Industry standards can guide design, installation of communications systems for educational environments

BICSI recently released an updated version of its 001 standard.

By Patrick McLaughlin

BICSI recently revised and published its ANSI/BICSI-001 standard. “ANSI/BICSI 001-2017 is a complete revision of the previously published standard, including revision of title,” the association said. The standard’s formal title is ANSI/BICSI 001-2017, Information and Communication Technology Systems Design and Implementation Best Practices for Educational Institutions and Facilities. It is available in print and downloadable formats, and as a print-and-download combination set. The previous “001” standard, published in 2009, was titled Information Transport Systems Design Standard for K-12 Educational Institutions.

To describe the standard and the practical need for it among professionals, BICSI said, “Educational facilities often require a more diverse approach to designing and implementing ICT systems than that of a typical commercial building. Today’s educational facilities are rarely one building. That means not only does the ICT infrastructure need to meet the varying demands of a specific building, but multiple buildings must all be integrated into one cohesive design. And in today’s environment of providing multifunctional spaces within one building, it is not uncommon to find a combination of commercial, industrial, data center, healthcare and entertainment environments within just a few buildings.

“ANSI/BICSI 001-2017 is written for today’s educational spaces, where network connectivity is no longer considered ‘nice-to-have,’ but is now a ‘must-have,’ like electricity and water,” BICSI continued. “In addition to providing guidance in the selection and implementation of the ICT infrastructure, more information has been added to address commonly encountered technologies and applications found within the classroom, the building and the campus on which it resides.”

Furthermore, BICSI stated, educational facilities benefit from an ICT infrastructure design that is planned to support facility and technological growth. This standard incorporates ICT infrastructure design in the building development process by contributing to architectural considerations and providing information that cuts across multidisciplinary design efforts.

After chapters covering an introduction, scope of the standard, required standards and documents, and definitions/acronyms/abbreviations/units of measure, the ANSI/BICSI 001-2017 standard includes chapters covering the following: telecommunications infrastructure, special systems, classrooms, administration spaces, special function areas, residence halls, athletics and physical education, campus and building services, and special considerations. The standard includes three informative appendices, covering classroom examples, hazardous environments and locations, and related documents.

TIA’s 4966 standard

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) addresses educational environments in its document ANSI/TIA-4966 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Educational Facilities, which was published in 2014. That standard includes specific recommendations for the use of copper and fiber-optic cabling in educational facilities, as well as recommendations for wireless communications in these facilities.

Among the standard’s specifications are recommendations for the use of certain performance levels of cabling. For balanced twisted-pair cabling, the standard recommends the use of Category 6A; for optical-fiber cabling, it recommends the use of Om3 or Om4. Additionally, the portion of the standard addressing fiber-optic cabling acknowledges that in practice, in educational-facility environments some horizontal cabling distances may exceed 100 meters. ANSI/TIA-4966 recommends 100-meter maximum horizontal distances.

The standard also recommends densities for wireless access points in different spaces. For example, in residence halls, it recommends one access point per 150 square meters (1600 square feet). In other buildings, it recommends one access point per 230 square meters (2500 square feet). The standard also includes a table with recommendations for access-point densities in places of assembly such as large classrooms, cafeterias, and gymnasiums.

Practical implementation

In a 2016 blog post, Belden provides some practical implementation recommendations for the 4966 standard. The company explains in the post, “Nothing in the ANSI/TIA-4966 standard conflicts with the ANSI/TIA-568 standards for commercial buildings; instead, it provides more specific information about how to properly cable an educational facility - whether it’s a college or university, high school or K-12 institution, library or residence hall.”

The post points out some differences between 4966 and 568. For example, “The ANSI/TIA-4966 standard allows for 16 feet of 24-AWG stranded patch cord or 13 feet of 26-AWG stranded patch cord. If patch cord length exceeds those numbers, permanent link distances must be de-rated by 0.2, because stranded cables attenuate up to 20 percent more than solid conductors. In other words, for every extra foot of stranded cable being used, 1.2 feet must be subtracted from the permanent link.”

The company pointed out that the use of bonded-pair conductors can eliminate the need to de-rate the permanent-link length.

On its website, Wirewerks explains, “Today’s schools and campuses require powerful network infrastructures capable of supporting the converged voice/data/video applications of their administrative and learning applications. Deployment of network services such as WiFi, video conferencing, and distance learning are increasing rapidly, along with applications for general administration, facilities management and security.

“School buildings often have longer operational lifespans than commercial buildings and are more likely to have budgetary constraints that make regular cabling infrastructure updates less likely. This means that proper, forward-looking network design and deployment is even more important in school building and facilities.”

The ANSI/BICSI 001-2017 standard is available for purchase on BICSI’s website, and the ANSI/TIA-4966 standard is available for purchase at The TIA Store portion of the IHS website.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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