Why the industry needs Division 17

As a cabling professional, have you ever looked at a set of specifications and drawings for a construction project and struggled to find sufficient information from which to prepare a response that is both competitive and comprehensive?

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The document will ensure technology systems are planned into new construction.

Thomas C. Rauscher,

As a cabling professional, have you ever looked at a set of specifications and drawings for a construction project and struggled to find sufficient information from which to prepare a response that is both competitive and comprehensive?

Have you then lost that bid because you filled in the missing information with assumptions, only to find out that the customer selected another contractor on price because that contractor responded to the "letter" and not the "intent" of the bid? If so, you probably walked away knowing full well that the customer would ultimately pay the "low" bidder much more than the amount of your original bid, in the form of change orders.

Even more painful, were you the owner who paid more?

Or maybe you were the rcdd who was hired to plan the technology requirements for a new building that was already under construction, only to find out the architect did not plan any space for communications equipment rooms or the required pathways, and now there is no money in the budget for these "new" requirements.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you will want to learn about Division 17.

The construction process

To understand how Division 17 can help, it`s important to review how a building is designed and built.

First, a customer identifies a need for a new building and then hires a lead design professional--usually an architect--to establish a project scope and budget. Once the scope and budget are approved, the lead design professional assembles a team of engineers and consultants who will work together to create a schematic design and estimate. Unfortunately, a technology consultant is rarely part of this team.

Once the schematic design is reviewed, modified as required, and approved (which includes being within budget), the design team begins detailed design efforts. The design is typically reviewed again when it is 50% and 90% complete, and the estimate is revised accordingly. The project team then prepares the construction documents, and the project is put out to bid. Addenda are issued as required to clarify the bid documents. Bids are received, a contract is awarded to the successful bidder, and construction begins.

Historically, this is typically about the time when it becomes obvious that technology requirements have not been sufficiently addressed and, therefore, there is no space and not much money left in the budget for these systems. But the building has to include technology, which results in design changes, order changes to the construction contracts, and disruptions to the construction timelines and plans--all of which are viewed as the fault of the "new" technology system requirements.

Eventually, the project is completed, and the contractors turn over the record-copy drawings and manuals to the owner. As-built drawings usually arrive three to six months later as hard-copy prints, if they arrive at all. Meanwhile, the technology systems managers wade through what they were given at the time of cutover and often need to rework, enhance, or otherwise modify the installation.

If it seems like technology requirements are not being addressed adequately throughout this process, it is because they are not being addressed effectively under the current model.

Master list

The current model is the MasterFormat, a master list of numbers and titles for organizing information about construction requirements, products, and activities into a standard sequence. The MasterFormat is produced by the Construction Specifications Institute (csi--Arlington, VA), in conjunction with the Construction Specifications Canada (csc--Toronto). The MasterFormat was introduced in 1963, and the current edition is the 1995 edition. Architects and engineers use the MasterFormat to organize the requirements for a new building or renovation.

The MasterFormat consists of the following divisions:

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Currently, the MasterFormat places the Technology and Communications requirements at the end of Division 16 - Electrical Requirements.

Some history

The reason technology is not in the model goes back to the breakup of Bell System by the Federal Communications Commission in 1984. When the Bell System was still intact, architects depended on the building industry consultant (bic) engineers and Rural Electric Authority practices to provide requirements for telephone service inside a building. With the dismantling of the Bells, the services that the bic engineers had traditionally provided became the responsibility of the building owners, not the architect.

bicsi (Tampa, FL) was formed to help address this issue. Companies such as ibm and at&t also offered proprietary solutions, which were then superseded by the standards of the Telecommunications Industry Association and Electronic Industries Alliance (tia/eia--Arlington, VA) and have evolved to the Category 5 standards that exist today. But formal communication with the architect, engineer, and consultant design professionals has typically been limited to discussion of a particular system, if at all.

When you look at the current MasterFormat, it is clear that the technology and communications requirements for a new building are not part of the formal design model, as evidenced by the fact the 317-page 1995 csi MasterFormat devotes just two pages to technology requirements. The construction industry organizes the technology industry requirements as follows:

16700 Communications

16710 Communication Circuits

16720 Telephone and Intercommunication Equipment

16740 Communication and Data Processing Equipment

16770 Cable Transmission and Reception Equipment

16780 Broadcast Transmission and Reception Equipment

16790 Microwave Transmission and Reception Equipment

16800 Sound and Video

16810 Sound and Video Circuits

16820 Sound Reinforcement

16830 Broadcast Studio Audio Equipment

16840 Broadcast Studio Video Equipment

16850 Television Equipment

16880 Multimedia Equipment

To further complicate matters, the technology industry has traditionally spoken in system-specific request-for-proposals, logical drawings, and hand-drawn sketches. Meanwhile, the construction industry speaks with performance specifications and computer-aided design (cad) drawings.

Technology is often addressed late in the construction cycle, on a system-by-system basis, because of this communications gap. Construction projects go out to bid with little or no coordination for technology, other than a few boxes with conduit stubs and an occasional note to "coordinate in field with owner."

It is clear that we need to add a "T" (for technology) to the amep (architectural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) process. The goal is to enhance the existing model so it can be used to better plan, build, and manage technology infrastructures in a manner consistent with the design industry.

Division 17 is the enhancement to the current model. It can be used by competent design professionals to organize a comprehensive set of performance specifications and a series of technology drawings that define the requirements of the inside and outside cable plants, local-area and wide-area network requirements for voice, video, data, and other low-voltage systems.

Section 17110, Communication Equipment Rooms, encompasses equipment racks and cabinets, cable management, Category 5 patch panels, optical-fiber patch panels, splice trays, fiber pigtails, punchdown blocks, aluminum ladder racks, tie wraps, D rings, T posts, and grounding bars. Based on this model, the spec-ifications defining the minimum quality requirements for how an equipment rack product shall be manufactured and installed would be organized in Section 17110 in the project manual.

The Division 17 organizational model provides the framework for preparing the specifications, but it is not the source. The origin of specifications arose from drawing notes that became too numerous to fit in a drawing and have evolved into the project manuals in use today.

The "T" Series Drawings include the following primary types of drawings

T0 --Campus or site plans. Exterior pathways and interbuilding backbones

T1 --Layout of complete building per floor. Serving zone boundaries and backbone systems

T2 --Serving zone drawings. Drop locations and cable identification

T3 --Communication equipment room plan views. Technical and amep and elevations; racks and walls

T4 --Typical drawings. Faceplate labeling, firestopping, safety, Americans with Disabilities Act and Department of Transportation requirements

T5 --Schedules (spreadsheets) for cutovers

To prepare these drawings, the technology consultant must be able to obtain electronic copies of accurate and current base files, or floor plans, to prepare a set of "technology" drawings.

Next steps

The key now is to become part of the established design and construction process--not always easy. The status quo of the design and construction communities can be difficult to overcome. Cabling designers and installers will be challenged by architects and construction managers with statements like, "I don`t want another contract on this project." But it`s more a question of competency, not jurisdiction.

To become part of the process, encourage your customers to include technology requirements in the project scope when selecting an architect or lead design professional, or use Division 17 to open up a dialog with the architects in your community and introduce yourself as a resource. If you can demonstrate your ability and knowledge of the design process, the architect will be motivated to incorporate the Division 17 requirements from the earliest stages of planning through the design and construction stages.

Patience is key. It will take time to build an effective relationship with the construction industry, and it will take time for the technology industry to learn the ropes. There is a lot of unfamiliarity on both sides of the fence. Information and knowledge must be shared between both sides.

Technology consultants must also be able to prepare performance specifications and cad drawings, and contractors, installers, and systems integrators must learn to interpret and work from performance specifications and cad drawings.

For Division 17 to truly be an industry document, input from every facet of our industry is essential. A current draft of the Division 17 organizational model can be found at www.division17.net. Feel free to download, review, and comment on the draft.

This article is based on a presentation made at the bicsi Fall Conference last September in Las Vegas.

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Thomas C. Rauscher is president of Archi-Technology llc (Rochester, NY).

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