August 27, 2012
Learning how to cut cabling costs
Building developers can get points under Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) and reduce construction costs by installing Power over Ethernet (PoE), according to some experts.
Rick Huijbregts, vice-president of Smart and Connected Communities at Cisco Systems Canada Co., recently said his firm has been able to help customers get up to five innovation credits under LEED by eliminating wiring, meaning less material ends up in landfill.
PoE is the common name for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.3 series of standards, which enable delivery of electrical power using ethernet cables, originally designed to transfer data among computers.
For several years, electronics manufacturers have been making wireless access points, phones and cameras powered by PoE, meaning you can install these devices using only Ethernet cables without requiring separate electrical wiring.
Last June, Cisco executives demonstrated a PoE light fixture, made by NuLEDs, during a briefing to reporters and industry analysts at Cisco Canada’s headquarters in Toronto.
“Instead of putting traditional electrical wiring into a building, we’re bringing Cat 5 cabling and the Cat 5 cable actually delivers both the power and the communications protocol to the light fixture,” said Bill McGowan, vertical solutions architect, Smart and Connected Communities, Cisco Canada.
“I could, from my iPhone, go in and change the brightness and change the colour depending on what personal requirements I had for my workspace.”
This is because NuLEDs’ light is designed to be controlled by Internet Protocol, or IP.
“Probably the economics aren’t there yet so some of this is still early but the fact is, it can be done,” Huijbregts said.
Cisco is focusing more on PoE for industrial devices and building automation systems, said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research, based near Fitchburg, Mass. Kerravala, who advises corporate computer networking managers and technology vendors, was not at the Toronto briefing but has researched Cisco for several years.
“Ever since its inception, Cisco has been the company leading the charge on Power over Ethernet,” Kerravala said in an interview.
“Where Cisco’s going now answers the question, ‘What else can you enable over an ethernet cable?’”
PoE “is a massive change” to the construction market, Huijbregts said, adding Delta Controls now has a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) controller powered by PoE.
Although Huijbregts said PoE can reduce the need for power consumption and the need for power cables, Kerravala said the cost savings are more significant in building renovation than in new construction.
“On the initial construction of the building, much of the cost of running cable is the labour cost of running the cable,” Kerravala said.
“If you’re running one cable or 10 cables, it doesn’t make much difference. The savings is just the actual cost of the copper.”
But with existing buildings, the cost savings can be significant, he added.
“Let’s say you wanted to put another network in for badge readers, or smart elevators or lighting, the amount of work it is to snake cable in a building that already exists is pretty expensive, so if you can somehow use the existing cabling, that’s great.”
In recent years, Cisco has worked on projects that combine HVAC, lighting and other building systems on the same network using IP.
For example, Cisco Canada is working with EllisDon Corp. on the $175 million Toronto waterfront campus of George Brown College.
This new development will house the college’s health sciences programs. The firms also worked together on PwC Tower in Toronto.
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