– James Donovan, director of channel development and training for CommScope Enterprise Solutions (www.commscope.com), says:

Probably the most certain feature of networks in the office is uncertainty. Although the acceleration of developments in networking is not set to decline, it is possible to prepare for future networking trends and their impact of businesses in general, and upon offices in particular.

The traditional role of the office building was to accommodate people and their files. It has also provided a meeting place for customers, suppliers and consultants, as well as for the organization’s own staff. Networks are increasingly automating the more routine business functions and also make it possible for an increasing proportion of the staff to work away from the office.

These changes have implications for the location and aesthetics of a building. Buildings need to provide more meeting rooms and a lower proportion of office space. Some of the office space needs to be allocated to staff on temporary rather than permanent basis.

The implication for the design of the network systems is that the staff should be able to access their requirements from anywhere in the building, via workstations, laptops or other devices.

To the building designer, this means that sufficient space and infrastructure must be provided to accommodate and service a wide range of both central and local computers and LANs. Sufficient capacity must meet initial needs for space, power and cooling services, plus planning sufficient infrastructural capacity to meet the growth and change in the longer term. Although there may be an initial premium to pay for making these provisions against future requirements, savings are possible over the longer term, as it is possible to meet future requirements more efficiently.

The solution to the problem of balancing cost and premature obsolescence is for the design team to distinguish clearly between initial requirements and the capability, built into the infrastructure, to meet future requirements. The design team cannot attempt to design a building that meets all requirements, but rather one that can be adapted to meet them all. This adaptability is reflected in the design and sizing of spaces and in the services and infrastructure.

Many consider only the capital cost of a new building and the associated initial fit-out, without considering the longer term operational costs.

This often precludes the organization from making significant savings in the running costs of the building. For instance, the use of an intelligent infrastructure solution to help control the environment by interfacing with the building’s network and controls management systems, and turn off the computers and other devices in the evenings is an example of an ongoing cost reduction scheme that requires capital investment at the initial fit-out stage.

One of the major benefits of investing in a flexible and intelligent building infrastructure becomes evident when it comes to re organizing the office layout. In a traditional office layout, it typically takes two or three months to plan and implement an office re organization, incurring significant costs and much out-of-hours working. However, with an intelligent environment and infrastructure, an office re-organization may be planned and executed quickly and at very little cost. Therefore the cost of ownership of the building can be lower over time, even when the initial investment in the building infrastructure is higher. Buildings should be designed to minimize the cost of ownership, not initial capital outlay.

Do you have a view on this? Is the reality that to the decision makers, initial outlay outweighs the possible returns?