the elevator shafts into giant conduit? After negotiations with the buildings' management and JMB Realty Advisors, the building's ownership, the two-year, $2 million project was given a go.

As a first step, one of the high-rise elevators was "landed" in the pit. An elevator contractor dismantled cabling and counterweights and disassembled and removed the cab.

Next, a concrete wall was built up the entire height of the building to isolate the shaft. Insulation and other fire barriers were added to meet life-safety requirements. Finally, the electric cabling strung and connected to submetering equipment for the telecom tenants on several floors.

Power on the Ground

The same decrease in the number of tenant employees using the facility also was a key factor in another aspect of the building's power upgrade--the installation of back-up generators. Fewer tenant employees meant less need for parking, so 'the lowest level of the building's six floors of parking was converted to a home for four generators.

Lastly, a supplemental chilled-water system was added to increase the cooling levels for heavy equipment users.

Wired for the Future

While the undertaking was both difficult and expensive, "you basically have the building pretty well converted," says Jones. The space from the former elevator shaft still has significant capacity for more power or telecommunications lines as the need arises, so the incremental costs of attracting additional telecom tenants is smaller. And while the capital improvement of $2 million is significant, the lower build-out and amenity costs required by the equipment-based tenants lowers overall ownership outlays. Most significantly, by combining technology, with creativity and "thinking outside the shaft," one building was able to ensure its market position as a technology innovator. …

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