During Design, Think Ahead in Planning Wireless Needs
Across the board, the most common technology mistake made during building design and planning is the lack of accounting for wireless needs. For a variety of reasons, when owners and/or architects are envisioning their concept, they overlook wireless systems and don't think ahead — even though the systems have grown in importance to include core applications. As a result, at the end of the job, often even after the building is complete and occupied, they get hit with the additional headache of disrupting tenants to pull cables, install surface-mounted devices, and of course, the additional cost.
Why is this so common a mistake? Traditionally, wireless was used for non-critical applications such as Internet connectivity for staff and guests, and since it's not required by code, the design industry has considered installing at a later time an acceptable solution. The market, however, has changed. By 2015, an estimated 40 to 48 percent of all new nonresidential construction will be green. The demand for higher-efficiency buildings has led to more building systems requiring the use of wireless networks to communicate and monitor end-terminals remotely. Additionally, there have been changes to local codes demanding more reliable public safety radio coverage inside buildings for emergency responders.
Counting On Wireless
A key component when designing high-efficiency buildings is the ability to measure, monitor, and control building systems such as HVAC, lighting, security/access control, and fire life safety. By monitoring building systems, owners and operators can customize and control the systems' expenditure and usage and potentially reduce a building's total energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent annually. This is a reason why more than half of U.S. buildings larger than 100,000 square feet have building automation systems (BAS) installed.
The BAS can be wired, wireless, or a combination of both. Nowadays, since many BAS manufacturers are using a combination of both wired and wireless, designers should make provisions for both networks. Although there are different wireless technologies employed in the BAS market today (WiFi, ZigBee, and EnOcean), WiFi is growing rapidly due to the higher bandwidth capacity and the ease with which an owner/operator can leverage an existing WiFi network to run multiple applications.
Core business applications now often rely on wireless networks, so network downtime affects not only wireless building automation, but also devices like individual smartphones, which have become key to user productivity. At this point, it's imperative to provide a reliable wireless network, which requires proper planning, testing, and commissioning.