One network means big savings

How an integrated IP network slashes costs and drives efficiency

By Jim Harris
September 10, 2012

The construction industry is an inherently conservative profession: building codes must be met, sub-trades follow established methods and the status quo rules. But a new idea—integrated building-wide Internet Protocol networks—is saving millions of dollars in construction costs for both developers and anchor tenants. And once the buildings are complete, millions more are being saved in ongoing operating costs.

The old world

Typically, systems in commercial buildings run on separate networks.

These cover functions tenants are aware of such as phone, Internet, lighting, audio visual and temperature, and hidden networks including heating and air conditioning, electrical, automation systems, security, access control cameras, elevator, and fire and sprinkler.

Each has its own cabling through the building and, in some cases, tenants added additional networks for Internet or phone access, for example.

At the time of construction, inaugural tenants could opt to run their systems off these proprietary networks or go to the expense of installing their own. Tenants felt pressured to choose the developer’s shared services to avoid the high capital costs of their own systems, but were then locked into ongoing maintenance contracts. Tenants had no leverage in disputing the cost of service changes if they escalated unreasonably.

The new world

But this is changing. Switches and controllers are now IP-enabled, and Internet Protocol allows all systems to run off a common backbone stretching through the building.

The only exception is fire systems, which by law must be separate.

The new PwC Tower at 18 York Street in Toronto is a case in point. An integrated IP system saved the developer, Great West Life Realty Advisor, $190,000. Anchor tenant PwC saved $390,000 on capital expenditure (CAPEX) during construction and an additional $342,000 in CAPEX because controls for lighting and blinds are run off the VoIP Cisco phones it installed. This eliminated the need to add both separate controls and wiring.

Green the building

The system can also aid in reducing energy use. Old analog systems could not monitor how many employees were engaged in energy efficiency, but the IP system can measure how many employees are turning off lights and how much energy is being saved. PwC has digital screens on every floor, so competitions can be set up between floors to see how much energy can be saved.

Once everything is IP based, I envision a future in which employees use an application on their smartphone to control lighting, blinds, temperature and audio visual equipment in their office space.

Combining infrastructure also cuts operating costs, as new services can be added easily, and floors can be reconfigured without having to run new cabling. And because IP is an open standard, tenants can switch suppliers easily. IP also supports smart functionality, such as turning off lights on bright days or controlling climate on a micro level. South-facing offices suffer from higher temperatures in the summer and so need more air conditioning, while the same level of chilling applied to the north side would have people donning sweaters in the summer. A smart building adjusts accordingly.

All together, IP networking is a great example of how sustainability cuts capital and operating costs, while empowering end users.


Jim Harris
Jim Harris is a management consultant who works with organizations on change, leadership and sustainability. His book, Blindsided, is a number one international bestseller published in 80 countries. He speaks at 40 conferences and seminars a year. Contact him at jimh@jimharris.com or Twitter @JimHarris.

Also watch:
Jim Harris on Tech Innovations at Backbone's 10th Anniversary - April 2011

Also read:
Going green is expensive - myth or not?
Six things Canadians need to know about green and sustainable technology

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