Cabling for high technology in a high-efficiency green building

The City of Cambridge’s City Hall Civic Administration Building is Canada’s first to earn LEED Gold Certification.

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The City of Cambridge’s City Hall Civic Administration Building is Canada’s first to earn LEED Gold Certification.

The City of Cambridge, Ontario, population 126,000 is located near Toronto in the heart of Canada’s fast-growing “Technology Triangle.” Although Cambridge can be proud of its rich history, well-designed public spaces, and traditional architecture, its latest achievement is the new City Hall Civic Administration Building. Situated in downtown Galt, Cambridge City Hall is on the leading edge of sustainable design. It is the first city hall in Canada to be awarded Gold Certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the Canada Green Building Association.

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The City Hall Civic Administration Building, built by the City of Cambridge in Ontario, Canada won LEED Certification from Canada’s Green Building Association. By incorporating numerous environmental design features, the city estimates energy savings of $160,000 per year.

Although its architecture blends in with the area’s historic buildings, the city hall incorporates an array of high-efficiency, eco-friendly design features aimed at conserving energy, reducing air conditioning and artificial lighting, and creating a people-friendly, “green” working environment. According to conservative estimates comparing a standard 85,000-square-foot building with the LEED-certified Cambridge City Hall, the city estimates energy savings of $160,000 per year.

Advanced networking system

Another major technological development is Cambridge City Hall’s networking and communications cabling and cable-management infrastructure. Under the leadership of Francis Villamil, manager of technology services (TS) support, a state-of-the-art fiber- and copper-based cabling and connectivity framework with an extended, or “green” lifecycle, has been implemented to deliver high-bandwidth, high-speed services throughout the facility—including data and voice communications, security systems and cameras, building automation systems, and wireless access points.

The sustainable networking system Villamil specified is the Belden IBDN System 10GX, an end-to-end solution designed from the ground up to deliver top-performing, reliable 10-Gigabit Ethernet service. “In keeping with the holistic concept and vision of excellence and sustainability, our TS team wanted an advanced networking infrastructure that would support the city’s extensive data and voice communications needs today and for many years to come,” Villamil says. “We evaluated several vendors’ solutions and Belden was the clear choice because of its long-standing reputation for innovation, high-quality products, reliability, product longevity, and technical support.”

To implement the networking and communications system, the City of Cambridge selected Cable Assembly Systems Ltd. ( of Brantford, Ontario, a designer/installer of structured cabling systems and an experienced Belden Certified System Vendor (CSV). The installation team was led by Cable Assembly’s president Brian Manese.

In specifying the cable system design, the Cambridge TS team determined that this was to be an all-Belden installation. Belden’s FiberExpress cabling system is used for the backbone and main data center. Belden 10GX cabling is used for horizontal cabling supporting the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, as well as all the auxiliary cabling used for security cameras, messaging signs, wireless applications, building automation and control, and the radio frequency (RF)-enabled emergency command and control center.

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Within the city hall, eco-friendly features conserve energy while creating a people-friendly environment for city employees and visitors. “Green” features include a four-story-high atrium topped by skylights to maximize natural light, abundant greenery throughout, and a rooftop garden that helps retain heat in winter and cools the building in summer.

Commenting on the infrastructure design, Manese notes, “Most cabling systems need to be replaced or upgraded after five or ten years. This design resulted in an exceptionally sustainable, flexible, and robust system that should serve the evolving mission-critical needs of the City of Cambridge government over the next several decades.”

Network scope and design

Designed for occupancy by several hundred city employees, the Cambridge City Hall building comprises four floors designed around a central four-story-high atrium and green wall, with a plethora of plantings nourished by rainwater collected from the building’s roof. It’s a built-in biofilter, enhancing air quality. A portion of the roof is also a “green” area, made up of plants, grass, and shrubs, which help to retain heat in winter and cool things off in summer.

The network’s fiber backbone runs from the computer room (or main data center) to the four telecommunications rooms (TRs) housing the horizontal cabling system, one on each floor. A fifth TR in a more private area handles the building’s automation service requirements. All fiber links have redundant pathways built-in to ensure maximum reliability and network uptime.

The fiber backbone is also linked to four additional municipal facilities adjacent to the City Hall: the Art Centre; Fire Museum; Farmers’ Market; and Historic City Hall, which was preserved as an historic landmark. Civic Square, which is a series of open spaces and walkways, connects each of these facilities for convenient access and integration of these buildings. A glass link connects the historic and new city halls.

Overall the structured cabling system installation required approximately 10,000 feet of Belden’s FiberExpress singlemode and multimode fiber-optic cabling, and about 200,000 feet of the 10GX unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cabling, as well as approximately 30 10GX patch panels, some of which were 24-port models and some of which were 48-ports. The City of Cambridge is the first municipality in Canada to deploy Belden’s System 10GX throughout a government office building.

Installation and testing

The IBDN System 10GX is an end-to-end UTP cabling solution designed to meet the high-speed, high-reliability requirements of 10-Gigabit Ethernet service. The system not only meets and exceeds Category 6A requirements, but also delivers guaranteed performance up to 625 MHz, which is 125 MHz beyond the Category 6A standard. The solution is built around a series of patent-pending enabling technologies, which serve to optimize the performance of each critical component including cables, patch panels, and modular jacks and cords.

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Belden’s IBDN System 10GX incorporates innovative technologies to optimize the performance of critical connectivity components, which include 10GX cables, patch panels, modular jacks, and cords. As a result, the 10GX system meets and exceeds Category 6A requirements.

Regarding the installation, Manese notes that one key success factor was his company’s skilled and experienced team of installers, all of whom are Belden-trained, with one holding the Registered Communications Distribution Designer credential. Manese explains, “Belden’s 10GX cable is very robust. Like all Category 6A type cables, it is somewhat larger and more rigid than standard Category 5e cabling. For inexperienced workers, this can make Cat 6A cabling more challenging to pull, run, and dress. However, thanks to our Belden training, our technical staff knew the proper installation techniques to use.”

Upon completion of the cabling installation, Cable Assembly conducted testing on every drop of the 10GX system using Fluke DTX1800 meters with 10GX modules. The system passed on the first test, confirming 625-MHz performance levels, without a single failure. Testing of the FiberExpress system resulted in certifying the entire installation, which therefore received Belden’s 25-year component warranty and lifetime application assurance.

Data center design and cable management

To complete the installation, the City of Cambridge selected Belden racks and enclosures to hold equipment in the computer room, as well as to manage the cabling system with ease and efficiency. Manese recalls, “Early in the Cambridge City Hall design phase, Belden had just launched its modular high-density racking system, which was designed specifically to accommodate high-density installations. I arranged to bring Francis Villamil to the Belden facility to see the new products, and the Belden representative helped us in selecting the right components and in ensuring the timely delivery of the equipment we ordered.”

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Belden’s FiberExpress fiber backbone (orange cable) runs from the computer room to each floor’s telecommunications room. The 10GX copper-based cables (blue, white, and yellow) run horizontally to deliver high-bandwidth 10-Gigabit capability to desktops on all floors. All fiber links have redundant pathways built-in to ensure maximum reliability and network uptime.

Belden’s high-density racking system provides a sturdy, modular and versatile racking setup engineered to optimize network system performance and manageability. The system offers a total of 54 basic and optional components, which allows users to configure a system to their specific space and application requirements. It also provides the flexibility to change or modify the configuration quickly and easily as the network grows and evolves.

Standard for government facilities

Once the cabling infrastructure within the new city hall was complete, the City of Cambridge decided to make Belden’s end-to-end 10-Gigabit Ethernet solution and 10GX cabling the new standard for all other municipal government facilities. Already in process, this deployment will encompass the city’s fire stations, public works depots, public arenas, community and senior centers, swimming pools, and recreation center facilities.

Cable Assembly’s Brian Manese gives credit to city leaders and the TS staff for their progressive, forward-thinking approach and diligent planning. “The new city hall is a remarkable achievement for the City of Cambridge,” Manese says. “They really did their homework in regard to evaluating the products, hardware vendors, and installers in the marketplace and showed a deep understanding of how they could best achieve their goals. This milestone clearly demonstrates how the city worked with its business partners, Cable Assembly and Belden, and made smart choices that will pay dividends in performance and reliability over the long term.”

“We are extremely satisfied with the all-Belden installation and the excellent work performed by Cable Assembly Systems,” says Francis Villamil. “When we take other municipal IT teams on tours of our award-winning city hall building, we showcase our ‘green’ design and high-tech features, and we also highlight the state-of-the-art cabling infrastructure that supports all our technology.”

Sergio Podda is senior account manager with Belden.

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