Messiah College zones in on cabling solution

Feb. 1, 1998
Electrical contractor John Fullerton took one look at the web of piping, wiring, and duct work that filled every nook and passageway of the nearly 30-year-old Kline Hall of Science at Messiah College, and he knew that the modular voice-and-data wiring solution selected by the college for its recent upgrade was the right way to go.

A college science center found a simple, cost-effective solution to a wiring challenge.

Richard E. McGrail/America Cable Systems

Electrical contractor John Fullerton took one look at the web of piping, wiring, and duct work that filled every nook and passageway of the nearly 30-year-old Kline Hall of Science at Messiah College, and he knew that the modular voice-and-data wiring solution selected by the college for its recent upgrade was the right way to go.

Founded in 1909 as a bible school, Messiah has evolved into a small undergraduate college of 2400 students offering more than 40 majors ranging from fine arts to engineering. To stay competitive with larger colleges and to better support its academic programs, Messiah added to and upgraded its voice-and-data network with Category 5 unshielded twisted-pair (utp) copper cable in 1995 throughout its pastoral 360-acre Grantham, PA, campus.

The science center, however, posed an entirely different set of challenges than the other buildings on campus. The four-story 65,000-square-foot facility was chock full of vacuum, gas, and water lines; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning duct work; and electrical service. "Due to the type of construction and the heavy use of the building," says Fullerton, "it was determined that modular wiring offered the least disruptive and most cost-effective alternative to conventional wiring."

During the 1995 network upgrade, according to John Holmes, recently retired director of Messiah`s physical plant, most rewiring of campus buildings consisted of running cable through conduit or Wiremold Co. duct work to reach the required locations, as well as strategically placing cable trays where needed. But the science center was originally constructed without cable trays, and there wasn`t enough room to add the trays because space above the dropped ceilings that run down each floor`s central hall was crowded. "We had to figure how we were going to get an array of copper wiring from the telecommunications closet in the basement up to all of the floors where it needed to be," explains Holmes.

Tray-less time-saver

Holmes scanned magazine ads for wiring solutions and eventually contacted America Cable Systems (acs--New Bedford, MA) about its modular zone-wiring system. acs offered a simple but elegant solution: pre-cut and tested Category 5 home-run cables with connectors, pre-cut and pre-tested extender cables with connectors already attached, and pre-tested 24-port zone boxes. The home-run cables would run from the intermediate telecommunications closet on each floor, down a central corridor to zone boxes in the ceiling. Extender cables from the zone boxes could be either pulled through the ceiling and dropped down to the desktop via power poles or brought up from the floor below to the desktops on the next level. Cable trays were not needed.

Holmes put together a college committee to consider acs`s wiring proposal for the science center. He also asked an electrical contractor to look at what acs offered versus going with cable trays. The latter technique, he discovered, would involve hanging cable trays in the crowded ceiling and then running individual pairs of wire through cored openings that would then have to be firestopped.

"Everyone agreed that acs offered the best solution," says Holmes. "It also turned out to be the least expensive. It could be done very rapidly and offered capacity for future use at no additional charge."

Before the installation, acs provided Holmes with computer-aided design (cad) diagrams showing the exact wiring routes, a description and list of all materials, and a cost quotation for the materials. Three electrical contractors reviewed the acs materials before they bid on the job. Fullerton was awarded the contract.

During installation, the science lab remained open, so Fullerton and his crew had to work around class schedules to complete the project in the allotted time. "If we needed to wire a particular lab room, we had to wait for the half-day during the week when it was vacant," Fullerton explains. "We simply planned around class schedules. It was an interesting project."

Fullerton installed 4-pair, utp Category 5 cables to the work areas. Each cable was cut to the required length and fitted with the appropriate connectors by acs. The cables also came labeled to show where they fit in the cad diagram for each floor. To save money and reduce the weight of the cables, Holmes decided not to have them armored with metal.

In designing the wiring system, acs assessed the number of zone-box ports needed for the installation and allocated up to 25% more ports for future expansion, at no additional cost. acs placed the 24-port zone boxes selected so that two classrooms could share them. Each zone box provided 4 to 6 spare ports, which could be used if computers or telephones were added to the classroom.

acs bundled together 24 home-run cables to be used as trunk cables. These trunks came pre-wrapped with nylon binder tape. Fullerton ran the trunks down the central core of the building corridors from the intermediate telecommunications closet on each floor to the appropriate zone box in the ceiling. The home-run cables are terminated with standard 8-pin modular telephone jacks, which plug into a 24-port zone box equipped with similar modular jacks.

Extender cables run from the zone box to the desktop. One end of the extender cable has an 8-pin modular jack that plugs into the zone box; the other end has an amp aco connector that connects to an amp aco outlet for either voice or data.

To reach individual outlets, the electrical contractor either went up, by coring through the floor above the ceiling, or down, by dropping duct from the ceiling to the floor below. The wiring in the first-floor ceiling takes care of the voice and data needs of the first floor and ground floor. Wiring in the second-floor ceiling handles the third floor above and the second floor below. The contractor suspended the cable trunks from either ceiling beams or added some framing to support them.

During the past two years, Holmes hasn`t had any problems with the wiring, which he frequently tests. "We have gotten 98% or 99% up to scratch on the testing," he reports.

Holmes calls the project a "piece of cake. All we had to do was plug the cables into the zone box in the ceiling, trail the cable through some conduit, and come out where we wanted to have the amp aco outlets. We did not have to use cable trays, which the electrical contractor said would have been hard to do because of the duct work and pipes."

The modular pre-fabricated wiring solution from America Cable Systems has already proven itself an expandable system that doesn`t require many additional cables, zone boxes, or outlets, according to Fullerton. In fact, part of the wiring system`s 25% extra capacity came in handy last summer when the college decided to convert one-and-a-half floors of the science center into clinical training areas for nursing instruction.

"If we had used conventional wiring in 1995, we would have had to install new outlets and run all new wiring back down to the first-floor wiring closet to accomplish this renovation," notes Fullerton. "With the modular wiring already in place, we were able to add 50 new outlets by simply plugging into the spare outlets in the junction boxes we installed in 1995. We definitely saved time and money."

Click here to enlarge image

Electrical contractor John Fullerton examines the upgraded modular wiring system`s main distribution frame in Messiah College`s Kline Hall of Science.

Click here to enlarge image

In Messiah College`s four-story Kline Hall of Science, pre-cut, pre-tested, and pre-bundled wiring in the first- and second-floor ceilings was installed to solve the building`s current problems and provide for future networking needs.

Richard E. McGrail is president of America Cable Systems (New Bedford, MA).

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