New Construction Project on the Horizon? The Best Time to Consider Wireless Infrastructure Needs is During Design and Construction.
We’ve long since passed the time when cellular connectivity was just a nice perk. In today’s world, it’s an absolute necessity – especially in environments where cutting-edge technology plays an increasing role in many basic building operations.
Of course, building operations aren’t the only demands on wireless technology. Personal use accounts for a lot of the cellular load. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center indicates that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 51 percent of the public owns a tablet computer. Everyone from tenants to guests to building engineers is tapping into the local network to stay connected.
The problem is, the cellular networks that support these devices were primarily designed for voice coverage. As we’ve shifted toward greater data usage, these now-overloaded networks struggle to keep up. This is especially true in areas with dense populations, such as facilities, multifamily residential projects and commercial properties.
An unreliable network is frustrating. But now, dead zones have become more critical to the developer’s bottom line. That’s because due to recently enacted policies, dead zones may result in occupancy permit denials. Thirty states now require a minimum level of connectivity so that responders can communicate during an emergency to keep tenants safe. And in areas that don’t yet have codes, owners of buildings without public safety communication systems risk the safety of their employees and tenants and often incur higher insurance costs. That’s why it’s essential to consider potential connectivity issues when planning a new construction project.
Retrofits will always be more expensive and time-consuming than a solution that’s integrated while the project is still being designed. Minimize issues down the line by considering these three things during the planning and construction phase:
1. Don’t assume cellular coverage will be adequate.
It’s easy to take wireless connectivity for granted. But when it comes to new construction, carrier service isn’t guaranteed. Depending on where the construction project is located and how it’s laid out, cell coverage can vary greatly.
Plus, today’s building and the tenants that occupy them have lots of technology traffic. When you have thousands of tenants and/or employees all trying to access the internet, uploading materials to the cloud, streamlining content and communicating with loved ones at the same time, you’re bound to get cellular gridlock.
Having a strong cellular network helps support communication between these groups, leading to improved tenant satisfaction, and eliminates the threat of not receiving an occupancy permit.
2. Consider the materials you’re using.
Sometimes, it’s the building itself that’s the culprit. That’s why it’s essential to discuss potential building material alternatives with your architects early on. Materials such as metal, aluminum and concrete can block cellular signals.
Unfortunately, eco-friendly materials can also hamper connectivity. One of the most common “green” building materials used is low-emissivity glass, or “low-e glass.” This type of glass is coated with a special material that blocks heat waves to reduce energy usage — and cell signals.
3. Lay a strong foundation for the future.
New facilities represent a significant investment, so it doesn’t pay to be short-sighted. By installing adequate infrastructure during construction, you’ll spend at least 30 percent less than you would on a retrofit solution. That’s why it’s critical for builders to incorporate first-responder coverage during the planning stages of a new construction project regardless of whether local code requires it or not.
In addition to ensuring first-responder coverage, it also makes sense to plan for the technology that’s needed now, while also allowing for future flexibility. For example, many buildings are moving to the cloud, and others have started to integrate smart building technologies. Even if it isn’t something you need now, it might be something that’s desired down the road.
A Modern Solution
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make connectivity consistent throughout your building is to employ a distributed antenna system (DAS).
A DAS is a network of antennas that connects to a mobile network carrier and provides dedicated wireless cellular service for a specific area, such as a building. The antennas are usually affixed to ceilings throughout the building, providing coverage for 5,000 to 25,000 square feet per antenna.
DAS solutions are ideal for large construction projects because they can boost signals in buildings constructed of materials that might otherwise block connectivity.
At the Forefront
It’s always going to be easier – and less expensive – to install a wireless connectivity solution in a new building than in an existing one. For one thing, installers can enter the construction zone without fear of disturbing anyone.
Plus, by assessing the building’s connectivity needs early on and identifying an appropriately cost-effective and flexible solution, you can sync the installation and construction teams’ efforts. This ensures the optimal, discreet placement of antennas, as well as instant connectivity as soon as construction is complete. So, when you’re planning your next construction project, make sure to keep connectivity concerns at the forefront of your conversations.