How To Maintain Effective Wireless in Energy Efficient Buildings

  January 31, 2017

The advantages of energy efficient buildings are apparent — lower costs and reduced environmental impact are among the main benefits.

Energy use in the buildings sector is an increasingly important consideration. Buildings account for about 75 percent of all electricity use and 40 percent of primary energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As well, buildings that meet LEED requirements are highly regarded and attractive to owners, operators and tenants.

The goal for facility managers is to find the most cost- effective and energy efficient building technologies — whether lighting, HVAC, or other — while also maintaining another utility that is, to many, as essential as heat and water: in-building wireless communication.

While seeking LEED certification for new or renovated buildings via new technology and building methods can result in lower energy consumption and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, it can also have an adverse effect on wireless communications.

For example, low-emissivity glass – sometimes referred to as “low-E” – helps make windows more energy efficient but also has the unfortunate impact of reducing the effectiveness of RF signals. Consequently, buildings that are considered modern and efficient with regard to energy usage and environmental impact often have poor cellular coverage.

It is not merely an inconvenience to have spotty cell phone access either, there can be a liability. Poor reception due to "dead spots" in buildings can prevent a 911 call from happening. Eighty percent of 911 calls are made from cellphones. Poor coverage can also exacerbate a public safety emergency event into a crisis with unnecessary and avoidable injuries or fatalities. If first responders aren’t able to communicate and coordinate efforts during fires, floods, earthquakes, and other natural and man-made disasters, it can lead to dire outcomes.

Without an adequate communications technology solution, this will become an increasingly more troublesome by-product of the “intelligent building” movement. A research firm has predicted that by 2020 there will be more than $250 billion dedicated to green construction and has estimated a market of more than $16 billion for in-building wireless projects. The telecom industry estimates that 60 percent of mobile calls and 70 percent of data usage occurs inside buildings; the problem will only become more pronounced without an appropriate technology solution.

A distributed antenna system (DAS) can alleviate any RF coverage challenges in LEED buildings. DAS can significantly increase the coverage of cellular signals and minimize the likelihood of dropped calls. A DAS can also add to the capacity of the system, enabling the network to manage a greater number of simultaneously connected users as well as the increased bandwidth demand of today’s applications.

As the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) notes, LEED-certified buildings are frequently the premier, prestigious Class A buildings with rents higher than non LEED-certified facilities. Engaging a wireless company that can design a DAS system during the renovation or new construction process can help ensure that the visibility of antennas is minimized and aesthetics maintained.

One of the drawbacks of the DAS solution – like referees in an NFL game – is you don’t think about the effectiveness of the technology until something goes wrong.

In the absence of dropped calls, spotty coverage or slow connections, building occupants won’t notice the state-of- the-art, well-designed DAS that provides uninterrupted cellular coverage throughout the building. Building owners and managers will appreciate that a suitable wireless network will attract clients, support public safety efforts and help provide a level of service that supports competitive rental rates.

This Quick Read was submitted by Jeff Hipchen is Board President of the Safer Buildings Coalition and Executive Vice President at RF Connect, a global company designing, optimizing and managing high performance, in- building wireless networks.

Read more from RF Connect about eliminating dead spots in buildings with DAS.


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