STANDARDS: Burden on cable industry to promote Division 17

Cabling contractors urged to educate, cooperate with building architects, engineers.

Steve Smith

Division 17, a proposed organizational model for incorporating technology and communications systems within construction industry requirements, is still years away from reality, but its evangelist is urging cabling professionals to educate and cooperate at every turn.

"The onus is on us to learn how the design and construction industry works," said Tom Rauscher of Archi-Technology LCC (Rochester, NY) at November's meeting of BICSI Region 4 in Fort Worth, TX. Citing the "gap between the technology and construction industry" as the driving force for implementing Division 17 into the Construction Specification Institute's (CSI) MasterFormat of 16 current construction requirements, Rauscher urged BICSI members to "get involved with CSI" to both learn and to educate.

"They'll hate you or love you," Rauscher warned. "You'll have to buck the 'we've always had 16 divisions' attitude, and you'll need to get the architect to see the added value rather than the hassle" of implementing Division 17 into his design specs. Essentially, the MasterFormat's 16 current divisions manage construction activities by trade. Architects and engineers in the construction industry use the MasterFormat to organize requirements for a new building or renovation. Currently, only two out of 317 pages of the MasterFormat address telecom requirements, incorporated within Division 16 (electrical). Division 17, Rauscher said, would specifically address the complex requirements for telecom installation.

Promoting the virtues of Division 17 isn't a case of "us versus them," Rauscher cautioned. Rather, current communications technology isn't included in the MasterFormat model simply due to the breakup of the Bell System in 1984. Up until then, architects had leaned on building industry consultant engineers to provide requirements for telco installations. After the Bell breakup, however, that responsibility fell upon the building owner rather than the architect. And as technologies and their demands have accelerated over the years, so have the complications for builders and owners.

"Design projects go out to bid with little or no coordination for technology, other than a few outlet boxes and conduit studs," Rauscher noted. But because building owners contin ually discover after the fact that they also have numerous networking requirements, "we're viewed as the bad guys because we're disrupting all of their [contractors'] budgets." Division 17 will counter those unnecessary hassles, he continued, "because we need to be included in the schematic design up front-what's needed, costs, etc." But "we need to make it clear that we aren't trying to prevent electrical engineers and contractors from doing the work."

The good news, Rauscher told BICSI's Region 4 members, is that the construction industry is interested and listening. In fact, at a recent Division 17 presentation before the CSI, Rauscher said the Arlington, VA-based institute had just moved into new headquarters, and their networks were down. "I think they appreciated our point," he quipped.

Although a BICSI proposal concerning Division 17 implementation is being reviewed by CSI for possible inclusion in the 2002 manual, Rauscher warned his listeners that "this is not going to happen overnight. It will take at least three to four years of education on our part." Region 4 members seemed to be in agreement that the ball was in their court, but as one designer commented, "I think we've all been sitting around waiting for the other guy to make the first move."

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