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Issue: May 2009
By: Frank Bisbee

Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


Unemployment Rate in the US has reached 8.9 %. The highest level since 1983 as U.S. employers shed 539,000 jobs in April 2009

Recently, an associate asked me “What advice do I give my kids on career paths?” The economy is in a state of confusion, somewhere between recession and depression. Many business sectors are making rapid and radical changes.

My reply was “Electricians - a career opportunity that's hard to beat.”

The high voltage world and the low voltage world have converged into Integrated Building Systems. Old guard electrical contractors have embraced communication and control cabling and the associated revenue streams. Recent numbers from CABA (Continental Automated Building Association) prove that “smart buildings” are more energy efficient and have a higher level of Security and Life Safety Systems than any previous technology. These designs do more for less.

Virtually every structure has five basic systems:

  • Power
  • Control
  • Communications
  • Security
  • Life Safety

These systems are converging and improving as quickly as the new technology is introduced. Many improvements will take place in this exciting field as new technology delivers more value to the building.

Career stability is the Electricians middle name. But it doesn’t come without a solid discipline of training. We believe that the profession with a bright and durable future is the electrician.  To follow the latest information on the scene, read each monthly issue of the Electrical Contractor Magazine

Wisdom isn’t just power. It’s also wealth.

We asked Michael Callanan, Executive Director of NJATC - The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Industry for comments on the process to become a career professional as an Electrician:


Stimulating Apprenticeship

Remember the old Smith Barney ads featuring actor John Houseman: "We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it." In a very similar way, the Building & Construction Trades take a similar approach to training America’s workforce: We train workers the old-fashioned way. True Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship is a method of training skilled craft and technical workers that dates back to the Middle Ages. New entrants to the workforce (apprentices) were “indentured” to master craftsmen who directly oversaw the training and development of the apprentice. Apprentices literally learned at-the-feet of the Master Craftsman. Our modern apprenticeship systems emerged from, and (in a large part) reflect this same fundamental concept of workforce development. Apprentices today still learn their craft under the direct supervision of a Master Craftsman (Journey-level worker) by completing a minimum number of hours of On-The-Job learning in their chosen craft. Additionally, each apprentice is required to complete a minimum number of hours of classroom or related instruction.

As we find ourselves in an ever-increasing economically challenging time, I respectfully submit that this “old-fashioned,” system of workforce development (true apprenticeship) can and should be one of the components that we turn to, to help put Americans back to work and to help revive our faltering economy and the middle-class. I am calling for re-invigorating and re-inventing apprenticeship into a modern system and structure that builds upon the historic framework that has survived for hundreds of years. In doing so, our payback will be a National Apprenticeship System that contributes to the re-building and re-emergence of the American workforce and economy.

Many people are surprised to learn that registered apprenticeship is a voluntary, industry-driven training program. Frequently, registered apprenticeship programs are created jointly by labor/management partnerships, or other employers or employer associations. The responsibility for oversight of apprenticeship programs in the United States belongs to the Office of Apprenticeship (OA) which operates under the purview of the U.S. Department of Labor. The primary responsibilities of the OA are to provide technical consultation services on the development of apprenticeship standards, oversight and compliance reviews of registered apprenticeship programs. OA provides apprenticeship services in all States, and registers programs and apprentices in the 25 States where there is no State Apprenticeship Council (SAC) or Agency.

Another surprising element of our apprenticeship system is that employers, or groups of employers and unions, design, organize, manage, and finance registered apprenticeship programs themselves. Yes, you read that correctly, apprenticeship programs are financed, for the most part, with private industry investment. In this day and age, where we seemingly throw around “billions” of dollars, it’s hard to imagine that the total federal investment in apprenticeship is a mere Twenty-three (23) million dollars. That amounts to an investment of less than $75 for each indentured apprentice. At the same time, look at the returns generated from this meager investment; 1) Over $2 billion leveraged from private investment in education and training from program sponsors, 2)Returns $50 in federal and state tax revenues for every single public dollar invested, 3) Has an employer return on investment (ROI) estimated at 3 to 10 times the investment, 4)Currently prepares apprentices in approximately 1,000 career areas with graduates earning an average of $45,000 to $60,000 per year, 5)Meets the skilled workforce needs of 250,000 employers in a wide range of industries. These findings were submitted to the Obama Transition team last year in a report by the Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship; Registered Apprenticeship: A Workforce Strategy for Main Street America. What other government program can boast a return on investment that is even remotely close to these proven statistics?

Presently, in the United States, there are approximately 468,000 registered apprentices in training. The vast majority of these are registered in apprenticeship programs directly related to the building and construction trades. We are talking about electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, iron workers, sheet metal workers, roofers, laborers, elevator constructors and many more. While new industries, like health care, transportation, and IT are beginning to expand and develop apprenticeship programs, the “mainstay” remains the building and construction trades. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), for example, invest approximately $125 million in training electrical workers for the industrial, commercial, residential and the power generation industries. Similarly, the other building and construction crafts fund their programs in the same fashion. The simple fact of the matter is our Nation’s skilled workforce in construction is being developed right before our very eyes by private industry, with very little support from our Federal government!

Hardly a day passes without increased speculation as to the potential impact of the Stimulus Package that is poised to emerge from Congress. No matter the final form, there can be no doubt that a key component of the final Stimulus Package will be construction and infrastructure spending as well as new investments related to green jobs. Why shouldn’t the Federal Government invest directly in apprenticeship and leverage the private industry investment to stimulate the economy, implement the programs included in the Stimulus Package, and prepare the next generation of high skilled Americans to competently meet workforce demands?

Investment in our National Apprenticeship Systems can occur immediately on two fronts. First, we must provide financial incentives to the apprentices themselves. While most apprenticeship programs have no tuition costs associated with their training programs, many apprentices struggle to make ends meet during the early years of their apprenticeship. The government can assist by providing funding, in the form of scholarships and grants, to help apprentices cover their book and tool costs and to supplement their salaries when they are completing their related instruction. Think, for a moment, about an unemployed or dislocated worker today that was earning a good average salary before they lost their job. Apprentices typically start their apprenticeship, which can be anywhere from one to five years in length, at about 35% or 40% of the Journey-level worker wage rate (current national average for starting wages is approximately $15/hour). A government subsidy (or grant) during the initial period of their apprenticeship may make the apprenticeship opportunity more feasible to dislocated or unemployed workers considering transition to a new career.

Secondly, the government needs to provide incentives to program sponsors and employers who provide the apprenticeship opportunity.  We need a system that rewards employers who hire apprentices and program sponsors who increase the number of apprentices in their program. Incentives can be in the form of direct grants, tax credits or federal tax incentives for each registered apprentice an employer hires.

Why should the government provide these incentives? Because our apprenticeship programs are well-positioned to provide the necessary training and skilled workers to re-build America’s infrastructure and our apprenticeship programs prepare workers for the mid-level jobs that make up the backbone of the stimulus job creation program.  Today, the need for a true earn while you learn option for the millions of unemployed workers is more critical than ever.

 In his recent book, Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality, Charles Murray, argues that “There has never been a time in history when people with skills not taught in college have been in so much demand at such high pay as today, nor a time when the range of such jobs has been so wide.”  Murray is speaking, of course, of mid-level jobs which still make up about half of all total jobs. These are jobs that require training beyond a high school diploma, but less than what is required for a traditional four year college degree. Apprenticeship programs prepare American workers exactly for these types of jobs.

In October of last year, the Department of Labor issued new Federal Regulations that updated the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937. These new regulations are progressive and have been designed specifically to permit a greater degree of flexibility and creativity in designing apprenticeship programs for the 21st century.  These new regulations, while maintaining the essential components of registered apprenticeship, have been designed with an “open-architecture” framework that can become a transformative tool for those interested in re-inventing, re-designing and re-invigorating an old-fashioned apprenticeship system. Yes, apprenticeship is an “old but tested system,” however, with these new modifications to the Federal Regulations governing apprenticeship programs, we can adapt and modify our apprenticeship programs to meet the needs of our industry and better reflect the needs of our customers.

Finally, let me anticipate one often-heard myth and criticism, specifically of union apprenticeship programs.  While acknowledging the benefits of our union apprenticeship programs, some are quick to reprimand union programs for their “country-club” status and limited accessibility to minorities and non-traditional populations. A recent study by Anneta Argyres and Susan Moir of the Labor Resource Center, University of Massachusetts Boston; Building Trades Apprentice Training in Massachusetts: An Analysis of Union and Non-Union Programs, 1997-2007, had several compelling revelations. “The findings of this study show that union apprenticeship programs in Massachusetts are more successful at enrolling apprentices and producing Journey-level workers than are non-union programs. Specifically, we find that: 1) union programs enroll the majority of building trade apprentices, 2) the apprentice completion rates from union programs is higher than from non-union programs, 3) union programs enroll non-traditional populations in higher numbers and at higher rates than do non-union programs, and 4) the apprentice completion rates of non-traditional populations from union programs is higher than from non-union programs.” Apprenticeship programs provide an outstanding opportunity to enroll under-represented and minority populations in the building and construction industry.  In addition, many efforts are underway to establish pre-apprenticeship programs to expand apprenticeship opportunities to a broader range of populations, including disadvantaged youth and others.

As our great Nation struggles to see some light at the end of the tunnel and find a clear path that leads us out of this economic abyss; apprenticeship, that time-proven method for building quality craft workers, is poised to enter a new era. An era equipped with a new framework and committed to re-building our Nation’s infrastructure while concurrently building our next generation of skilled workers. We train America’s workforce the old-fashioned way. True Apprenticeship.

Mr. Callanan is the Executive Director of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Industry. Mr. Callanan is Co-Chair (Labor) of the Federal Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship (ACA).

We agree and feel that guiding the next generation of professionals is vital for the economy, industry, and country.

Remember: Safety is also too important to ignore.

But that’s just my opinion,

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column
4949 Sunbeam Rd, Suite 16
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 645-9077 office
(904) 645-9058 fax
(904) 237-0365 cell

Industry News

The information superhighway is a scary place without signage

“FASTRAC” - Facility Asset System – Tracking Records of As-built Cabling

Remember Rod Serling’s famous introduction “The signpost up ahead says you are entering the twilight zone”

Unfortunately, many network service technicians are finding no signage or labels to guide their path. It is worse than driving though a large city with no street signs, traffic markers, or address numbers. Industry-wide, we spend millions of dollars each year in the hunt for cabling facilities in order to fix network problems. These costs are avoidable.

The cabling or information transport systems are the last mile of the dazzling new information superhighway.

Today, more than 20 million miles of cabling connects the workplace of America to the Information Superhighway. Most of the cabling is not labeled, tested or documented. Once disconnected, it is deemed “abandoned cabling” that must be removed according to the NEC 2002-2008 National Electrical Codes.

There is virtually no road map, no atlas, and no signage on the cabling of the dazzling new information superhighway.

This isn’t a problem. It’s an opportunity.

Each year we account for our wealth and assets with Annual Income Statements addressing Profit and Loss and the Balance Statement of Assets and Liabilities. It is the language of business. The cabling or information transport systems are usually omitted and/or ignored, in spite of the huge impact they have on both.

Introduction of newer more effective systems or maintenance of existing technology systems has a major impact on the bottom-line. The signage and the facility management systems are crucial to maximize the functionality of the supporting cabling or information transport systems. How do you sign your work? No labels means big problems ahead.

How much can I save with a FASTRAC strategy?  Industry experts estimate billions. Even the basic concept of labeling is noted by a motto. “Cabling without labeling isn’t just stupid. It’s insane.”

Combine labeling, with cabling performance test records, drawings, and an effective naming convention, and you have a well documented asset that serves many functions. Plus it is transferable and reusable, not trash.

Several communication contractors that we met at a recent BICSI event told us that their new secret weapon for labeling is the DYMO® RHINO 6000. “It gives us a real competitive edge because it gives us BIG VALUE at a small

Combine the effective RHINO™ 6000 Professional Labeling Tools system with the complete certified cable test records exported from the Fluke Networks® DTX -1800 Cable Analyzer™ and you have the best system to convert the cable infrastructure from “stranded capital” to “working asset”.

Both DYMO and Fluke Networks will be exhibiting at the NECA annual Conference and Exposition in Seattle (Sept. 2009) or visit for complete information. Make plans to visit with their folks and make your systems worth more.

Knowledge isn’t just power. It’s also wealth.

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column


WESCO International, Inc. Announces Renewal of Accounts Receivable Securitization Financing

WESCO International, Inc. (NYSE: WCC - News), a leading provider of electrical MRO products, construction materials and advanced integrated supply procurement outsourcing services, today announced that it and certain wholly-owned subsidiaries have entered into an amendment and restatement of its existing Accounts Receivable Securitization program that effectively renewed the program for an additional three years. A consortium of six banks provided the $400 million of funding under the arrangement that will mature in April 2012 and is priced with a credit spread of 3.00% over commercial paper or LIBOR.

Stephen A. Van Oss, WESCO's Senior Vice President and Chief Financial and Administrative Officer stated, "We are very pleased to have this attractively priced, multi-year financing in place. There was strong support for this facility as we received commitments in excess of our targeted level of $400 million. Our liquidity is strong and our capital structure is well positioned for the future."

WESCO International, Inc. (NYSE: WCC - News) is a publicly traded Fortune 500 holding company, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose primary operating entity is WESCO Distribution, Inc. WESCO Distribution is a leading distributor of electrical construction products and electrical and industrial maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) supplies, and is the nation's largest provider of integrated supply services. 2008 annual sales were approximately $6.1 billion. The Company employs approximately 7,200 people, maintains relationships with over 24,000 suppliers, and serves more than 110,000 customers worldwide. Major markets include commercial and industrial firms, contractors, government agencies, educational institutions, telecommunications businesses and utilities. WESCO operates seven fully automated distribution centers and approximately 400 full-service branches in North America and select international markets, providing a local presence for area customers and a global network to serve multi-location businesses and multi-national corporations.


Belden Announces Departure of EMEA President

Belden (NYSE: BDC - News), a leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of signal transmission solutions for industrial automation, data networking, and a wide range of specialty electronics markets, today announced that Wolfgang Babel, President of Belden Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), will be leaving the Company. The Company has already commenced its search for a replacement candidate. However, until a permanent replacement is found, John Stroup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belden will lead the EMEA business segment.

"The economic situation in Europe has continued to prove challenging. This action is part of a broader series of necessary steps we will be taking to accelerate our progress in this segment during these difficult times," said John Stroup, President and Chief Executive Officer of Belden. "We are committed to ensuring the long-term success of our EMEA segment, as it is a vital component to our long-term strategy. We will discuss our plans for this segment in greater detail on our upcoming earnings call which is scheduled for April 29th."


Belden Launches New Generation(R) Series of Value-Priced IP Category Cables for Video, Sound and Security Applications

 (NYSE: BDC - News), a world leader in the development of signal transmission solutions for the enterprise, industrial, building management, broadcast, and security markets, announces the expansion of its New Generation cable line with a series of four new IP Category 5e and Category 6 unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cables.

The new cables offer integrated Power over Ethernet in a single cable, eliminating the need for an external power source. They are designed exclusively for use with digital sound, video and security systems to link low-voltage security devices such as security cameras, CCTV, keypads, and intercoms.

The robust value-priced cables enable system designers, integrators and installers to provide their customers with high-quality, reliable sound, video and security systems at a very competitive price point. All four new cables fully meet the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.2-2001 Standard. They are available in both riser- and plenum-rated versions. Belden's new IP Category Cable products include:

·                     Belden Part No. 5663U5 - Cat 5e (Riser-rated)

·                     Belden Part No. 6663U5 - Cat 5e (Plenum-rated)

·                     Belden Part No. 5663U6 - Cat 6 (Riser-rated)

·                     Belden Part No. 6663U6 - Cat 6 (Plenum-rated)

The Category 5e cables feature 24 AWG solid bare copper conductors. The riser version has polyolefin insulation and PVC jacket with rip cord. The plenum version has FEP Teflon insulation and Flamarrest® jacket with rip cord. Both cables are sweep tested to 100 MHz.

The Category 6 cables feature solid bare copper conductors. The riser version (24 AWG) has polyolefin insulation and PVC jacket with rip cord. The plenum version (23 AWG) has FEP Teflon insulation and Flamarrest jacket with rip cord. Both cables are sweep tested to 250 MHz.

All four cables are available with Black jackets. Footage is sequentially marked every 2 feet, with countdown from 1,000 to eliminate guesswork and waste.

With the addition of the new value-priced cables, Belden now offers the sound and security industry more cabling options than ever before.

For more information about Belden New Generation IP Category Cables, request New Product Bulletin #301. Contact Belden at P.O. Box 1980, Richmond, Indiana 47375, 1.800.BELDEN.1. FAX: 765.983.5294. Or visit our Web site:

About Belden

Belden is a customer focused company. We ensure that our customers' communications infrastructure issues are resolved and that they benefit from the best signal transmission performance for their investment. We deliver leading-edge copper and fiber cabling/connectivity systems, wireless technologies, and active switch devices. We employ customer-centric go-to-market strategies and we implement and retain world class manufacturing processes. Our partners span the globe, helping our customers design, install, operate and maintain their communications applications. And our experience is vast, including expertise in Enterprise, Industrial, Infrastructure, Transportation, Professional and Enterprise Audio and Video, and Government applications. To obtain additional information contact Investor Relations at 314-854-8054, or visit our website at


BuildingGreen at the AIA National Convention in Frisco

BuildingGreen exhibited at the AIA National Convention in San Francisco from April 30 through May 2.  The team of BuildingGreen said “We always like to meet our customers in person, hear about your successes as well as anything we can help you with.”

BuildingGreen was also be involved off the exhibit floor. Nadav Malin, Jim Newman and others shared lessons learned from the first-ever summit on building and managing a green practice. Tristan Roberts will be among those who spoke at the all day pre-conference workshop Wednesday on sustaining the existing building stock.

Numerous attendees took advantage of their conference specials for savings on some of our green building information products.

    * BuildingGreen Suite

    * Environmental Building News

    * GreenSpec Directory

    * and the all new

Contact: Jerelyn Wilson, Outreach Director

Sustaining the Existing Building Stock: The Greatest Challenge of Architecture 2030

Greening our existing building stock has taken new prominence recently, both as the green building community grapples with the general economic slowdown along with the new construction slowdown, and as we get more real about what it will take for the building sector to slash our carbon emissions.

All of the speakers, who are experts on existing building rehabilitation, particularly on historic buildings, will be presenting a ton of material on practical issues as well as bigger picture things to think about. Tristan will present results of his current research on the most cost-effective green retrofits.

Speakers: Tristan Roberts, LEED AP; Jean C. Carroon, FAIA; Ralph DiNola, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP; Carl Elefante, AIA, LEED AP; Donald R. Horn, AIA, LEED AP; and Christina Roach, AIA, LEED AP

Provider: AIA Historic Resources Committee, AIA Committee on the Environment

Building and Managing a Green Practice: Lessons from a First-Ever Summit of Sustainable Design Directors at Architecture Firms

What happens when 50 sustainable design directors from 40 of the leading architecture firms around the country get together to compare notes? A collection of best practices, crazy ideas, and new energy for everyone involved. Hear the highlights from this first-ever summit, and learn how you can get involved or just benefit from the group's thinking on managing sustainable design resources, overcoming inertia to transform the design process, utilizing in-house and external expertise, and much more.

Speakers: Meredith S. Elbaum, AIA, LEED AP; Nadav Malin, LEED AP; Jim Newman, LEED AP; and Nellie Reid, LEED AP


Corning 1Q profit skids

LCD glassmaker's profit tumbles 99 pct.

Specialty glassmaker Corning Inc. said Monday its first-quarter profit fell 99 percent on slumping sales and a charge for previously-disclosed job cuts.

The world's largest maker of liquid-crystal-display glass earned $14 million, or a penny a share, in the January-March quarter, down from $1.03 billion, or 64 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales fell 39 percent to $989 million from $1.617 billion a year ago but that also topped analyst's forecasts of $963.4 million.

The stock is still down 43 percent from its 52-week high of $28.07 set May 19, 2008. It traded as low as $7.36 six months later.

After a slump in LCD glass sales at the end of 2008, the company took $165 million in pretax restructuring charges in the first quarter to pay for eliminating 3,500 jobs, or 13 percent of its payroll of 27,000.

In March, however, the company announced that it expected to turn a first-quarter profit, excluding special items, thanks to a resurgence in glass orders over the previous several weeks. On Monday, it doubled its forecast for growth of LCD-TV units from 9 percent to 18 percent.

Flaws reminded investors that the company is not providing specific profit or sales guidance for the second quarter.

"However, we expect to see significant sequential improvement in the company's sales, gross margin and earnings before special items," he said. "Second-quarter results will also benefit from our recently completed fixed cost reduction programs."

The 157-year-old company is based in the city of Corning in rural western New York.

Sales in its display technologies segment fell 57 percent to $357 million from $829 million a year ago.

DisplaySearch, a market research firm based in Austin, Texas, estimates that about 120 million will be shipped worldwide in this year, up from 105 million in 2008.

"It could go slightly higher -- there is some optimism in the supply chain right now that things aren't going to be quite as bad as previously expected," said DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gagnon.

In North America, shipments were expected to edge above 30 million this year from about 29.5 million in 2008.

Sales in Corning's telecommunications unit fell 8 percent to $385 million from $421 million on weakened optical fiber sales for private networks in North America.

Environmental technologies sales fell 44 percent to $110 million from $197 million, hurt by weaker auto-pollution filter sales.


Draka Announces family of MDU Cables with BendBright-XS

Draka’s ezInterconnectTM MDU Drop cables with BendBright-XS® fiber with Megladon ScratchGuard™ connectors deliver value innovation for challenging MDU applications and are readily available for deployment today

Draka Communications–Americas announces a new family of fiber cables designed and manufactured to provide forgiveness, speed and low connector insertion loss during installation.  ezInterconnect cables with BendBright-XS fiber inside give installers peace of mind by taking away the historical barriers encountered while routing fiber cables into and through an apartment, condo, high rise building, or multi-tenant business center. 

“Value Innovation is a way of looking at the world. How can we help our customers do more, make more, save more, achieve more?  In this case that means creating value for the installer by designing a fiber cable that has a minimum bend radius of only 7.5 mm and handles like copper in the customer premise.  While working with installers during our prototype phase, we saw first hand the frequent number of 90 degree bends and pathway obstacles, plus we heard the contractor reinforce the need for a fiber cable that can tolerate tie wraps and staples”  states Dean Yamasaki, Applications Manager at Draka Communications-Americas.

Draka’s new MDU product line offering is extensive and available today:
•    Indoor or Indoor-Outdoor flame ratings
•    With or without connectors
•    With Megladon’s new enhanced HLC (Hardened Lens Contact) ScratchGuard™ connector technology or standard connectors
•    2.9 mm OD and 4.8 mm OD versions

Bend Insensitive Fiber Leadership: Draka introduced its first G.657.A bend insensitive fiber, BendBright, in 2002.  BendBright offers a 10X bend tolerance improvement over standard single mode fiber.  In 2006 Draka released its second generation G.657.B bend insensitive fiber, BendBright-XS, which offers a 100X bend tolerance improvement and is ideal for challenging FTTH applications.  Over 1 billion feet of BendBright-XS has been sold since its introduction!  Draka subsequently stretched its leadership with the announcement of a variation of BendBright–XS, BendBright-Elite, that offers an unrivaled level of bending performance at any bend radius for specialty applications like optical components and military/aerospace markets.

Draka Communications is one of the first fiber optic producers to merge the “ bendable fiber optic cable” technology with the ultra durable connection properties of Megladon’s® ScratchGuard™ HLC (Hardened Lens Contact). Fiber continues to take large bites out of the complacent bottoms of the old copper cabling world.


DuPont gets hefty fine from EPA for pollution violations in West Va. and profits fall 59%

DuPont shareholders take it on the nose for the sins of two decades of shoddy management. DuPont Net Falls 59% and they failed miserably to meet projections…

Charleston, WV – West Virginia and federal authorities (EPA) say DuPont and Lucite International have agreed to pay $2 million to settle air pollution violations at a West Virginia plant.

The violations stem from sulfur dioxide releases from a unit owned by Lucite and operated by DuPont in Belle.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department and the state said Monday that modifications were made to the unit in 1996 without obtaining pre-construction permits or installing air pollution controls.

EPA said the Belle plant burns sulfuric acid sludge, which creates sulfur dioxide.

EPA said both companies have agreed to close the unit by April 2010.

The settlement was filed with the federal court in Charleston and people have 30 days to comment.

DuPont lowers 2009 profit range, and plans more cuts.

DuPont said it's revising lower its projected range for 2009 profit. DuPont in January had pegged 2009 earnings in a range of $2 to $2.50 a share. DuPont foresees "difficult market conditions continuing with the exception of global agriculture markets," adding that it remains focused on "aggressive actions to reduce costs and capital expenditures, in addition to maintaining an appropriate level of investment for high-growth, high-margin businesses including seed products and photovoltaics." Along these lines, the company said it's increasing its 2009 fixed-cost reduction goal to $1 billion, up from $730 million previously.


EPA Decision greenhouse gases are a health risk

Big Business, greens and lawmakers are all bracing for an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency this week on regulating greenhouse gases.

A declaration is widely expected but not officially scheduled. Experts predict it will assert the federal government's right to restrict emissions in the name of health.

Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, said the expected announcement would be a "game changer" for climate policy.

"It is fair to say that this will be the largest step the federal government will have taken to date on climate. It will be the first step towards what we expect will be mandatory reductions in U.S. global warming pollution," Mendelson told reporters Tuesday.

Bill Kovacs, vice president for the environment at the Chamber of Commerce, said the EPA could leverage the Clean Air Act to regulate virtually the entire economy.

"If this comes out and it is a real endangerment finding ... it will have a huge bearing on the economy of the United States," he said. "We're talking about something that has impact on trillions of dollars in every industry."

There's general agreement that the EPA news could give a big push to climate change legislation on Capitol Hill, making the proposals look flexible and low-cost compared with Clear Air Act remedies.

Head Winds For Tailpipes

Green groups say they expect the EPA to stress auto emissions, placing new pressure on Detroit to produce low-emission cars.

"There is a strong anticipation that the (announcement) will focus on the contributions of motor vehicle emissions to global warming pollution," said David Doniger, climate change policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

He added that it would "trigger the responsibility to set national greenhouse gas emissions standards for new vehicles."

That would be consistent with White House hints. Carol Browner, an aide to President Obama on climate policy, in February said the U.S. needed a "unified national policy" on vehicle emissions.

Obama himself said last month that his "one goal" in bailing out GM and Chrysler was that doing so would result in the U.S. leading the world in making clean cars.

May Spur Legislation

After an EPA declaration, there will likely be time for public comment as well as other bureaucratic delays. That will give Congress a chance to set the policy first. Industry may see little choice but to cooperate.

"Do you want the EPA to make the decision," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a co-sponsor of a cap-and-trade emissions bill, told Reuters, "or would you like your congressman or senator to be in the room and drafting the legislation?"

Many businesses are already on the bandwagon, viewing carbon regulation as inevitable. They're eager to have a say in it.

Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, says his group hopes the EPA's announcement brings "clarity" to emissions rules.

"What is most important to this industry is that we have a single national standard administered by the federal government and not 50 states or multiple agencies within the federal government," Territo said. "Ultimately, we want to be part of the discussion."

The looming EPA action stems from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling on the Clean Air Act that found the agency has the power to regulate greenhouse gases. With the new administration, the EPA officially said last month that greenhouse gases are a health risk.

The NRDC's Doniger says greens hope the rules will drive standards that "equal or exceed" California's, the toughest in the nation.


High-Output Fluorescent Lamps Deliver Energy Efficiency to High-Bay Lighting – Now on ElectricTV

The significant savings in energy and costs being realized by the use of leading-edge high-output fluorescent lamps is among the features on the latest edition of A joint production of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is the only web TV program dedicated to reporting the latest developments in the electrical construction and information systems industries.

For warehouses, factories and other high-bay buildings, metal halide bulbs have traditionally been used to light interior spaces.  Yet, with the groundbreaking development of high-output linear fluorescent lamps, also known as T5HO, high-bay buildings are now shining in a whole new light – at significantly lower costs. 

Not only are T5HO lamps twice as bright as traditional metal halide bulbs, they draw less energy and last longer than anything else on the market.  T5HO uses 231 watts, compared to 450 watts for metal halide, while producing double the lumens.   What’s more, T5HO lamps provide a range of color temperatures suited to a wider variety of lighting needs.  According to Relight, a leading lamp manufacturer, building owners who install T5HO lamps can cut energy cost by 20%, averaging a savings of $30,000 per year. 

Also on this edition of are a segment on a new learning program that’s bringing an online dimension to electrical worker training; a feature on how the movement for creating a “smart grid” is working to maximize efficiency in electrical transmission; and a spotlight on how building owners and managers are boosting operations and lowering costs through computer-based automation.

To view, visit


Through their joint marketing organization – the National Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) of the organized electrical construction industry – NECA and IBEW together work to:

• Reach customers with accurate information about the industry; and

• Achieve better internal communication between labor and management.

NECA has provided over a century of service to the $130 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light and communication technology to buildings and communities across the United States. NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development.

With 725,000 members who work in a wide variety of fields – including construction, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing – IBEW is among the largest member unions in the AFL-CIO.  IBEW was founded in 1891.


Hitachi Cable Manchester Begins Feasibility Study for Solar Energy

Hitachi Cable Manchester (HCM) continues to be a leader in green initiatives. 

HCM has initiated a feasibility study to determine the cost and capabilities of a roof-mounted solar array for its 300,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Manchester, NH.

Working with its contractor, HCM will explore the size and electricity generating capacity of a roof-mounted system. With more than five football fields of rooftop space to work with, HCM is energized by the possibilities of producing a large share of the electricity it uses.  Mike Gallant, Vice President, said, “We’ve started down this path not just because HCM believes in renewable energy, but because as a leader in our industry, we believe it is important to set an example.  We hope that other companies will consider using solar as well.”

About HCM

HCM, located in Manchester, NH manufacturers a complete line of copper and fiber optic cables for the communication industry.  Over 3,300 different cable products are manufactured at this facility.  In addition to Category 6A cables, products include Category 6 and 5e cables, outdoor Category 5e and 6 cables, indoor and outdoor fiber optic cables, armored fiber optic cables as well as plenum-rated indoor/outdoor fiber optic cables.

To learn more about HCM products and where you can purchase them, please contact HCM toll free at 800-772-0116 or visit the HCM website at


New Automated Projector Lift Now Shipping and UL Listed!

The newly designed SL151™ Automated Projector Mount provides smooth and quiet movement at the press of a button. - Chief Manufacturing, the industry leader in projector, monitor and flat panel TV mounting solutions, is excited to announce the release of the SL151 Automated Smart-Lift Projector Mount, now UL Listed and resized to drop directly into 2'x2' tiles.

The SL151 is a great, automated projector lift for finished ceilings in homes and corporate offices. The mount automatically lowers the projector from the ceiling so you can reveal or conceal at the press of a button.

The Smart-Lift offers precise positioning including vertical projector cradle adjustments and fore/aft projector positioning. Quick disconnect provides convenient lamp and filter access on most projectors, and the SL151 maintains registration even when disconnected. The low-profile design requires minimal clearance above the ceiling.

About Chief
Chief Manufacturing, is a division of Milestone AV Technologies, a Duchossois Group Company, and has more than 30 years of proven product and service excellence. Committed to responding to industry needs in the Pro AV, Residential and Office markets, Chief offers a complete line of mounts, lifts and accessories for flat panel displays and projectors.

Chief continues to design innovative mounting solutions and helpful tools like Chief's exclusive MountBuilder that complement the technology they support. With multiple product awards and patented designs, Chief provides unique mount features, and is recognized for delivering not only quality products, but knowledgeable, helpful customer service.

U.S. and Europe sales offices support a global network spanning the Americas, Europe, the Pacific Rim and beyond. Chief distribution centers are located in Minnesota, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands.


New Belden Brilliance(R) Low Loss Plenum RG-11 Precision Digital Video Coax Significantly Improves Long-Distance Performance

Belden announces the launch of its new and improved Plenum-rated RG-11 Precision Digital Video Coaxial Cable Product No 7732LL. Market applications for the new plenum cable include television broadcast studios, TV and video production, post-production facilities and field applications, HD-for-film production, video editing, distribution and duplication.

The new 7732LL cable offers significant performance enhancements over Belden's previous plenum-rated version (Product No 7732A), especially when deployed in long cable runs for high definition video (HD-SDI) or 1080p/60 applications. In fact, Brilliance 7732LL now offers the longest transmission distance in the industry, matching the performance of Belden's non-plenum SDI/HDTV Digital Video cables (7731A). In addition, Belden's 7732LL cables carry Belden's industry-leading Return Loss guarantee of: -23 dB 5 MHz to 1.6 MHz, and -21 dB from 1.6 GHz to 4.5 GHz - making it the only plenum RG-11 cable in the industry with this level of guaranteed Return Loss performance.

Steve Lampen, Belden's Multimedia Technology Manager, notes: "The new Brilliance 7732LL cable represents a breakthrough development in extending the signal transmission distance of plenum-rated copper video cables, without having to install fiber optic cabling. As digital video progressed from SDI to HD-SDI and now to 1080p/60 and 1080p/50 (3G), these applications have placed greater length constraints on copper cables, especially plenum-rated. With this new product, the distance differential between plenum and non-plenum cables has been eliminated."

The new Belden Brilliance Plenum-Rated RG-11/U Type Precision Digital Video Coaxial Cables feature a 14 AWG solid bare copper conductor, Duofoil® + 95% Tinned Copper Braid Shield, PTFE insulation and fluorocopolymer jacket. They are available in ten colors, including Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Gray and Natural.


New, Free Resource from Fluke Networks Provides IT Organizations with Step-by-Step Process for Improving Application Delivery

“2009 Handbook of Application Delivery” by Dr. Jim Metzler now available for immediate download from Fluke Networks’ website

Fluke Networks announced today that the new, updated “2009 Handbook of Application Delivery” is available for immediate download from Fluke Networks’ website.  The “Handbook,” written by industry analyst and widely recognized network technology authority Dr. Jim Metzler of Ashton, Metzler & Associates, provides a detailed framework for successfully implementing application delivery solutions.  According Dr. Metzler, this is critical due to the continued investments being made in enterprise applications that support key business processes.

“Over the last few years’ application delivery has become a priority for virtually all IT organizations,” said Dr. Metzler.  “However, the majority of IT organizations still struggle with the task. The Handbook takes information gathered from over 150 IT organizations and turns that into a framework for making the best decisions about application delivery.” 

The Handbook will help IT organizations minimize the occurrence of application performance issues and to identify and quickly resolve issues when they do occur. 

While discussing the many factors that currently complicate application delivery, the Handbook presents the need for IT organizations to develop a systematic approach to application delivery.  The Handbook provides multiple recommendations that IT departments can use when formulating their approaches to ensure acceptable application delivery.  Fluke Networks’ Visual Performance Manager is offered as one solution for ensuring and optimizing the delivery of business services with network-based application performance management.

Related to the topics discussed in the 2009 Application Delivery handbook, Fluke Networks and Dr. Metzler recently hosted a webcast discussing the challenges that arise as a result of working in silos, as well as the value of taking a performance-based approach to delivering critical business services.  The on-demand version of this webcast can be viewed at by clicking here.

About Fluke Networks

Fluke Networks provides innovative solutions for the installation and certification, testing, monitoring and analysis of copper, fiber and wireless networks used by enterprises and telecommunications carriers. The company's comprehensive line of Network SuperVision™ Solutions provide network installers, owners, and maintainers with superior vision, combining speed, accuracy and ease of use to optimize network performance. Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the company distributes its products in more than 50 countries. More information can be found by visiting Fluke Networks’ Web site at or by calling (800) 283-5853.


New Fundamentals of Fiber Optics Training Course

The Light Brigade announces a new upcoming two-day technical training course, Fundamentals of Fiber Optics. This entry-level course covers both multimode and singlemode fiber networks and is intended for installation contractors and end users involved in building and maintaining local area networks (LANs), municipal networks, and private networks.

Specific topics covered include:

           An overview of the history of fiber optics

           Fiber optic transmission theory

           Optical fiber manufacturing

           System design parameters

           Installation guidelines

           Fiber optic fusion splicing

           Fiber optic connector termination

           Field testing and troubleshooting

           Technical standards and codes

This course includes extensive hands-on exposure to optical fiber termination, system testing and troubleshooting, and fusion splicing through six hours of hands-on training using the latest in fiber optic equipment.

Fundamentals of Fiber Optics is eligible for Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT) and Advanced Fiber Optic Technician (AFOT) certifications through the Fiber Optic Association, and is approved for Continuing Education Credits from BICSI.


New Intellectual Property Covers NonStop Wireless Networking, Energy Conservation

The United States Patent Office has awarded Trapeze Networks (NYSE: BDC - News) two breakthrough wireless networking patents. The patents advance the company's position in NonStop Wireless networking and cover technologies that allow organizations to deploy and manage access points more easily and at lower costs.

"The award of these two new patents builds and reinforces Trapeze Networks' position as an innovator and leader in wireless networking," said Ahmet Tuncay, chief technology officer of Trapeze Networks. "We are delivering inventions that are solving real customer problems and driving the adoption of wireless networking around the world."

Foundational Patent Builds on NonStop Wireless Networking

The "System and Method for Distributing Keys in a Wireless Network" (U.S. Patent 7,529,925) is a foundational patent that relates to improvements in roaming performance. This invention covers the fundamental operations of pairwise master key (PMK) caching, the way to maintain security when clients roam from one access point to another. The invention allows the distribution of key information about client devices between access points such that clients can avoid re-negotiation of new keys with new access points as they physically move in a wireless network. This results in uninterrupted wireless service and superior quality of connection. Most of today's enterprise class wireless LANs that support high-quality voice over IP services require PMK caching features in order to provide rapid roaming between access points and eliminating dropped calls.

"Power-Aware Multi-Circuit System and Method" (U.S. Patent 7,525,215) is an invention that allows access points to use one or more types of power sources (IEEE 802.1at, IEEE 802.3af, or proprietary PoE) and adjust the functionality of the access point based on the level of power available to it. This invention simplifies installation and operation of access points on existing networks and allows businesses to entirely avoid installing expensive additional power mains, new PoE sourcing devices, and upgrading their wiring closets to support the wireless network.

NonStop Wireless Networking: Wired Reliability + Total Mobility

NonStop Wireless brings painless, fully automated dynamic redundancy and scaling to wireless LANs. NonStop Wireless technology allows for non-stop operation, in-service upgrades, and hitless failover while dramatically simplifying redundancy configuration. Trapeze's NonStop Wireless dramatically reduces capital equipment and ongoing IT operational costs associated with building, maintaining, and growing high-availability resilient wireless LANs.

NonStop Wireless is delivered through Trapeze Mobility System Software (MSS). MSS is the distributed wireless operating system that runs on Trapeze's wireless LAN equipment and delivers the benefits of Trapeze's Smart Mobile architecture. MSS runs on all Trapeze equipment, from access points to controllers and is backwards compatible across the company's entire product line.

About Trapeze Networks

Trapeze Networks, a Belden Brand, is a leader in enterprise wireless LAN equipment and management software. Trapeze was the first company to introduce NonStop Wireless - delivering unmatched reliability to the enterprise wireless LAN and its solutions are optimized for companies requiring mobility and high bandwidth such as healthcare, education, and hospitality. Trapeze delivers Smart Mobile(TM) providing scalable wireless LANs for applications such as Voice over Wi-Fi, location services, and indoor/outdoor connectivity.


New Learning Program Brings Online Dimension to Electrical Worker Training – Now on

A unique approach to electrical worker training that seamlessly blends online, classroom and hands-on experience is among the features of the latest edition of  A joint production of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is the only web TV program dedicated to reporting the latest developments in the electrical construction and information systems industries.        

The pioneering training program, the first of its kind in the United States, was developed by NECA-IBEW’s National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) in partnership with Cengage Learning.  Designed for outside line apprentices, the program offers a rich array of learning paths, from online studies – with web-based interaction between students and instructors – to classroom and application experiences conducted at NJATC’s training centers.  Distant students benefit by being able to complete coursework outside the classroom, allowing more time in the facility to be spent with hands-on lab work and direct instructor-led training.

Says Michael Callanan, Executive Director of the NJATC, “For more than 60 years, we’ve provided the highest quality training and apprenticeship programs for NECA and IBEW members.  Today, we’re meeting our students’ diverse needs through the latest available technology.  This new solution, combining web-based learning with traditional education materials, expands our ability to ensure our students are the best trained electrical workers.”

Also on this edition of are a segment on how the movement toward creating a “smart grid” is maximizing efficiency in electrical transmission; a feature detailing how building owners and managers are boosting operations and lowering costs through computer-based automation; and a spotlight on how T5HO fluorescent lamps are significantly lowering energy use and costs in lighting high-bay buildings.

To view, visit


Through their joint marketing organization – the National Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) of the organized electrical construction industry – NECA and IBEW together work to:

• Reach customers with accurate information about the industry; and

• Achieve better internal communication between labor and management.

NECA has provided over a century of service to the $130 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light and communication technology to buildings and communities across the United States. NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development.

With 725,000 members who work in a wide variety of fields – including construction, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing – IBEW is among the largest member unions in the AFL-CIO.  IBEW was founded in 1891.


New NetAlly VoIP Assessment Software Eliminates Risk During Deployment or Expansion of VoIP Phone Systems

Fluke Networks’ new software quickly determines maximum call volume and call quality while saving money by reducing post-deployment troubleshooting

Fluke Networks today announced the availability of NetAlly VoIP Assessment and Troubleshooting Software, version 7.0.  This new software package helps eliminate risk associated with deploying or expanding VoIP services by assessing the current state of the network and previewing the service before it is deployed on that network.  Assessing the network, a requirement of many leading IP PBX manufacturers, makes VoIP deployments faster, more successful and less costly by reducing post-deployment troubleshooting.

As stated in the Gartner Research Report Ignore IP Telephony Network Assessments at Your Own Risk, “The introduction of Internet Protocol (IP) telephony impacts the enterprise data network; however, despite numerous discussions of this, some enterprises and integrators still do not perform proper predeployment assessments of the enterprise network.  This often leads to unplanned additional costs or deployment delays.  Properly performed network assessments are mandatory to reduce this risk.”[1]

NetAlly software can shorten installation time periods by performing proper network assessments, detecting deficiencies in the network and pinpointing where corrective actions and fine-tuning need to take place.  NetAlly offers users an accurate preview of the VoIP service as it will be delivered over a production IP network.  Unlike network simulation software, NetAlly generates traffic over the actual network and provides responses based on real-world measurements.

IT professionals can use NetAlly to determine if there is sufficient network capacity to support a proposed VoIP project.  NetAlly will discover the network devices and verify that QoS is enabled.  The software will also calculate how many simultaneous VoIP calls can be supported and determine expected MOS quality at various levels of usage.  Service levels by location and by time of day can be collected and documented.  The user can then adjust device settings and/or QoS configurations to reach the expected level of service.

The NetAlly Test Center user interface runs on Fluke Networks’ OptiView Integrated Network Analyzer.  This gives the user the ability to define tests, change test parameters and view results from anywhere on the network, combined with OptiView’s enterprise-wide vision and VoIP-specific diagnostics.  The new version of NetAlly will also run independently on a stand-alone server.  NetAlly version 7.0 is the result of Fluke Networks’ acquisition of key technology from Viola Networks, announced in August 2008. 

Product Availability

NetAlly VoIP Assessment and Troubleshooting Software version 7.0 is available for immediate delivery through Fluke Networks’ sales channels worldwide.

About Fluke Networks

Fluke Networks provides innovative solutions for the installation and certification, testing, monitoring and analysis of copper, fiber and wireless networks used by enterprises and telecommunications carriers. The company's comprehensive line of Network SuperVision™ Solutions provide network installers, owners, and maintainers with superior vision, combining speed, accuracy and ease of use to optimize network performance. Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the company distributes its products in more than 50 countries. More information can be found by visiting Fluke Networks’ Web site at


New VoIP Enterprise Service Kit from Fluke Networks Reduces Installation and Problem-Solving Time for VoIP Phone Systems

Combination of three crucial test tools meets growing demand for comprehensive, affordable VoIP installation solution

Fluke Networks, provider of innovative Network SuperVision Solutions™ for the testing, monitoring and analysis of enterprise and telecommunications networks, announces the availability of the VoIP Enterprise Service Kit, designed to ensure successful deployment of VoIP phonesover existing network infrastructure.  By using the three vital test tools included in this kit – a cable qualification tester, an inline performance tester and a digital probe – technicians can quickly eliminate the most common problems plaguing VoIP installations.

The VoIP Enterprise Service Kit  fills a void created by existing test tools that only check cable integrity – without looking at VoIP performance – and tools that only look at the VoIP phone, without testing the cabling’s ability to transmit voice traffic.  The new kit reduces the risk of rework and call-backs by testing both infrastructure and phone  performance while the technician is on site.

The VoIP Enterprise Service Kit is built around the CableIQ™ Qualification Tester.  The CableIQ tester checks cable bandwidth to ensure it will support Voice Over IP requirements.  This can prevent hours of downtime and troubleshooting when VoIP equipment is installed on cabling with insufficient bandwidth.

Also in the kit is the NetTool™ Series II inline testerwith VoIP Testing Option.  NetTool allows users to see into VoIP calls by placing NetTool between the IP phone and network.  Users can now quickly diagnose phone boot-up and call control problems as well as measure key call quality metrics without the need of a costly, hard-to-use protocol analyzer.

The third fundamental tool in the VoIP Enterprise Service Kit is the IntelliTone™ probe.  IntelliTone simplifies cable identification by responding to unique digital tones which are unaffected by sources of interference that hinder traditional tone-probe sets.  Both the CableIQ Qualification Tester and NetTool Inline Tester generate digital tone that can be located by the IntelliTone probe, saving time during cable identification tasks.

The VoIP Enterprise Service Kit is one of several VoIP solutions offered by Fluke Networks.  Earlier this week the company announced NetAlly VoIP Assessment and Troubleshooting Software, version 7.0.  This new software package helps eliminate risk associated with deploying or expanding VoIP services by assessing the current state of the network and previewing the service before it is deployed on that network.  Assessing the network, a requirement of many leading IP PBX manufacturers, makes VoIP deployments faster, more successful and less costly by reducing post-deployment troubleshooting.

Product availability
In addition to the CableIQ Qualification Tester, NetTool™ Series II inline tester and the IntelliTone probe, the VoIP Enterprise Service Kit includes six remote office IDs, used for identifying cable outlets at the far end of a link.  The VoIP Enterprise Service Kit is available for immediate delivery through Fluke Networks sales partners worldwide.

About Fluke Networks
Fluke Networks provides innovative solutions for the installation and certification, testing, monitoring and analysis of copper, fiber and wireless networks used by enterprises and telecommunications carriers. The company's comprehensive line of Network SuperVision™ Solutions provide network installers, owners, and maintainers with superior vision, combining speed, accuracy and ease of use to optimize network performance. Headquartered in Everett, Washington, the company distributes its products in more than 50 countries. More information can be found by visiting Fluke Networks’ Web site at or by calling (800) 283-5853.


Nobody is Recession- Proof. Microsoft Posts Landmark Loss

The link between Microsoft Corp.'s fortune and the health of the personal computer market has rarely been clearer than in the software maker's fiscal third quarter. Consumers, Businesses Cut Back Sharply On Tech Spending.

For the first time in Microsoft's 23-year history as a public company, revenue fell year-over-year as PC shipments tumbled.

The shortfall again illustrated the toll the recession has taken on the world's largest software maker, even though Microsoft remains one of the richest and most profitable companies. In January, Microsoft said it needed to resort to its first mass layoffs, cutting 5,000 jobs. Microsoft also announced it would do away with merit pay increases for employees in the next fiscal year. Microsoft did not issue earnings guidance for the rest of the year, and it offered no hope for a rebound in the current quarter.

"I didn't see any improvement at the end of the quarter that gives me encouragement that we're at the bottom and coming out of it," said Chris Liddell, Microsoft's chief financial officer.

On Friday at a technology forum in Cologne, Germany, Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, said the company expects to have to deal with a weak economy for at least the next several years. "We are planning essentially for the economy to contract," Ballmer said. "That may take two, three, four years, partly depending on government policy to ease some of the pain. Then we will see growth again."

Microsoft makes most of its profit selling the Windows operating system and business software such as Office, and those divisions have been hammered over the last six months as consumers and businesses sharply cut their technology spending. The holiday quarter, which ended in December, was the PC industry's worst in six years, according to research groups IDC and Gartner Inc. In the following quarter, computer shipments sank about 7 percent.

Last week, Intel Corp. CEO Paul Otellini raised some hopes when he said the PC market had bottomed out in the first quarter. On Thursday, EMC Corp. CEO Joe Tucci predicted that spending on information technology "has reached or is very near the bottom" and should rebound in the second half of this year. He made those comments even as EMC reported that first-quarter profit dropped 23 percent and the company planned more cost cuts.

Other executives have been more cautious. "I don't know how someone could say we've hit bottom in the current economic climate," said Dirk Meyer, the CEO of Intel's main rival, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.


Ortronics/Legrand Introduces New Full Line of Mighty Mo® Network and Server Cabinets to Address Airflow Issues in Data Centers

Ortronics/Legrand, a global leader in high performance copper, fiber and wireless structured cabling solutions, introduces a new complete range of Mighty Mo® network and server cabinets for advanced cable management in high performance networks. Ortronics Mighty Mo cabinets are designed to protect network integrity by addressing the critical needs in today's data centers and large premise networks – airflow, density, protection, and performance.

Designed specifically to improve airflow, the Mighty Mo cabinets enable more efficient cooling through the use of patent pending airflow baffles that provide separation of hot and cold aisles and redirect airflow from side vented equipment so it matches the front to back airflow of servers. This passive cooling approach reduces power consumption, thereby reducing costs and impact to the environment, while also mitigating the risk of equipment failure.

Mighty Mo cabinets are fully equipped to handle the density of today’s high performance networks while allowing for easy moves, adds, and changes. The system provides ample capacity for a minimum of 48 Category 6a patch cords per rack unit on a single side of the equipment, which is often necessary to avoid a fan tray, power supply or other removable part of the equipment.

To ensure maximum network performance, Mighty Mo cabinets protect patch cords, cable, and equipment ports from damage by maintaining proper bend radius requirements, reducing tension on plugs and jacks, protecting network equipment ports, and supporting large cable bundles within the cabinet. The cabinets also purposefully reposition the caster rails out of the cable pathway and effectively manage entry and exit points from within the cabinet frame.

Mighty Mo cabinets feature a rugged fully-welded construction and are available in widths of 24” and 32” and depths of 32”, 42” and 48”. Heights of 80” and 89” provide 42 and 47 rack units of equipment room. A wide selection of cable, power, and thermal management accessories are available to support the needs of any installation.

"A solid foundation is critical for superior network performance in high density applications, and the physical support system, including cabinets and racks, provides that foundation," states Lars Larsen, physical support product manager for Ortronics/Legrand. "A poorly designed physical support system can have a devastating effect on the performance of the network. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to select a physical support system that is designed with these considerations in mind."


For more information contact:

Ortronics/Legrand, 125 Eugene O'Neill Drive, New London, CT 06320

Sales: 860-445-3900 or 800-934-5432, Fax: 888-282-0043 or 860-405-2992

E-mail:, Internet:

Editorial Contact and Photos:

Laura Fradette, Communications Specialist

Ortronics/Legrand, 125 Eugene O'Neill Drive, New London, CT 06320

Direct Tel: 860-405-2861, Fax: 860-405-2972


Background for Editors:

Ortronics/Legrand (, headquartered in New London, Connecticut USA, is a global leader in high performance structured cabling solutions, offering a complete range of Category 5e, 6 and 10 Gig copper, fiber optic, wireless and residential/MDU connectivity solutions. In addition, Ortronics offers Cablofil® wire mesh cable tray and Wiremold® pathways. Other programs and services include: engineering and technical support, systems planning, training programs and a 25-year warranty program.

Ortronics/Legrand is a subsidiary of Legrand (, the world specialist in products and systems for electrical installations and information networks in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Operating in over 60 countries with sales of $4.9 billion, Legrand employs approximately 33,000 people, and its catalogs include more than 130,000 products. At Legrand, innovation drives growth: with nearly 5% of sales invested in R&D every year, the group brings out a steady stream of new, high added-value products.


Para Systems Offers its Minuteman Power Protection Solutions as New Member of Exclusive Mitel Solutions Alliance

Para Systems, manufacturer of the comprehensive line of Minuteman® branded power protection solutions (, today announced it has joined the Mitel® Solutions Alliance (MSA), a comprehensive program that enables a wide range of third-party partners to create products and services that integrate with Mitel’s core business communications portfolio.

As a new member, and the only power protection solution provider in MSA, Para Systems is offering a customized version of its online tool, to assist distributors, resellers and end users in selecting the right Minuteman power protection solution that best fits Mitel’s product offerings.

“We have had a strong relationship with Mitel over the years, and we are excited about joining MSA,” said Rod Pullen, president of Para Systems. “Our Minuteman brand has become synonymous with power protection products designed for business communications, especially in the long battery back-up times required for keeping the business lifeline – which is the telecommunications system - up and running.”

Power protection is a vital voice and video communication system component that provides a return on investment in various ways, ranging from protecting equipment from damaging power events such as spikes and surges, to maintaining productivity by providing a bridge across other common power occurrences such as brownouts and blackouts. In addition, the battery back-up function maintains up-time through extended power outages so that businesses do not lose their line of communication to their customers.

“MSA enables us to build alliances with those companies who share and complement our market vision and can help us implement it rapidly and successfully,” said David

Lowenstein, MSA Director of Business Development. “We welcome Para Systems and its

Minuteman brand of power protection solutions into the program, and look forward to

incorporating their products into Mitel's global ecosystem of interoperable solutions.”

For more information on Minuteman power protection solutions, visit Information on Mitel’s business communications solutions can be seen at

About Para Systems, Inc.

Para Systems, Inc., based in Carrollton, TX, is a leading provider of power technologies for more than 25 years. The Minuteman brand of comprehensive power protection solutions range from small to large-scale uninterruptible power supply (UPS) products, along with a full line of unique surge suppressors, power distribution units, and remote power management systems. Minuteman products are used in the protection of telephone/VOIP systems, personal computers, network servers and infrastructure peripherals, security systems, and industrial applications. Para Systems was also an early pioneer in offering extended runtime UPS solutions that provide battery back-up power through lengthy outages.

Para Systems has an on-going commitment to manufacture high quality products that

provide the mission critical reliability customers expect. The Minuteman brand of products is sold through a large network of distributors and resellers. Para Systems in a wholly owned subsidiary of Components Corporation of America, headquartered in Dallas, TX, whose roots date back to 1916.


Rise of Smarter, Greener Buildings Boosts Efficiency, Reduces Cost – Now on ElectricTV

A close look at how building owners are applying the latest technologies to create smarter, greener buildings is among the features on the latest edition of  A joint production of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), is the only web TV program dedicated to reporting the latest developments in the electrical construction and information systems industries.        

The vast majority of the more than four million commercial buildings in the United States are equipped with outdated mechanical system technology, relying heavily on manual processes, from adjusting thermostats to turning on lights.  Yet, with the advent of a new generation of computer-based, networked systems, building owners at every level can now realize considerable savings in time and money through automation.

Lighting, heating and cooling, fire alarm, power systems and more can now be managed from a single computer interface.  Plus, says Dave Ulrich, control manager for the Electric Company of Omaha, “With internet connectivity, you can control your systems from any location, both on- and off-site.”  Such global oversight allows problems to be quickly pinpointed and resolved.  And the ability to automatically turn systems on and off, running only as needed, results in decreased operating costs and increased energy savings, benefiting both the owner and the environment.

Also on this edition of are a segment on a new learning program that’s bringing an online dimension to electrical worker training; a feature on how the movement for creating a “smart grid” is working to maximize efficiency in electrical transmission; and a spotlight on how T5HO fluorescent lights are delivering significant savings in energy and costs to the lighting of high-bay buildings.

To view, visit


Through their joint marketing organization – the National Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) of the organized electrical construction industry – NECA and IBEW together work to:

• Reach customers with accurate information about the industry; and

• Achieve better internal communication between labor and management.

NECA has provided over a century of service to the $130 billion electrical

construction industry that brings power, light and communication technology to buildings and communities across the United States. NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development.

With 725,000 members who work in a wide variety of fields – including construction, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing – IBEW is among the largest member unions in the AFL-CIO.  IBEW was founded in 1891.


Siemon™ Launches New Line of MTP™ Plug and Play Fiber Optic Network Cabling Solutions

Combining cutting edge performance with high speed deployment, Siemon’s plug and play fiber optic cabling system was designed from the ground up to satisfy the needs of high-performance data centers

April 23, 2009, WATERTOWN, CT, Siemon is proud to introduce a completely new and expanded line of high-performance MTP plug and play fiber optic cabling solutions.  Constructed of high-quality fiber optic cable and components for future-proof support of critical data center links including 10 Gb/s as well as future 40 and 100 Gb/s applications, the Siemon plug and play system's factory terminated and tested connections guarantee maximum channel throughput without the performance variability of field terminations.  This turnkey solution can be ordered to fit the application then simply pulled and connected - a simple approach allowing high performance data center links to be deployed 75% faster than traditional field terminations.  Beyond installation speed, Siemon plug and play products provide a “greener” approach, eliminating the waste associated with additional connectors, termination kits and other consumables.

The Siemon plug and play system includes new low-profile MTP to LC or SC modules, MTP pass-through adapter plates and an extensive offering of pre-terminated MTP to MTP, and MTP to LC cable assemblies.

Newly designed to be lightweight, low profile and easier to install, Siemon plug and play modules feature 12 fiber MTP connections at the rear of each module, providing up to 24 LC or 12 SC connections in the patching field via simple snap-in mounting within standard Siemon RIC® and FCP™ fiber enclosures and VersaPOD™ vertical patch panels. The modules provide optimized adapter spacing for easy finger access to fiber jumper latches in high-density patching environments as well as reduced mounting depth to maximize cable management space in fiber enclosures.  In addition to plug and play modules, Siemon also offers “pass-through” MTP adapter plates, designed to support up to 6 MTP-to-MTP connections in a single adapter plate.

 Siemon plug and play modules and adapters are supported by a wide array of factory-terminated cable assemblies that combine Siemon’s reduced-diameter RazorCore™ cable with 12-fiber MTP connectors. MTP-to-MTP reels are designed to be quickly pulled and connected to plug and play Modules and MTP adapter plates. Available in 12 to 144 fiber counts in increments of 12 fibers and in custom lengths, these reels are user-configurable to precise application requirements and efficiently put high-performance, high-density fiber connections exactly where they are needed.  

Siemon's plug and play cable assembly line also includes new MTP to LC trunking assemblies that offer a connectivity transition from 12-fiber MTP connectorized RazorCore cable to duplex LC connector breakouts. These trunks may be implemented with Siemon’s MTP adapter plates to provide flexible direct MTP to LC patching options over a wide range of distances and infrastructure configurations.  Additionally, Siemon offers a cost effective hydra option for creating direct MTP to LC equipment connections, typically in connections within a rack or cabinet. MTP to LC Hydras plug directly into an MTP reel via an MTP Adaptor and provide up to 12 jacketed LC (6 duplex) “legs”, eliminating the need for fiber jumpers.

 All Siemon plug and play products are available in Multimode (62.5/125, Standard 50/125 and Laser Optimized 50/125) and Singlemode fiber types. Assembly jacket ratings include riser, plenum and LSOH.


About Siemon:

Established in 1903, Siemon ( is an industry leader specializing in the manufacture and innovation of high quality, high-performance network cabling solutions. Headquartered in Connecticut, USA, with global offices, manufacturing and service partners throughout the world, Siemon offers the most comprehensive suite of copper (unshielded and shielded twisted-pair) category 5e, category 6 (Class E), category 6A (Class EA) and category 7/7A (Class F/FA), and multimode and singlemode optical fiber cabling systems available. With over 400 active patents specific to structured cabling, from patch cords to patch panels, Siemon Labs invests heavily in R&D and development of industry standards, underlining the company's long-term commitment to its customers and the industry.

Siemon™, RazorCore™, VersaPOD™ and RIC® are trademarks of The Siemon Company.  MTP® is a trademark of USConnec, Ltd.   All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


The People have Spoken and NETcomm Prairies a Success

The dust has settled, and it can be said the NETcomm Prairies 2009 Show in Saskatoon, Sask., last week (April 21-22) built upon the solid foundation laid by the inaugural event in Halifax to be a resounding success for both delegates and exhibitors.

“It was worth the two-and-a-half hours [to get here],” said Wayne Reesor of Linktel Communications, which installs and maintains telephone systems, network cabling and fiber optics for both commercial and residential clients. He came from Lloydminster, Alta., to attend the event in Canada’s Breadbasket. “Will I attend next year? 100%. I will, yes!”

The event comprised two days of educational sessions, along with an exhibitor showcase and hands-on workshops. The hands-on “Fusion Splicing” workshop from Day 1 proved so popular that it was repeated on Day 2 to accommodate interested delegates. Among the most popular Education Track seminars were “High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)”, FTTP and FTTx, and Security.

The show proved great for exhibitors, too. Garry Burrows, Telonix’s sales contact for The Prairies, Territories and British Columbia, said it normally takes him several days to make his calls when in the Saskatoon area but, with NETcomm, he was able to see everyone during the show, “plus some that I might have missed!”. He explained he also got to know some companies he didn’t know before.

“This is a show that, in the future, I want to participate in,” added Burrows.

A special thanks goes out to NETcomm’s sponsors, without whom the Show could not have been possible: Please visit them at

Be sure to visit to learn more about, and see photos from, the Prairies event. While you’re there, check out the show video, and sign up for NETcomm’s free newsletter, which provides timely industry information, as well as Show updates.

The NETcomm team is currently finalizing all the details for the next Show in Montréal, Qué., June 10-11. Again, visit to learn more about both the upcoming Québec conference, as well as the Atlantic Show scheduled for September.


Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago has deployed InterReach Fusion(R) in-building cellular systems

ADC (NASDAQ: ADCT) ( announced that the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago has deployed its InterReach Fusion(R) in-building cellular systems to provide clear and consistent cellular coverage for staff, visitors, and guests at the Chicago landmark.

Completed in 2008, the Trump International Hotel and Tower boasts 28 floors of guest rooms plus an additional 61 floors of condominium residences, making it a towering landmark of luxury at the north end of Chicago's Loop. During its three-year construction phase, hotel management recognized the need to provide in-building cellular coverage throughout the hotel's interior space, and chose ADC's InterReach Fusion system as the solution. Currently, Sprint and Verizon provide service through the Fusion system at the hotel, although discussions with AT&T and T-Mobile are underway.

"We wanted an in-building wireless system that could support all of the carriers in the area, and ADC came highly recommended by carriers and consultants," said Jerry Chang, IT director at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. "The Fusion system has eliminated service complaints from subscribers to the carriers who are on it so far, and we hope to have agreements with all other carriers soon."

The InterReach Fusion in-building distributed antenna system (DAS) feeds 174 remote antenna units (RAUs). Thanks to the Fusion system's active architecture, deployment teams were able to leverage existing fiber cabling in utility risers to extend signals from Main Hubs to Expansion hubs located on various floors, while the RAUs are linked to Expansion Hubs via standard CATV cable. This DAS architecture allows the RAU to be placed close to the user in strategic areas of the property where coverage improvement is needed most. The system delivers wireless service to all guest rooms as well as the reception area, a 23,000 square-foot spa, meeting rooms, the restaurant, and the bar.

"InterReach Fusion's high-performance architecture and ADC's proven ability to deliver effective coverage in high-rise hotels and residences has led to deployments in hospitality venues across the globe as quality wireless service is increasingly viewed as an essential amenity," said John Spindler, vice president of product management for ADC. "Our deployment at the Trump International Hotel and Tower leverages expertise gained through other high-profile deployments such as the City of Dreams in Macau, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and many of the premiere properties on the Las Vegas strip."

About ADC Network Solutions

ADC's Network Solutions Business Unit offers products that deliver high-performance wireless coverage and capacity to business and consumer subscribers in any indoor or outdoor location. ADC is the global leader in advanced in-building wireless solutions and compact network systems, and is a leader in solutions that enhance coverage in macro networks.

About Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago

Trump International Hotel & TowerChicago, located in the heart of the city at 401 N. Wabash Avenue, welcomed its first hotel guests in January 2008. The hotel, comprising floors 14-27 of a 92-story residential tower in development by the Trump Organization, features 339 luxuriously appointed guestrooms including one-, two- and three-bedroom suites; Sixteen, a fine dining restaurant featuring the modern American cuisine of Executive Chef Frank Brunacci; The Spa at Trump; the Trump Health Club; Rebar, a chic cocktail lounge and more. Fifty-three spa guestrooms were also unveiled September 2008. Designed by the noted architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill with interiors by McGinley Design, Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago promises to be a stunning addition to Chicago's distinguished skyline. For room and event reservations at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, call (312) 588-8000, (877) 458-TRUMP (7867) or visit To find the property on Facebook, please visit

For information on owning a Residential Condominium or Hotel Condominium in Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, please call (312) 644-0900 or visit Prices start from the upper $500,000s.

About Trump Hotel Collection

Launched in October 2007, Trump Hotel Collection is the next generation of luxury hospitality - one that is raising the bar in the top-tier travel experience with a level of customized service unrivaled on the market today. Within its prestigious portfolio are the highly acclaimed Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, and the newly opened Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. Joining Trump Hotel Collection in 2009 are Trump International Hotel & Tower Fort Lauderdale, Trump SoHo New York and Trump International Hotel & Tower Waikiki. Additional hotel projects are under development around the globe, including: Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto, Trump Ocean Club Panama, Trump International Hotel & Tower Dubai, Trump at Cap Cana, Trump Scotland and Trump International Hotel & Tower New Orleans. Trump Hotel Collection, a division of The Trump Organization, is headquartered at Trump Tower, 725 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10022.

About ADC

ADC provides the connections for wireline, wireless, cable, broadcast, and enterprise networks around the world. ADC's innovative network infrastructure equipment and professional services enable high-speed Internet, data, video, and voice services to residential, business and mobile subscribers. ADC (NASDAQ:


Wesco's 1st-quarter profit falls along with everybody else

Along with the rest of the industry, Electrical and industrial supplier Wesco International Inc.'s profit fell 45 percent in the latest quarter as construction and all of the company's other end markets -- except government sales -- sagged. The company plans further cost-cutting, and said it has identified areas that will help it save an additional $22 million a year, though didn't offer specifics on where those cuts will come from.  We interviewed several big contractors and got some very positive feedback on WESCO. Many new initiatives by Wesco and subsidiary CSC – Communications Supply Corp. are starting to produce new sales and build their customer base. Visit their websites for up-to-date information on new programs. Knowledge isn’t just power, it’s also wealth.

Wesco said that it was able to improve its gross profit margin from the fourth quarter. The company's gross margin -- which measures profitability once the cost of making goods are stripped out -- was 20.2 percent of sales, up from 19.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Wesco remains a top industry leader in distribution.


Corning Cable Systems Introduces Low-loss, Bend-Tolerant Jumpers for Enterprise Applications

Ideal for linking electronics to network components in fiber optic applications where bend-induced mistakes can be costly

Corning Cable Systems LLC, part of Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE:GLW) Telecommunications segment, introduces its Pretium® Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance. Local area network (LAN) and data center applications can benefit from the improved bend tolerance of these new OM3 (high-bandwidth, laser-optimized) cable assemblies with Corning® ClearCurve® multimode fiber.

Corning Cable Systems Pretium Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance can greatly reduce outages and degradation in systems caused by severe bending problems. Even when best practices are employed, mistakes may occur that result in kinked cables and cables bent beyond the recommended minimum bend radius found in today’s typical jumpers.

As network transmission speeds increase, available margins tighten and become more sensitive to loss associated with a number of factors including bends. Attenuation loss impacts associated with inadvertent macro-bending events may be reduced by more than 50 percent when using Pretium Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance in place of traditional 50 µm jumpers. Some severe bending problems that could typically result in a system outage become a non-event when the Pretium Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance are deployed in the network.

Enabled by Corning ClearCurve multimode fiber, Pretium Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance are able to accommodate a minimum bend radius of 8 mm (1.6 mm cable) to 10 mm (2.0 mm cable) with minimal bend-induced attenuation loss.

Multimode fibers have many modes of light traveling through the core of the fiber. These modes have a tendency to leak from the core under tight bending conditions. The resulting additional signal loss can cause system downtime or reduced network efficiency. Corning ClearCurve multimode fiber is designed to confine these modes within the fiber’s core; the result is a virtually undiminished optical signal and a reduced risk of network downtime.

Visit the Corning Cable Systems exhibit (booth #115) at the 2009 BICSI Spring Conference & Exhibition May 10-13, in Baltimore for a demonstration of the optimized bend performance of the Pretium Low-loss OM3 Jumpers with ultra-bend performance.

For additional information on Corning Cable Systems products and services, contact a

customer service representative at 1-800-743-2675, toll free in the United States, or (+1) 828-901-5000, international, or visit the Web site at


AFL Telecommunications Acquires Draka's OPGW Business

AFL Telecommunications has signed an agreement to purchase Draka's Optical Ground Wire (OPGW) business based in Monchengladbach, Germany. This acquisition positions AFL Telecommunications as the leading OPGW manufacturer worldwide, increasing its reach in additional countries of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

"The combined business synergies will enhance our technologies, increase manufacturing efficiencies and leverage the value of what we offer our customers," said Jody Gallagher, AFL Telecommunications' President and CEO. "Not only will our capacity increase, but it will enable us to enhance our capability and flexibility along with our ability to meet the increasing demands of our customers." AFL Telecommunications currently manufactures OPGW cables in the United States and United Kingdom.

Optical Ground Wire is a dual functioning cable that serves as ground wire for power lines, while providing a path for the transmission of voice, video or data signals by incorporating optical fibers into the design of the cable. OPGW is placed at the highest point on power utility structures, allowing for fast, cost-effective installations with exceptional reliability.

With over 20 years of experience in the aerial cable market, AFL supplies a full range of OPGW products, hardware accessories, engineering and installation services. 

Terms of the acquisition are undisclosed, and are subject to customary closing conditions and standard procedures due to local legislation. For additional information on AFL Telecommunications, visit

About AFL Telecommunications
AFL Telecommunications, a subsidiary of Fujikura Ltd. of Japan, is an industry leader in providing fiber optic products, engineering expertise and integrated services to the Electric Utility, Broadband, Telco, OEM, Private Network and Wireless markets. AFL Telecommunications is headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina and has additional operations in the U.S., Mexico and the U.K. 


NETcomm Presents Atlantic 2009 Conference, Issues Call for Papers

Following the success of the Maritimes Conference held in Halifax last September—and Prairies and Québec conferences this year in April and June that promise to be even better—NETcomm is returning to Halifax for its Atlantic 2009 Conference this September 14-15 at The Lord Nelson (Official Conference Hotel).

The Atlantic 2009 Conference is the third in a series of regional conferences NETcomm is conducting across Canada this year. The conference format combines a trade show-like forum with a series of educational seminars and technical workshops related to all aspects of communications networks and connectivity solutions.

Attendees consist of contractors, installers, integrators, designers, engineers, communications specialists, etc., who work in public administration, transportation, telecommunications, security, electrical and cabling installation, network design and installation, and purchasing and operations management.

NETcomm has issued a Call for Papers for the Atlantic 2009 Conference, seeking presentations on subjects touching upon one or more of the following:

• Voice/Data/Video

• Security

• Industrial Automation

• Environmental Systems

• Backbone and Cable/Rack Management

• Test & Measurement

• Regulations & Standards

            (Other subjects will be considered)

To enquire about facilitating an educational seminar, please contact:

Anthony Capkun

(905) 713-4391 direct

For more information, and to learn about exhibiting and sponsorship opportunities, visit


FSU Converges Support to Follow Technology

By Suzanne Kane and Donna Taylor

Convergence implies the carriage of different types of traffic such as voice, video, data, and images over a single, integrated network based on the Internet protocol (IP). Throughout most of the 20th century, communications media were separate and services were distinct. Voice telephony, online computer services, and broadcasting were separate, and each had its own platform. Each was also regulated differently and by different entities. These concise business models had support that was easily defined.

    The trend toward convergence combines all of these different media into one operating platform. This merger of telecom, data processing, and imaging technologies is creating a new era of multimedia that customers not only want, but demand. One of the challenges presented by this demand that receives less attention but is critical to success is support. Customer service groups must be formed that can cross all technological boundaries to support the breadth of products, services, and features required to satisfy our customers’ expectations.

    In response to this development, The Florida State University (FSU) made the decision to converge its computer help desk and telecom call center/directory assistance section with reporting lines to the telecommunications customer service area. This coincided with a restructure that reassigned reporting of the telecommunications department to the Office of Technology Integration (OTI). All support for computer and telephony would remain intact; however, this unit had a more comprehensive, university-wide role to fulfill. The merger was announced in December 2005, and although the process was not without obstacles, it was managed expediently and seamlessly. Here is how FSU made this work.

Early Decisions

Early in the process, it was decided to scale back, define the areas of need, and distinguish between short term and long term. Rather than looking at the big picture, the focus was on the short-term, critical need so the process could be manageable. As for any other project, parameters were defined, plans were developed, a timeline was established, and tasks/leaders were assigned.  It was time to set the start date and roll up shirtsleeves.

    The following six project parameters, initial areas of critical need, were identified:

1.  Location. The goal was to bring the staff from both sections together. Regardless of the location selected, one of the two groups (if not both) would need to be physically relocated. Because space was limited in our main building, the computer help-desk location was selected, and the staff from the main telecommunications building relocated. While this was not ideal from the standpoint of building a cohesive department, it ultimately helped build relationships and bridge trust with the newly formed alliance with other technology departments. Because this location was more closely connected to other IT departments, it confirmed that the help desk was still there to support the entire division.

    Another advantage to this location was the ability to act quickly. Fall was rapidly approaching, and neither section was adequately staffed. The options were to either fill the vacancies in both sections and operate in two locations until peak time settled down or to bite the bullet, move and train existing staff, and hold on until fall rush was over!  Choosing the latter was one of the toughest decisions made, leaving most staff members very apprehensive; but in the end, it proved to be the right decision because it worked.

2.  Positions/staffing. The strength of any successful business resides with its employees. FSU had two great units that functioned well separately. The goal was to capitalize on the technology strengths of the help desk and the customer-centric attitude of telecom’s call center to establish a broader help-desk identity. With that in mind, the blended Florida State University Technology Services Help Desk was born. 

3.  Telephone system configuration. Both help desks used automatic call distribution (ACD) systems, with long-term, established numbers. Functionality and telephone numbers had to be merged and/or forwarded into one system, with 644-HELP as lead number. Telecom’s call center evolved from campus operators, which introduced a third long-term number and system to support FSU’s directory assistance. Historically, this directory assistance number was globally published as the university’s main number, which also had to be factored into the configuration. Once the technical configuration was complete, all of the newly united employees had to be trained to collectively support computer help desk, telephony help desk, and FSU directory assistance prior to fall rush, August 2006.

    In October of that same year (2006), 60 percent of the directory assistance calls were diverted when FSU launched its interactive voice response (IVR) system for directory assistance, routing only overflow or attendant-assisted calls to the help line. This automation was crucial as it allowed staff to turn attention to support issues and other more critical tasks.

4.  Customer contact points. Success required consolidating points of contact, highlighting the word HELP. To inform the FSU community, a campaign was launched via all campus media, such as mass email and website news flashes. It took over two years to cancel old numbers, eliminate outdated literature, and forget “the way it was before,” but for the most part the campus now knows how to reach someone for assistance: phone (850) 644-HELP (4357); email; or visit the website at

5.  Website Consolidation. Both help desks had dynamic websites, each serving unique purposes to distinctly different customers. Significant time was spent reviewing the sites to determine the best course of action. The goal was, and remains, to develop one useful, customer-friendly website, while preserving the various roles.

    An important component in the combining design, which remains a challenge today, was multiple ticketing systems. One system was used for university-wide tickets such as FSU email, human resources, computer account access, and password resets. The other system was specifically integrated into telecom’s trouble ticket and billing system.

6.  Contact management. To establish and strengthen communication with clients as well as customers, meetings were held with key personnel, specifically within the technology departments. In these meetings, plans were reviewed and working terminology defined:

   Customers: people (students, faculty, staff, prospective students, parents) who contact the help desk with a question. We define a customer as anyone you come in contact with (i.e., students, parents, coworkers, vendors, departmental peers, etc.), or “the one who gets it next!”

   Clients: the group we are representing to the customer with the question.

   Tier 1 support (help desk): basic questions with routine answers.

   Tier 2 support: support that cannot be provided by the help desk and must be sent to our clients for more in-depth assistance (typically provided by our clients).

   Knowledge base/scripts: a collection of preformatted solutions, developed with our clients, that address known or common customer problems.

   Turnaround times: standard time for the resolution of a problem or ticket.

   Tracking: the process of reporting on status.

   Escalation procedure: established process used to assist with difficult problems.

Common Sense Approach

Once the foundation was established, the plans were executed and observed following the principle of leadership that is structured yet flexible.  Following a one-year review, these observations led to structural changes and responsibility shifts to strengthen support. For instance, it was evident that the duties associated with customer contact had to be separated from the duties of content management (i.e., support for client interaction, ticketing systems/administration, knowledge base, and website maintenance). To accomplish this goal, a customer resource management area was created, not separating what had just been converged, but creating a whole new section to help support the help desk.  To more accurately match skill sets, several employees were repositioned and a supervisor was reassigned to lead this new area. Now help-desk staff could get back to the basics and clearly focus on customer and client support.

Customer Service 101 

Technology changes are inevitable and necessary. Customers who are kept informed and receive high-quality support will not only accept such changes, they will embrace them. The secret to success is to make customer satisfaction top priority.

    It did not take long to discover that technical staff much preferred email contact with customers to actual conversation. Conversely, our most outgoing, customer-oriented staff was similarly frustrated with technical tasks. Applying basic telephone etiquette, such as to clearly identify area and state names to callers, presented a burden to longtime IT help-desk staff. 

    At this point, customer contact job listings were rewritten as level 1 help desk services. Interpersonal skills were emphasized, and technical ability deemphasized. It appeared to be easier for effective communicators with the inherent ability to serve customers to learn repetitive technical skills than for technical staff to learn the level of “people skills” required for good customer relations.  Gradually, attrition brought with it renewed energy, and clearer goals were communicated focusing on the customer’s experience.

Measuring Success

The next ongoing challenge became how to determine that these changes in philosophy were successful. Reports to ensure uniformity in services and quality metrics were developed. Processes and procedures were written or rewritten to provide internal training, as well as to update our Web-published knowledge base. Involving employees heavily in the development of these tools accelerated learning curves and helped promote teamwork from the outset.

    The character of any team is reflected in the standards it sets for itself. Here are some examples of what is working for FSU:

1. Defined standards and rules of thumb, such as the following:

           Customer service employees are provided these customer contact expectations as part of training:

(1) Guaranteed response time on email, voicemail, or verbal inquires

(2) Phone and email etiquette

(3) Coverage: maintain work schedules and leave requests on a shared calendar

(4) Out-of-office procedures: Change voicemail greeting, activate “out-of-office assistant” on email

           Defined turnarounds for all services

           Customer contact instructions to confirm satisfaction

2. Examples of defined monthly benchmarks:

           Number of repairs  (opened/closed)

           Calls to help-desk line (offered, answered, and abandoned)

           Calls to directory assistance IVR

(offered, answered, and abandoned)

           Number of website visits

           Number of online chats

           Number of password resets

3.  Examples of weekly management tools and reports used to keep us on track:

           Repairs open > 24 hours

           Email notice to tier 2 clients and vendors seeking updates for past-due tickets and accounts that had not been accessed for a prespecified time frame

           Client/customer call tracking (defines trends in who is calling and what their needs are)

           Monitoring IVR calls to identify success rates

What Lies Ahead?

As we look to the future, FSU continues to seek areas of improvement.  Some projects that have been identified include the following:

   Consolidate and improve reporting capabilities for university-wide ticketing system, rather than multiple systems. 

   Increase the presence and communication with clients who provide tier 2 support.

   Separate tier 2 support into a tier 2 and tier 3 structure (defining tier 3 and redefining tier 2).

   Implement improved call center software and hardware to increase efficiency and improve automation.

   Solidify and clearly communicate computer software and hardware standards and configurations to students, parents, and professors.

   Continue to enhance online services based on customers’ needs.

   Seek continuous feedback from clients and customers through surveys, focus groups, and open forums.

   Explore options for moving all help-desk staff into the main department’s building.

    In a university environment, it is important to establish benchmarks in order to track trends and measure volumes. Defining the elusive measurement to ensure that clients and customers receive the level of quality customer care they deserve is a requirement. Typically help-desk staff are trained to accept the fact that complaints will be lodged no matter how well they perform. At FSU, a basic goal is to measure success not by a lack of complaints, but on the abundance of compliments.  Based on this measurement, The Florida State University Technology Services Help Desk is well on its way to transforming two help desks into one unified and highly successful service and support center.

Donna Taylor is assistant director, customer service, and Suzanne Kane is manager, Technology Services Help Desk in the Office of Telecommunications, at The Florida State University. Reach Donna at and Suzanne at


Megladon HLC®SCRATCHGUARD™ Fiber Optic Patch Cords Withstand 1000 Matings

Megladon’s signature HLC SCRATCHGUARD fiber optic patch cables were utilized in durability testing simulating an in-field 1000 mating requirement. Multiple mating scenarios are experienced by network installers and maintenance personnel when certifying or troubleshooting fiber optic networks.               

The durability test was initiated using SM SCHLC processed connectors from several manufacturers to ensure the final product was not manufacturer sensitive. The mated pair was tested for insertion loss after each mating and visually inspected after each set of 100 matings. The mating surface was only cleaned when a substantial insertion loss increase was noticed (see data graph below).

Megladon’s HLC fiber optic terminations are known for their mating surface durability and coupling efficiency. This provides network installation personnel with an ease of use during network deployment and provides maintenance personnel a reliable network utilizing the highest optical performance patch cords in the industry.

“We are very excited to demonstrate our fiber optic technology in this way”, said Daniel Hogberg, Megladon Product Group Manager. “It is an extreme test that a standard product could not endure. When you look at the data, it raises the question why these products are not deployed in all networks”.

Megladon Manufacturing Group Ltd., a subsidiary of TyRex Group Ltd.®, is recognized as a leader in the fiber optic marketplace. Founded in 1997, Megladon made it their mission to provide customers with fiber optic products that far exceed industry standards. As technology innovators, Megladon created the HLC (Hardened Lens Contact) termination, which has changed the market and taken it to the next level. For additional information on Megladon and their patented processes please visit the company’s website at or respond by email to


Megladon Manufacturing and Draka Communications will present at SCTE Meeting

Megladon Manufacturing Group announced today a joint presentation with Draka Communications at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers Southern California Chapter ( meeting in Los Angeles on May 20, 2009. The presentation is titled “Optical Communications – Then and Now”. Topics will include reviewing long-standing fundamentals for those desiring to better understand the foundation building blocks as well as several of the hottest product performance requirements being driven by cutting edge applications.

The presentation will begin at 9:00AM and lunch is included. The meeting location is Time Warner Cable ( – Los Angeles Area – West Office 6320 Arizona Circle Los Angeles, CA 90045. Presenters for this session will be Mr. Dean J. Yamasaki, Applications and Technology Manager for Draka Communications ( and Mr. John M Culbert, President of Megladon Manufacturing (

“We are excited about supporting the SCTE Southern California Chapter”, stated John M Culbert, President and Partner at Megladon. He continued “The information presented will be valuable to the attendees and include cutting edge technologies utilized in CATV networks to minimize cost and improve video transmission”.

“Optical communications technology has been required to adapt to a growing number of new challenges as the diversity of applications continue to expand.  We appreciate the SCTE Southern California Chapter providing us this opportunity to educate the CATV industry on recent advancements that facilitate broadband deployments.” states Dean Yamasaki, Applications and Technology Manager for Draka Communications.

Megladon Manufacturing Group Ltd., a subsidiary of TyRex Group Ltd.®, is recognized as a leader in the fiber optic marketplace. Founded in 1997, Megladon made it their mission to provide customers with fiber optic products that far exceed industry standards. As technology innovators, Megladon created the HLC (Hardened Lens Contact) termination, which has changed the market and taken it to the next level. For additional information on Megladon and their patented processes please visit the company’s website at or respond by email to

Draka, headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is a € 2.5 billion, publicly listed (Euronext) company with 9,145 employees worldwide.  Draka is divided into three groups, Energy & Infrastructure, Industry & Specialty and Communications.  Communications is responsible for the production and sale of optical fiber, cable and communication infrastructure solutions globally. Draka Communications – Americas’ roots in North America run a century deep in names like Alcatel, ITT, Ericsson, Chromatic Technologies, and Phelps Dodge. Our clients are served from Draka's unique site in Claremont, North Carolina which is home to the 125-acre corporate campus & Americas headquarters, over 1 million square feet of manufacturing space and the only integrated optical fiber and cable facility in North America.  For more information please visit

Association News


ACUTA Honors Innovative Technology Projects at Three Universities with Institutional Excellence Awards

Ball State University in Indiana, Marquette University in Wisconsin, and Abilene Christian University in Texas have each been recognized for their information communications technology projects with a 2009 Institutional Excellence award from ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

ACUTA announced the awards during the organization’s 38th Annual Conference here. As the only international association dedicated to serving the needs of higher education information communications technology professionals, ACUTA represents nearly 2,000 individuals at some 780 institutions. Its award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology is ACUTA’s premier recognition of the work being done on college and university campuses.

Ball State University, the award winner for schools with more than 15,000 students, was recognized for its “The Aesthetic Camera” project, a course that uses the Internet-based world of Second Life to provide class participants with hands-on use of virtual film and video equipment and resources that would be impractical to duplicate in the physical world. As a self-paced distance learning tool, Aesthetic Camera allows students to shoot and record the evidence of their understanding of learned cinematography concepts.

Aesthetic Camera is a joint project of numerous colleges within the Muncie, Indiana-based university, as well as telecommunications professionals and computer scientists.

Marquette University in Milwaukee, the award winner among schools with 5,000 to 15,000 students, was recognized for its implementation of a Voice over IP unified communications system. The Marquette system combines voice mail and e-mail, with benefits such as a single mailbox for all communications and a broad range of options for accessing and managing communications, including tools such as instant messaging, voice, e-mail, and web conferencing.

Abilene Christian University, the award winner for schools with fewer than 5,000 students, was recognized for its groundbreaking project of providing each incoming freshman with an iPhone or iPod Touch as part of a revolutionary mobile learning initiative. The Abilene, Texas-based school’s project recasts the 21st Century classroom as infinitely flexible, with new forms of both in- and out-of-classroom learning. Students use their mobile devices to leverage a single-sign-on portal for access to teaching tools and information.

ACUTA also gave an honorable mention to Indiana University, whose UniCom project provides a full-featured unified communications client combining e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, videoconferencing, enhanced presence, web collaboration, and remote call control in a single easy-to-use desktop platform. The 15-month project went live in September 2008 and continues to grow in its number of users.

“Each of these award winners provides an outstanding example of the type of innovation that ACUTA’s Institutional Excellence Award is designed to recognize,” said Dr. Walt Magnussen, immediate past president of ACUTA and chairman of the Awards Committee. “From Ball State’s Aesthetic Camera to the communications convergence at Marquette and the innovative use of mobile technology at Abilene Christian, each of these projects highlights the important ways that information communications technology helps fulfill the mission of each institution.”

The Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology Awards, sponsored by PAETEC, are part of each ACUTA Annual Conference. The conference is an opportunity for hundreds of representatives of higher education institutions to explore and discuss information communications strategies that support their organizations’ missions.

ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, is an international non-profit educational association serving colleges and universities. Its core purpose is to support higher education information communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions. ACUTA represents nearly 2000 individuals at some 780 institutions of higher education, with members ranging from small schools and community colleges to the 50 largest U.S. institutions. ACUTA’s Corporate Affiliate members represent all categories of communications technology vendors serving the college/university market. For more information, visit


Four ACUTA Conference Exhibitors Win ‘Favorite Booth’ Honors from Attendees

Verizon, Aastra, Telecom Technology Resellers, and Aruba Networks were the winners in the “Favorite Booth” competition at this year’s annual conference of ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

Attendees at ACUTA’s April conference in Atlanta were asked to select their favorite island and inline booths and favorite booth giveaways. When the responses were tabulated, in island booths the Verizon Business/Verizon Wireless booth was the favorite, while attendees liked Aastra’s giveaways the best. For inline booths, Telecom Technology Resellers was the first choice in overall booth appeal, while Aruba Networks’ giveaways were the best-liked.

ACUTA is the only national association dedicated to serving the needs of higher education information communications technology professionals, representing some 2,000 individuals at 790 institutions and 170 corporations.

“The exhibition portion of our annual conference is always a focal point of the event, in addition to the many informational sessions,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “The favorite booth contest is one more way we generate attendee interest in our valued exhibitors.”

The 2010 ACUTA annual conference will be April 18-21 in San Antonio, Texas.

ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, is an international non-profit educational association serving colleges and universities. Its core purpose is to support higher education information communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions. ACUTA represents nearly 2000 individuals at some 790 institutions of higher education, with members ranging from small schools and community colleges to the 50 largest U.S. institutions. ACUTA’s Corporate Affiliate members represent all categories of communications technology vendors serving the college/university market. 


Optimism Ahead for National Policy Changes

Jeri A. Semer, CAE

Executive Director, ACUTA

A number of developments are under way in Washington, D.C., that bode well for consumers of information communications technology services. There is cause for optimism for both individual consumers and organizations such as colleges and universities.

Economic Stimulus

At the time this column is being written, the U.S. Senate and House are still in negotiations on an unprecedented economic stimulus package. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill contain several billion dollars of support for our nation’s cyberinfrastructure. So, although we don’t yet know the specifics of legislation that will eventually be passed by Congress and signed by the president, it is virtually certain to contain a huge investment by the federal government in the deployment of broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the country.

    Only a few short weeks ago, we were lacking a national government commitment to broadband deployment. While we are still without a cohesive national broadband policy, this legislation will jump-start bringing a critical service to communities that have been handicapped by a lack of access.

    As negotiations continue with the goal of bringing the entire stimulus package into a form that will garner enough votes to pass, billions of dollars are being shaved from the spending plan. Over the last weekend, funds earmarked for renovation and repair of buildings on college campuses were significantly reduced, and $2 billion was cut from the broadband provisions in the Senate bill. We will definitely keep you informed of ways in which the economic stimulus is likely to affect higher-education institutions. In the final analysis, thousands of jobs will be created or preserved, and badly needed investments will be made in our physical and cyberinfrastructure.

Other Bills in Congress

Although the majority of attention has been focused on the economic stimulus, a couple of other bills of interest have been introduced and are moving quickly through the committee process in Congress. Legislation has been reintroduced in both the House and the Senate to resolve the burdensome record-keeping rules by removing cell phones and similar PDA devices from “listed property” under the IRS Code. You can keep up-to-date on these bills via a widget on the ACUTA website at

    In addition, a bill was recently introduced and has already passed the House of Representatives (H.R. 748—The CAMPUS Safety Act of 2009) that will create a National Center for Campus Safety within the U.S. Department of Justice. This legislation is supported by the campus law enforcement community, and would have an important role in research, promoting collaboration and information dissemination, developing threat assessment models, and coordinating the activities of various government agencies concerned with campus safety.

Changes at the FCC

While Congress is debating economic stimulus legislation, major changes are also taking place at the FCC. These changes are positive as well, and they are designed to create greater openness and transparency at this important agency.

    We are observing a real initiative toward bipartisanship, collegiality, and open communication among the interim chairman and the other two remaining FCC commissioners. Efforts have begun to promote better communication among the career professionals who bring tremendous value to the FCC and the commissioners’ staffs. Simple ideas such as announcing upcoming meeting dates a year in advance, making the FCC’s website more user friendly, and ensuring that commissioners have sufficient time to review proposed decisions in advance are receiving positive reviews.

    There has also been talk of bringing more technical expertise (engineers and other technology professionals) onto the professional staff over time and retuning the agency’s strategic plan to bring it into line with the current environment. Based on the FCC’s statements about the importance of advanced broadband services and their role in promoting advanced technologies, it will be interesting to see what direction the agency moves in once it escapes the quagmire of the digital TV transition. As an outside observer who has interacted with staff and commissioners under several FCC chairs, these seem like very positive developments that will benefit both consumers and the industry.

    By law, the FCC has a 3-2 split between the majority and minority parties. There are currently two vacancies (the chairman and one commissioner), and one of the remaining members is being considered for another job in the administration. This all means that the president will need to appoint a permanent chair and, presumably, one more Democrat and one Republican to the Commission.

Dept. of Education Negotiated Rulemaking

Another potentially positive development has occurred at the Department of Education, where very early efforts are under way to develop regulations to implement the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The three areas of most interest to ACUTA members are peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, emergency notification and response, and identity verification of distance-learning students.

    ACUTA had the opportunity to nominate rulemaking negotiators on these topics. We learned this month that one of our nominees, Matt Arthur from Washington University in St. Louis, was accepted as an alternate negotiator on P2P. This means that Matt will have a seat at the table at all three negotiation sessions on this important subject. We will keep you informed as negotiations proceed throughout the spring and final rules are put in place by a target date of November for implementation in summer 2010.

    This is a fast-paced and fascinating time for ICT issues at the federal level, and ACUTA is increasingly involved in these issues, both independently and in concert with other higher-education
associations. I am constantly reminded of our dual roles of advocacy in representing the interests of our members at the national level and keeping you informed of issues that will affect your campus. If there are issues you are particularly interested in, please don’t hesitate to contact me at


ACUTA Salutes Two Longtime Members and Former Presidents with Top Leadership Awards

Two former presidents and longtime members of ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, have been honored with special awards by the organization. They are Patricia Todus of Northwestern University and Carmine Piscopo of Providence College.

Todus was honored with the Bill D. Morris Award, named for a popular past president. ACUTA gives the Morris Award to the member who best exemplifies the dedication, vision, professionalism, and leadership that Morris brought to the organization.

Todus is deputy chief information officer and associate vice president at Northwestern, where she has led strategic IT planning and helped develop a degree program in telecommunications.  Todus has been a member of ACUTA since 1984, serving as president in 2005-2006 and currently serving as chair of both the Higher Education Advisory Panel and the prestigious ACUTA Forum for Strategic Leadership in Information Communications Technology.

Piscopo received the Ruth A. Michalecki Leadership Award, recognizing outstanding leadership by a member. He has been an ACUTA member since 1985, and was the organization’s 2006-2007 president. He has also spoken at numerous ACUTA conferences and seminars, held the office of secretary-treasurer, chaired the Program Committee, and served on the Higher Education Advisory Panel

An RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer), Piscopo is in charge of the communications network at Providence College.

“ACUTA is only as strong as its members’ willingness to share their leadership skills and their technology and management expertise,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “The winners of the 2009 Bill D. Morris and Ruth A. Michalecki awards have been great sources of strength to ACUTA. We are honored to recognize the contributions that Patricia Todus and Carmine Piscopo have made to our association.”

ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, is an international non-profit educational association serving colleges and universities. Its core purpose is to support higher education information communications technology professionals in contributing to the achievement of the strategic mission of their institutions. ACUTA represents nearly 2000 individuals at some 790 institutions of higher education, with members ranging from small schools and community colleges to the 50 largest U.S. institutions. ACUTA’s Corporate Affiliate members represent all categories of communications technology vendors serving the college/university market. For more information, visit 




New manual will become the foundation document for ESS credential applicants.

BICSI, the association supporting the information transport systems (ITS) industry with information, education and knowledge assessment, announces the release of the second edition of the Electronic Safety and Security Design Reference Manual (ESSDRM). The convergence of security systems such as access control and surveillance onto the network places much of the responsibility for future security designs into the hands of ITS professionals.

With significant changes from the first edition, the new manual provides key elements essential to anyone in ITS design, including:

§         Principles of security

§         ESS design process

§         Access control

§         Surveillance systems

§         Intrusion detection systems

§         Fire detection and alarm systems

§         Notification, communication and display devices

§         Special systems

§         Network security

§         Systems integration

§         Project management

§         Systems operation and commissioning

§         Codes, standards and regulations

§         Legal aspects of ESS design

“In today’s business environment, the ESS professional is of particular importance to assist with providing security, protection, and life safety based systems,” said Edward J. Donelan, RCDD, NTS, TLT, BICSI President. “This new second edition of the ESSDRM captures the current state of physical security aspects that BICSI readers are likely to encounter.”

As with all BICSI technical manuals, the ESSDRM is written to global best practices, vendor-neutral, carefully researched, and precisely written and edited by key industry professionals who are referred to as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

The ESSDRM is available in an easily referenced three-ring binder or on CD-ROM, and sells to BICSI members for US$279 and to nonmembers for US$499. A combination set of both the manual and CD-ROM can be purchased for US$433 (member price) or US$789 (non-member price).

The ESSDRM, 2nd edition, will soon become the foundation document for those who seek the knowledge to become a specialist in ESS design. Under BICSI's NxtGEN Program, the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD®) credential will not be required as a prerequisite for the new ESS credential. The exam will be based on the 2nd edition of the ESSDRM. The first opportunity to sit for the exam will be at the 2009 BICSI Fall Conference in Las Vegas.

For more information regarding the BICSI ESS program, visit


BICSI is a professional association supporting the information transport systems (ITS) industry. ITS covers the spectrum of voice, data, electronic safety & security, and audio & video technologies. It encompasses the design, integration and installation of pathways, spaces, fiber- and copper-based distribution systems, wireless-based systems and infrastructure that supports the transportation of information and associated signaling between and among communications and information gathering devices.

BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the ITS industry. We serve more than 23,000 ITS professionals, including designers, installers and technicians. These individuals provide the fundamental infrastructure for telecommunications, audio/video, life safety and automation systems. Through courses, conferences, publications and professional registration programs, BICSI staff and volunteers assist ITS professionals in delivering critical products and services, and offer opportunities for continual improvement and enhanced professional stature.



Consistent with goals in the BICSI Board Strategic Plan, the BICSI Board of Directors has decided to hold two major U.S. Conferences per year, instead of three. We are confident that this decision will ensure the highest quality conference experience for our members and visitors alike, as well enable new programs to better serve you, our customers. The localization strategy offers better networking opportunities for those of you looking to make business connections across several states. In addition, we will focus our efforts on creating and supporting local communities across the globe provided by volunteer-organized regional meetings and breakfast or pub clubs.

In light of this, we decided not to proceed with future BICSI U.S. Spring Conferences & Exhibitions, including the 2010 BICSI Spring Conference & Exhibition previously scheduled for April 11-14, 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, allowing greater emphasis on the BICSI Fall (September 20-24, 2009; Las Vegas, Nev.) and Winter  Conferences & Exhibitions (January 17-21, 2010; Orlando, Fla.).

As you are aware, in addition to the conferences in the United States, we hold many successful conferences with educational and networking opportunities all around the world. The most recent event was the 8th Annual Middle East Conference and Exhibition, held May 3-5 in Dubai.

We are also planning to provide increased support to BICSI’s international conferences. We have upcoming events in Europe and Japan in 2009, and many more slated for 2010. We recognize the need to expand our educational offerings globally and this is an important strategic decision, allowing us to continue developing unique, relevant and dynamic professional communities around the world.

The Cabling Skills Challenge, the annual cabling installation competition held traditionally during the BICSI Spring Conference & Exhibition, will continue and is slated to be reassigned to other BICSI events. 

Thank you for your continued support of BICSI’s global conferences and events.


Edward J. Donelan, RCDD, NTS, TLT
BICSI President


We just got our copy of the May/June Issue of BICSI NEWS = WOW!

There is no doubt that the selection and support of Betsy Ziobron as the Editor of the BICSI NEWS magazine was a great decision. The publication is filled with value for the reader and it has just the right “punch” for support of the organization. I think this publication has grown into a real asset for BICSI to bring in new members as well as maintain value for the existing membership.

We feel the magazine also gives a good platform for the manufacturers, distributors and suppliers to get their message out. These companies have traditionally been a good source of supporting funds for the conferences and educational programs.

In summary, WELL DONE for BICSI NEWS and the new editor.

But that’s just my opinion,

Frank D. Bisbee
President (and BICSI member for 34 years)
Communication Planning Corp.
4949 Sunbeam Road, Suite 16
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 645-9077 office
(904) 645-9058 fax
(904) 237-0365 cell


FOA Sees Growth In Fiber Optic Usage Even In Today’s Economy

While many aspects of the economy are troubled, applications for optical fiber worldwide are growing rapidly, as evidenced by the growth in fiber optic training and certification activity at The Fiber Optic Association, Inc., the professional society of fiber optics. In the past year, the FOA activity has seen an increase in activity of about 30%, including the addition of 58 new schools in the US and 13 other countries around the world offering FOA certifications.  The FOA sees this growth from three factors, the rising importance of fiber optics in communications, the quality of FOA-Approved training organizations and the increasing recognition that FOA-Certified technicians are the most qualified designers, installers and operators of fiber optic networks.

Why is fiber optics “recession proof” now? PC sales are down and LAN cabling is down, in part due to turmoil in the financial and manufacturing sectors. But some markets are still strong, especially those funded by governments. The benefits of security systems, especially CATV surveillance cameras, have been well proven, and these systems are being installed at an accelerated pace by municipal and federal government agencies, with most camera connections on optical fiber. Likewise, fiber optic networks connecting public safety and educational facilities are being installed at many locations.

While consumers may be cutting spending, they are not cutting back on cell phones, broadband connections and entertainment. One of the fastest growing broadband applications is cellular broadband for Internet access and entertainment. This is putting pressure on the backbone networks of cell phone companies, which, of course, is based on optical fiber. Cell phone networks are even looking at state-of-the-art fiber optic techniques like WDM PONs to enhance their bandwidth.

While telephone landlines are losing ground to cellular phones, customer demand for more broadband bandwidth is pushing fiber optics deeper into the networks of telcos that are still resisting fiber to the home (FTTH.) Part of the US stimulus package includes $8.2 billion for bringing more bandwidth to underserved areas, mostly inner city and rural areas, and that will use mostly fiber optics and some new wireless technologies which require fiber backbones.

The companies like Verizon who are committed to FTTH are being joined by entire countries committing to FTTH technology. Recent announcements by Australia and Greece, for example, include budgetary commitments to make FTTH happen. Even the US has announced that the FCC will develop a national broadband policy in the near future, which will also benefit fiber optics.

The Internet, which has always been on a fiber backbone, is also growing rapidly and fiber is even becoming more deeply ingrained in the networks. As servers strive to cut power consumption, fiber optics allows major power savings in links in data centers, since fiber optic transceivers use about 20% as much power as a UTP copper link for 10 gigabit transmission. 

What about fiber to the desktop, a major battlefield for fiber and copper in the past? While these two technologies were focused on each other, the wireless industry developed technology with adequate bandwidth for most users and those users became accustomed to “mobility.” Laptops which have wireless connectivity built-in, now outsell PCs. Most new cell phones are Internet-connected. Netbooks, smaller, less-powerful laptops connected on WiFi or cellular networks, are gaining market share. The corporate network that used to have a fiber backbone, Cat 5/6 to the desktop and the occasional wireless access point, now has a fiber backbone and extensive high bandwidth wireless coverage and a few UTP connections to desktop PCs.

What all this means is a growing need for cabling and network technicians to understand optical fiber. The FOA, which has been working to promote fiber through education, certification and standards since its founding in 1995, has become the worldwide focal point for fiber education. By setting standards for training, educating instructors and certifying students, the FOA ensures that sufficient numbers of qualified technicians are available to meet the market demand for more fiber.

By creating the FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference Guide, an online “textbook” available free to everyone, the FOA offers a central point of reference for those wanting to learn about fiber optics, refresh their knowledge or prepare for certifications. This Online Reference Guide has also simplified the process of certifying experienced fiber technicians who come directly to the FOA, as study guides help them prepare for the FOA exams.

FOA schools and members’ feedback has also led to new certifications that are growing in popularity. For example, the FOA CPCT (Certified Premises Cabling Technician) program is the first to recognize the changes in premises cabling networks which are no longer just UTP cabling, but include fiber, copper and wireless.

The FOA is proud of its contribution to the growth of fiber optics and will continue to do its part to promote the usage of fiber optics worldwide.

The Fiber Optic Association, Inc. is an nonprofit educational organization chartered to promote fiber optics through education, certification and standards. Over 200 FOA-Approved schools around the world have certified over 24,000 fiber optic technicians since 1995. The FOA offers free online introductory fiber optic tutorials for everyone and training for instructors at FOA-Approved schools.

For more information on the FOA, see the organization's website, email 



NAED Announces Upgrades to EPEC Silver Module

Premier Course in Electrical Distribution Updated with the Latest Codes, Products, and Technologies

ST. LOUIS… The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) announces the completion of upgrades to the Silver level of the Electrical Products Education Course (EPEC). Known throughout the electrical industry as a symbol of quality and a gauge of professional competency, EPEC integrates the full range of products a distributor sells with a unique systems approach. The course not only provides information about individual products and their applications, but shows how each is interrelated with other products in electrical systems. Although EPEC is a self-study course, it provides the added benefit of ongoing personal feedback from industry experts as students proceed through the modules.

Upgrades to the Bronze level were completed in January, and Gold level updates will follow in summer. Improvements to the program include:

·                     New products and technologies including LEDs, CFLs, and personal protective gear

·                     Content updated to NEC 2008 and addition of CE Code references

·                     Increased emphasis on add-on sales in each chapter

·                     Streamlined modules for faster completion

·                     Capstone project added for each level

Additionally, there are new resources available including updated EPEC Web pages.

A bridge module is available for current students interested in transitioning to the new EPEC program. Members with previous unused EPEC Silver modules may trade up and save 50% on new modules. Contact customer service at 888-791-2512 or for full details. Silver trade-up offer expires June 30, 2009.

NAED invites members to find out more about the upgrades during a complimentary webinar on Wednesday, April 15, at 11 a.m. EST. Download the Webinar connection guide here. For more information on the webinar, contact John Kiso at 888-791-2512 or

NAED is the trade association for the $70+ billion electrical distribution industry. Through networking, education, research, and benchmarking, NAED helps electrical distributors increase profitability and improve the channel. NAED’s membership operates in approximately 4,400 locations internationally.


Deadline for June 13 Certified Electrical Professional™ (CEP) Registration is May 15

Don’t delay in submitting your Certified Electrical Professional™ application. The deadline for registration is May 15. Applications are available at

Be among the first in the industry to become a Certified Electrical Professional or to have CEPs on your staff. Certifications offered in the first exam are for Inside Sales and Outside Sales positions. Hundreds of test locations are available to choose from.

For suggested courses, FAQs, candidate guides, sample exam questions, self assessments, and other helpful materials, visit the CEP home page Or contact John Kiso, educational program manager for the NAED Education and Research Foundation at or toll-free at 888-791-2512. 


May 21 Profit Talk 101 Provides Information on Captive Insurance Programs at New Price: $29

Skyrocketing insurance premiums, an uncertain regulatory climate, a deteriorating economy and ever-growing employee expectations have made controlling insurance costs imperative.

On May 21 at 2 p.m. EST, Joe Sullivan and John Heiman of JSA will interview Bob Polito, retired chairman of Buckles-Smith in San Jose, Calif., during a live teleconference. Specifically, they will cover these topics and more: Comparing "self insurance" vs. traditional broker property, casualty, and liability insurance; benefits and pitfalls for owners; what constitutes a "liability tail"; and what is a captive insurer and where are they found?

Profit Talks now feature new pricing for just $29 per location. Bring as many people as you want to listen in on the call. After the teleconference, participants can download an audio file of the Profit Talk 101 for free from the NAED Learning Center. Audio files of Profit Talks may be downloaded by NAED members who did not attend for $29.

NAED's Profit Talk 101 teleseminar series features the top distributors in the country in a call-in talk show format. Participants not only hear the presentation but can also ask their own questions. Guests share their own successful approaches to the topics.

Profit Talk 101 is sponsored by Vista Information Services, a division of Activant Solutions. Go to for more information.


May is National Electrical Safety Month

Counterfeit electrical products are infecting many important product categories in the electrical market. More than one million counterfeit electrical products have been recalled in recent years, including circuit breakers that did not trip when overloaded and extension cords with mislabeled, undersized wiring that overheated. Following are a few tips to help avoid counterfeit hazards:

·                     Scrutinize the product, the packaging and the labeling. Look for a certification mark from an independent testing organization and the manufacturer's label.

·                     Trust your instincts. If the price is "too good to be true," it could be because the product is an inferior and unsafe counterfeit.

·                     Be extra vigilant when buying from an unfamiliar source or an online retailer. Check with the testing labs to ensure they are legitimate. Contact the brand owner manufacturer if you have any doubts that the product is genuine.

·                     Finally, report safety-related incidents to the manufacturer or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In honor of National Electrical Safety Month, NAED has produced a video featuring Anti-Counterfeiting expert and subject of the Steven Spielberg movie “Catch Me if You Can,” Frank Abagnale. The video reminds distributors, manufacturers, contractors, and electricians about the dangers of counterfeit products. Go to> to watch the video.

For additional electrical safety information about counterfeit products, please visit


Recent Press Releases

Green Energy Challenge Student Competition Kicks Off


Sponsored by NECA and ELECTRI International, the new Green Energy Challenge invites teams of students studying electrical construction, engineering, design and management to conduct an energy audit of a local school. Based on their findings, students will then develop customized proposals for energy retrofits that would improve the schools' energy efficiency. Teams will also design a new solar PV and/or wind energy system for the facility.


Cross Border Service Project Brings Solar Power to School in Honduras


Twelve students from the Pennsylvania State University Student Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) joined electrical contractors from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Honduras in Roatán, Honduras, March 5-14, for NECA’s Cross Border meeting. While in Honduras, the students completed the design and installation of a solar electrical system that will provide power for a local school.


NECA Takes a Stand at OSHA Public Hearing for Cranes and Derricks


Electrical contractors specializing in high-voltage line work recently spoke out on OSHA’s proposed rule for cranes and derricks. Representatives from NECA's District 10 testified at the four-day public hearing on how the proposed OSHA rule can keep job sites and workers safe without compromising efficiency and productivity.



NECA CONVENTION & EXPO (Sept ’09) keeps getting better

North America’s Most Important Annual Convention & Trade Show for the Electrical Contracting Industry

NECA Pre-Convention Workshop Line-up Offers Several Renewable Energy Training Options

The National Electrical Contractors Association will gather in Seattle for their annual convention and trade shown this September. The entire industry is invited to take advantage of the expert in-depth training that will be offered. These in-depth training programs are designed to ensure that electrical contractors maintain their technological superiority in the industry. This year, we also have added business development and management courses that will help you lead a more resilient company through this tough economy. “Our highly skilled instructors are the best in the industry”, said Dan Walter, NECA COO.

NECA Pre-Convention Workshops
Friday, September 11, 2009

8:00 am – noon
Significant Changes to NFPA 70E 2009                                                                       
There is little doubt that NFPA 70E continues to grow in acceptance and popularity in the electrical industry as has quickly become the de facto electrical safety standard. This course is targeted towards electrical contractors, safety professionals, electricians and their supervisors, and will explore the most significant changes in the 2009 edition of NFPA 70E and how these significant changes impact the electrical contracting industry.
Presented by: Palmer Hickman – NJATC Director of Code and Safety Training and Curriculum Development

8:00am – noon
Sneak Peak at the 2011 Proposed NEC Code Changes                                               
This presentation provides attendees with an understanding of significant changes in the 2008 NEC that impact their business. In addition to this review of changes in the 2008 NEC, Mike will provide a glimpse of changes proposed for the 2011 NEC. Over 5000 changes were proposed to the NEC. Stay on the leading edge of changes affecting your industry by attending this popular program. Learn how the NEC is incorporating new rules to stay current with emerging technologies.
Presented by: Michael J. Johnston, NECA Executive Director, Standards and Safety

8:00am – 5:00pm

Energy Auditing, The Portal to Green Energy Projects

This Workshop will position NECA contractors to take advantage of the rapidly expanding green energy business sector. By the end of the day, contractors and staff will be prepared to conduct a Facility Energy Screening Audit – the first step of a multiphase Comprehensive Facility Energy Audit. Attendees will learn to identify electrical, mechanical and building envelope energy efficiency project opportunities in commercial, industrial and institutional facilities.

History proves that the firm that does the energy audit is usually the one that sells the green energy project and controls the work. In some cases, contractors may joint venture with other trades. In any case, Energy Audit expertise is a highly valuable addition to a NECA member’s green energy business and profit development toolkit. Session includes a 100 page handbook.
Instructor: David Wylie, PE, ASW Engineering

8:00am – 5:00pm
Lean Construction in Electrical Contracting                                                               
The purpose of this one-day workshop is to teach electrical contracting project managers and superintendents how to improve productivity through a focus on lean construction principles. Lean construction is a shift in a thought process towards collaborative project efficiency and quality to promote delivering a project to clients by maximizing value, and minimizing waste while pursuing perfection.

The goals in providing this product are improving productivity through:

·                     Constant simplification of processes

·                     Encouraging input and collaboration from all project team members

·                     Decreasing waste

·                     Increasing efficiency

·                     Creating predictable work flow:

o                                            Complete small batches of work allowing the project to flow smoothly and allow craftsmen to maintain consistent production with no idle time

o                                            Throughput is more important than point speed and productivity

o                                            Strategy - reduce workflow variability then go for speed to increase throughput

o                                            Reduce material and tool inventory

The workshop focuses on tools to achieve these goals and help the attendees start developing their thought process shift toward the concepts required to improve productivity through applying lean construction principles.

Instructor:  Mark O. Federle, PE, PhD, CPC, McShane Chair in Construction Engineering and Management, Marquette University

1:00pm – 5:00pm See What No one Else can See & Do What No one Else Does / Thermal Imaging     
Businesses across the United States and Canada are experiencing tough times just like NECA contractors are. However, times like these can be very prosperous when a contractor thinks outside of the box. Thermography and power quality analysis can open the door to opportunity for NECA contractors. This presentation will show how contractors can take advantage of opportunities in the electrical contracting market by using power quality analysis and thermography to troubleshoot electrical problems, conduct predictive/preventive maintenance services, and offer energy reduction programs.  
Presented by:
Larry Wilson, Senior Marketing Services Manager, Fluke Corporation

1:00pm – 5:00pm
"How LED Technology Can Change Your Business”                                       
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs will save Americans $280 billion in energy costs over the next 20 years. But what is an LED system? What are its benefits and limitations? And how can they be incorporated into your jobs today? Join Philips Color Kinetics, a pioneer of intelligent LED illumination technologies, to learn more about this pervasive technology and how it will change the electrical contractor community’s perception of lighting.

At this workshop, participants will learn:

- What is an LED lighting system and how to incorporate within their projects

- General misconceptions about LED lighting

- Energy savings benefits and how it relates to EnergyStar, rebate programs and others

- The questions to ask when purchasing an LED system

Attendees will also participate in a hands-on demonstration where they will have the opportunity to install LED fixtures, incorporate control solutions and calculate the total cost of ownership of LED lighting as compared to traditional lighting sources.

Presenter: Tom Hamilton, Product Marketing Manager, Philips Color Kinetics

1:00pm – 3:00pm
Grounding & Bonding Update                                                                                     
This technical session provides students with a high level review of the concepts of electrical grounding and bonding. It reviews the performance criteria for each concept and how they work together in electrical systems to ensure safety. Developing a thorough understanding on what is supposed to be accomplished by effective grounding of equipment and systems, bonding conductive enclosures and parts together for continuity and conductivity, and how overcurrent devices operate are presented.  This course also reviews significant changes that were implemented in the 2008 NEC regarding defined terms related to grounding and bonding. Definitions have been simplified and revised for improved clarity and usability. Rules in which the terms are used throughout the NEC have been verified for accuracy with the definitions.
Presented by: Michael J. Johnston, NECA Executive Director, Standards and Safety

Saturday, September 12, 2009

8:00 am – noon
Entering the Green Intelligent Building Market                                                          
Have you asked yourself any of these questions?

·                     Can an Electrical Contractor be successful in this market?

·                     How do I start?

·                     What are the costs associated with becoming involved?

·                     How quickly can I expect to be “in the black”?

·                     What are the potential profit margins?

·                     What is the end goal?

·                     How do I convince my existing customers?

…if so, attend this session to hear the answers!

If you have ever considered becoming involved in the Building Controls market attending this session is a must. This four hour session will feature two NECA contractors from two very different markets and regions of the United States sharing their experiences entering into a very lucrative market. The discussion will include some of the success stories, but more importantly the stumbling blocks that they encountered while moving into a market that is not as different from traditional electrical work as you might think. Some of the topics discussed will include training, marketing, personnel, cost and return on investment, and a 5 year plan with realistic goals.

Each participant of this session, which will be moderated by the NJATC, will receive a copy of the NJATC's new textbooks "Building Automation: Control Devices and Applications" and "Building Automation: System Integration with Open Protocols".

Be prepared for a highly interactive discussion about how to get involved and succeed in this exciting sector of the electrical industry.

Presenters:  Bob Reil, Vice President Dynalectric – San Diego   Dan Smith, President Electric Company of Omaha

Marty Riesberg, Director of Electrical Curriculum Development, NJATC

8:00am – noon
NFPA 70E: The Electrical PPE Compliance Solution                                                  
This course is targeted towards electrical contractors, safety professionals, electricians and their supervisors, and will explore how NFPA 70E can be a compliance solution in an effort to protect workers exposed to electrical hazards. Few will argue that OSHA guidelines must be followed. However, it is not always clear how to comply with what OSHA requires. Many of OSHA's electrical PPE requirements are written in performance requirements, requiring worker protection without necessarily indicating how to comply. Topics include coverage of a number of OSHA's requirements related to energized electrical work and how to provide the OSHA-required protection utilizing items such as insulated tools, FR clothing, and rubber & insulating gloves and blankets in accordance with NFPA 70E. Participants will learn why while OSHA is the "shall," many look to 70E as the "how."
Presenter: Palmer Hickman, NJATC, Director of Code and Safety Training and Curriculum Development

8:00am – noon
Fundamentals of LEED®
This ½ day seminar is designed to provide you with an intermediate level of LEED® knowledge in understanding the LEED® history background, understanding of the various LEED® tracks, the certification process and an overview of the LEED® exam process. This class is designed to facilitate and understanding of what LEED is about, and why Building Green is important in the Electrical Industry, how it will benefit you, your employer, and the environment. At the end of the class you will be prepared, confident, and ready to discuss what is LEED® as well as outline a path in becoming a LEED® Accredited Professional.


What is LEED®

What is LEED® Certification and Accreditation

How do I prepare and become LEED® Accredited

An overview of the LEED® track rating systems
What LEED 2009 is
Presented by: Erica Paul, LEED AP, Rosendin Electric

1:00pm – 5:00pm
Keys to Business Success in the Solar PV Industry                                                     
This four hour seminar is a must for Presidents, CEO’s and top management staff!  It addresses what is required to build, drive and grow a successful PV business. This workshop is designed to deconstruct the PV business issues which many contractors find unclear or unfamiliar - including sales and marketing, financing, incentives, and liability.
Presenter: Bernie Kotlier, Director, Green Energy Solutions, NECA-IBEW / LMCC California

1:00pm – 5:00pm
Significant Changes to NFPA 72 – 2010, Profiting from Change                                 
The alarm and signaling industry is constantly changing. The committees that develop NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code are planning many major changes for the 2010 Code.  Some of the significant changes include new requirements for Mass Notification Systems (MNS), survivability of fire alarm circuits, and fire alarm testing requirements. This session will explore the major changes to NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, the reasons for these changes, and how your company can profit from change.
Presenter: Merton Bunker, JR., US Department of State, Fire Protection; Voting Member, NFPA 72 - Technical Correlating Committee on Signaling Systems for the Protection of Life and Property

”The training sessions on solar installation and new products are the best in the industry, If you miss those, your company is going to miss new business opportunities.”
Tim Ehmann, O’Connell Electric

CEU Credits: Yours For The Asking

Our customers are looking for the best. As it turns out, they only really care about hiring highly qualified companies and people who are CERTIFIED.  This is especially true in GREEN construction. It’s a new field. No one can be sure which contractors know something about the subject and which are involved in “greenwashing.”  That’s why the fact that NECA’s workshops and seminars will qualify YOU for CEUs is important. They are certified by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).  And, of course, you can use these credits in your state, if there are requirements for CEUs as part of license renewals. 

A certificate of your contact hours or will be available for pick-up on-site, which is your proof of attendance.  You may want to contact your own state licensing board to find out the requirements.



Economic Stimulus - technology & IT infrastructure information

Hats Off to NEMA for this comprehensive information on STIMULUS DOLLARS AT WORK

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Economic Stimulus

NEMA > Policy Issues > Economic Stimulus 

Congress passed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on February 13 and President Obama signed it into law on February 17, 2009. The ARRA contains significant tax, investment, and spending provisions impacting energy efficiency, Smart Grid, health information technology, and infrastructure projects, all of which were endorsed by NEMA.

Find materials related to the law, including NEMA’s summary of provisions relevant to the electroindustry, below.

·                     Recovery Act Economic Stimulus Funds – Key Contacts and Resources - (Moved to Members Only)

·                     NEMA Summary of H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF) (MS Word)

·                     Full Legislative Text of H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF)

·                     Full Conference Report of H.R. 1, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PDF)

·                     Congressional Research Service Summary of Energy Provisions in the ARRA (PDF)

·                     White House February 18 Guidance Memo on ARRA 2009 Implementation (PDF)

·                     White House April 3 Guidance Memo on ARRA Implementation (PDF)

·                     Senate Democratic Policy Committee Estimates on State-Level Effects of Stimulus

Buy American Provisions

·                     Interim Buy American Regulations for Public Works Projects Funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act  (issued 3/31)

·                     Summary and Analysis of Buy American Rules for ARRA Funded Projects

·                     Background on ARRA Buy American Requirements

·                     Buy American: Excerpts from Legislative Text and Conference Report (PDF)

Federal Government Recovery Act Sites

·                     The Federal Government's portal website for the Recovery Act is

·            Recovery Project Search


Government Buildings

·                     U.S. General Services Administration

·                     GSA Federal Buildings Recovery Act Spending Plan

·                     U.S. Department of Defense

·                     U.S. DOD Announces Recovery Act Construction and Repair Projects (issued 3/20)

·                     U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Energy Efficiency & Smart Grid

·                     U.S. Department of Energy

·                     U.S. DOE Funding Announcement for State Energy Program Grants (issued 3/12)

·                     U.S. DOE Funding Announcement for Weatherization Formula Grants (issued 3/12)

·                     DOE Office of Industrial Technologies Program

·                     DOE to Award $3.2 Billion in Energy Efficiency Block Grants (60 KB)

Other Key Agencies

·                     U.S. Department of Homeland Security (added 3/25)

·                     U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

·                     U.S. Department of Transportation

·                     U.S. Federal Highway Administration

·                     U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Health Information Technology

·                     Health Information Technology: ARRA Rulemaking Timeline (PDF)

Energy Service Companies (ESCOs)

·                     Fact Sheet and Contact Information for ESCOs (PDF)

State and Local Government Recovery Act Sites

·                     Council of State Governments

·                     National Conference of State Legislatures

·                     National Association of Counties

·                     U.S. Conference of Mayors

·                     State-By-State Jobs Estimates by White House

·            Site with Links to State Government Recovery Pages


·                     California Recovery Act Site

·                     California Energy Commission

·                     CEC March 13 Presentation on Stimulus Funds

·                     California League of Cities Project Book

Other Key States

·                     Florida

·                     Illinois

·                     Missouri

·                     New York

·                     North Carolina

·                     Ohio

·                     Pennsylvania

NEMA is the trade association of choice for the electrical manufacturing industry. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its approximately 450 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity.

These products are used in utility, medical imaging, industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential applications. Domestic production of electrical products sold worldwide exceeds $120 billion.



The SCTE Foundation is pleased to announce today the grants it approved for members and one meeting group of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) during the first quarter of 2009.

Helping to fulfill the educational goals of SCTE members, the SCTE Foundation approved 15 grants during the quarter.

These SCTE Foundation grants were earmarked for such educational opportunities as the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) CCNA1 through CCNA4 online technical courses and attendance at SCTE Chapter Leadership Conference (CLC) 2009, which began Wednesday and concludes today in Salt Lake City.


Approved for grants during the first quarter of this year were:

• Ron Brunt, Deployment Technologies

• Paul Clar, Comcast

• Joe Cutrona, SCTE New England Chapter

• Bill DesRochers, Bee Line Cable TV

• John Fountain, Cox

• Timothy Funk, Comcast

• James Gerhard, Time Warner Cable

• Jody Hall, Mediacom

• Suzanne Holzer, SCTE Cactus Chapter

• David Keezer, University of Maine

• Douglas Phillips, Suddenlink

• Isadore Santangelo, Comcast

• Steve Timcoe, Wyandotte Municipal Services

• Amelia Urban, Jones/NCTI®

• SCTE Zia Meeting Group

The SCTE Foundation was established by the SCTE Board of Directors in 2005 and began issuing grants in 2006. The Foundation has helped numerous SCTE members by distributing grants totaling almost $110,000.

All of the financial assistance that the SCTE Foundation provides to SCTE members is made possible through donations from generous individuals and organizations within the cable telecommunications industry.

The grant and scholarship online application, the online donation form, and complete information about the SCTE Foundation are available at

The SCTE Foundation was established by the SCTE Board of Directors in 2005. The Foundation’s three-part mission is to assist in innovation and education within the industry, to further research and information, and to maintain a history and awareness of the cable and telecommunications industry, all for the benefit of future generations. The SCTE Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Visit the SCTE Foundation website at


The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) is a non-profit professional association that provides technical leadership for the telecommunications industry and serves its members through professional development, standards, certification and information. SCTE currently has more than 14,000 members from the U.S. and 70 countries worldwide and offers a variety of programs and services for the industry's educational benefit. SCTE has 68 chapters and meeting groups and more than 3,000 employees of the cable telecommunications industry hold SCTE technical certifications. SCTE is an ANSI-accredited standards development organization. Visit SCTE online at


Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) Issues Standard for Remote APDU Structure for CCAT Applications

TIA-1107 Describes the Application Protocol Data Unit Structure for Smart Cards for Wireless Handheld Devices

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the leader in advocacy, standards development, business development and intelligence for the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, recently released TIA-1107 Remote APDU Structure for CCAT Applications.

TIA-1107 defines the remote management of files and applets on the Removable User Identity Module (R-UIM)/cdma2000 -Subscriber Identify Module (CSIM)/IP Multimedia Services Identity Module (ISIM). TIA-1107 describes the Application Protocol Data Unit (APDU) structure for remote management of Smart Cards for wireless handheld devices. The new standard contains the requirements for implementing remote management for CDMA Card Application Toolkit (CCAT). It extends the Remote APDU structure for UICC-based applications to enable operation in cdma2000 environment.

TIA-1107 specifies:

A set of commands coded according to this APDU structure and used in the remote file management on the R-UIM/CSIM/ISIM.

A set of commands coded according to this APDU structure and used in the remote applet management on the R-UIM/CSIM.

The remote APDU structure for R-UIM/CSIM/ISIM applications must comply with the one defined in ETSI TS 102 226 Release 6, "Smart Cards; Remote APDU structure for UICC based applications." TIA-1107 only contains additional requirements or explicit limitations for R-UIM/CSIM/ISIM applications.

Other specifications are required to complete the air interface and the rest of the system. Some of these specifications are listed in the TIA-1107 references section.

TIA-1107 was formulated under the cognizance of TIA Engineering Committee TR-45 Mobile & Personal Communications Systems, TR-45.5 Subcommittee on Spread Spectrum Digital Technology. To learn more about how to participate in standards development with TIA, please contact Stephanie Montgomery at

To obtain copies of the document, contact IHS International at +1.800.854.7179 (United States and Canada); +1.303.397.7796 (international) or visit

For technical information, please contact Peter Bogard at For media inquiries, please contact Mike Snyder:

Sign up for TIA RSS news feeds on standards and other TIA news.

TR-45 member companies include: Aeroflex; Agilent Technologies, Inc.; AirCell, LLC; Airvana, Inc.; Alcatel-Lucent; ALLTEL Communications, Inc.; Apple; AT&T; Bell Canada; Bridgewater Systems Inc.; Camiant; CDMA Development Group; Cingular Wireless; Cisco Systems, Inc.; CML Microcircuits (USA) Inc.; CommFlow Resources Inc.; CSI Telecommunications; Defense Information Systems Agency; DoCoMo Communications Lab USA, Inc.; Dolby Laboratories Inc.; Ericsson Inc.; ETI Connect; FBI; FTR&D LLC; Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc.; Gemalto INC; Hitachi Telecom (USA) Inc.; Huawei Technologies USA; Hughes Network Systems, LLC; I'M Technologies Ltd.; Intel Corporation; Intellon; Intrado; IP Fabrics; Kyocera Sanyo Telecom, Inc.; LG InfoComm U.S.A., Inc.; Lockheed Martin Corporation; Marketing Information Technologies, Inc. (MIT); Maz-Sky Canadian International Group, Inc.; Motorola, Inc.; Movius Interactive Corporation; National Communications System; NeuStar I! nc.; Nokia Siemens Networks; Nokia, Inc.; Nortel Networks; ORCA SYSTEMS, INC.; Panasonic Computer Solutions Company; Prysmian Cables and Systems; QUALCOMM; Research In Motion Corporation; Rogers Wireless; Rohde & Schwarz, Inc.; RTKL Associates Inc.; Samsung Electronics; Samsung Telecom America; Sharp Laboratories of America; Sierra Wireless America, Inc.; Sigma Delta Communications, Inc.; Space Data Corporation; Spirent Communications; Sprint Nextel; SS8 Networks, Inc.; Starent Networks Corporation; Tatara Systems; Telcordia Technologies; TeleCommunication Systems, Inc.; Telus Mobility; Texas Instruments, Inc.; US Cellular; UTStarcom, Inc.; Verizon Wireless; VIA Telecom; ZTE USA, Inc.

About TIA

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) represents the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry through standards development, advocacy, tradeshows, business opportunities, market intelligence and world-wide environmental regulatory analysis. With roots dating back to 1924, TIA enhances the business environment for broadband, mobile wireless, information technology, networks, cable, satellite and unified communications. Members' products and services empower communications in every industry and market, including healthcare, education, security, public safety, transportation, government, the military, the environment and entertainment. TIA co-owns theSUPERCOMM tradeshow  and is accredited by the American National S! tandards Institute (ANSI).  .

TIA's Board of Directors includes senior-level executives from ACS, ADC, ADTRAN, Alcatel-Lucent, ANDA Networks, ArrayComm, AttivaCorp, Avaya, Bechtel Communications, Inc., Cisco Systems, Corning Incorporated, Ericsson, Inc., GENBAND, Inc., Graybar, Henkels & McCoy, ILS Technology, Intel Corporation, Intersect, Inc., LGE, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, Panasonic Computer Solutions Co., Qualcomm, Research In Motion, Sumitomo Electric Lightwave Corporation, Tellabs, Tyco Electronics, Ulticom, Inc., and Verari Systems. Advisors to the Board include FAL Associates, Orca Systems and Telcordia Technologies.


LEED 2009 to Include LEED Credits for Regional Environmental Priorities

Credits to address regional environmental priorities for buildings in different geographic locations

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released the LEED regional credits as part of LEED 2009, the new version of the LEED Green Building Rating System.  These LEED credits encourage that specific regional environmental priorities be addressed when it comes to the design, construction and operations of buildings in different geographic locations. 

“Because environmental priorities differ among various regions of the country—the challenges in the Southeast differ from those in the Northwest, for example—regionally specific credits give LEED a way to directly respond to diverse, regionally grounded issues,” said Brendan Owens, Vice President of Technical Development, USGBC. “The inclusion of these regional LEED credits is the Council’s first step toward addressing regional environmental issues.”

With the help of USGBC’s regional councils, chapters and affiliates, credits addressing six specific environmental issues within a region were identified from among the existing LEED credits.   In LEED 2009, LEED projects will be able to earn “bonus points” for implementing green building strategies that address the important environmental issues facing their region. A project can be awarded as many as four extra points, one point each for achieving up to four of the six priority credits.

LEED 2009 is one of the three major components that make up LEED Version 3, the next version of the LEED green building certification program, launching April 27, 2009. The changes to the LEED rating system reflect the rapid advancements in building science and technology and provides incentives for strategies that have greater positive impacts on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions reductions, among other priorities.

The other components of LEED v3 include a faster, smarter and easier to use LEED Online, the tool for managing the LEED registration and certification process; and a new building certification model administered by the Green Building Certification Institute through a network of internationally recognized independent ISO-accredited certification bodies.  To learn more about LEED v3 and to download a region-by-region list of priority credits, visit   



The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation through cost-efficient and energy saving green buildings. With a membership comprising 78 local affiliates, more than 20,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 100,000 LEED Accredited Professionals, the U.S. Green Building Council is the driving force of an industry that is projected to soar to $60 billion by 2010.  The U.S. Green Building Council leads an unlikely constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.

Buildings in the United States are responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption and 15% of GDP, making green building a source of significant economic and environmental opportunity. Greater building efficiency can meet 85% of future U.S. demand for energy, and a national commitment to green building has the potential to generate 2.5 million American jobs.

About LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is the preeminent standard for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. 35,000 projects are currently participating in the LEED system, comprising over 4.5 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 91 countries.

By using less energy, LEED Certified buildings save money for families, business and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.


Field Testing Installed Optical Fiber Cabling

A closer look at standards, practices and troubleshooting.

By Jay Paul Myers

New high-performance local area networks (LANs) like Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet allow for significantly less loss in optical fiber cabling than older networks, making testing of installed optical fiber cabling more important than ever. Only proper testing can certify that the installed cabling will perform to industry standards and ensure that the system owner is getting the performance specified.

Table 1: Shrinking Loss Budgets



Data Rate




Cable Plant

Loss Budget

Early 1980s


10 Mb/s


IEEE 802.3

12.5 dB

Early 1990s

Fast Ethernet

100 Mb/s


IEEE 802.3

11.0 dB

Late 1990s

Short Wavelength

Fast Ethernet

100 Mb/s



4.0 dB


1 Gigabit Ethernet

1,000 Mb/s


IEEE 802.3z

3.2 dB


10 Gigabit Ethernet

10,000 Mb/s


IEEE 802.3ae

2.6 dB

Today’s high-performance applications also use vertical cavity surface emitting laser (VCSEL) drivers that light up a smaller area of an optical fiber’s core compared with earlier light emitting diode (LED) drivers, making the quality of the connector finish more important. This means proper cable handling, termination and cleanliness practices have also become more critical.

These shifts in the industry require a closer look at standards, practices and troubleshooting surrounding field testing of optical fiber.

Part 1: TIA Standards Performance Requirements

The Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA)-568-C, Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, specifies field testing optical fiber for the end-to-end attenuation of the following three types of optical fiber links:

·         Horizontal—Up to 90 meters (m [295 feet (ft)]) from a telecommunications room (TR) to a work area, which may include an optional consolidation point (CP).

·         Backbone—Up to 2000 m (6560 ft) for multimode and 3000 m (9840 ft) for singlemode between two TRs or between an equipment room (ER) and a TR.

·         Centralized—A special exemption from the 90 m (295 ft)  horizontal link limit, a backbone link and a horizontal link may be interconnected or spliced to extend the distance between electronics in the ER and the work area to 300 m (984 ft) and may include an optional CP.

Many other performance parameters are important, such as bandwidth, but these are tested at the factory since they are difficult to measure in the field and generally are not affected by installation practices. The 568-C standard provides the recommended acceptance loss values and wavelengths shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Recommended Acceptance Loss Values and Wavelengths

Link type

Wavelengths MM

Wavelengths SM

Allowed loss

Allowed loss with CP


850 nm or 1300 nm


2 dB

2.75 dB


850 nm and 1300 nm

1310 nm and 1550 nm




850 nm or 1300 nm


3.3 dB

4.1 dB

*Allowed loss for backbone links must be calculated using the following formula:

Link attenuation = Cable attenuation + Connector insertion loss + Splice insertion loss

            0.75 dB maximum loss for each mated pair of connectors

            0.3 dB maximum loss for each splice

            3.5 dB/km loss for multimode optical fiber at 850 nm

            1.5 dB/km loss for multimode optical fiber at 1300 nm

            1.0 dB/km loss for singlemode optical fiber in indoor cable (both wavelengths)

            0.5 dB/km loss for singlemode optical fiber in outdoor cable (both wavelengths)

TIA-568-C specifies testing each optical fiber link only in a single direction, and many feel these requirements are lax. For example, the 2 dB allowance for a horizontal link is based on 0.75 dB for the mated pair of connectors at each end, plus 0.5 dB for cable loss. However, a typical mated pair of SC-style optical fiber connectors normally shows only 0.3 dB to 0.4 dB loss, and a mated pair of LC connectors might show only 0.1 dB to 0.2 dB loss. A skilled technician may achieve even better performance. For cable loss, a 90 m (295 ft) length of multimode optical fiber tested at the 1300 nm wavelength should contribute less than 0.14 dB. In this example, two mated pairs of 0.4 dB each, plus the cable loss, should be less than 1 dB, even though the standard allows for 2 dB.

In 2004, TIA issued additional recommendations for testing via technical service bulletin (TSB)-140, which specifies the following test parameters:

Tier 1:

·         Attenuation to the same acceptance values as TIA-568-B

·         Link length determined by test equipment or from cable jacket markings

·         Polarity to make sure that a transmitter on one end of the optical fiber will connect to a receiver at the other end

Tier 2:

·         Optional testing that includes Tier 1 parameters, plus optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) testing

An OTDR injects pulses of light into an optical fiber and measures the backscatter and reflection caused by imperfections in the optical fiber or interruptions by components such as connectors and splices. By noting the timing of reflections, the OTDR can calculate the distance to these imperfections.

Many in the industry feel that an OTDR is not a cost-effective certification tool—if loss measurements are properly made and show acceptable results for an optical fiber link with no splices, the trace from an OTDR adds little useful information but does add significant expense. However, an OTDR can be valuable as a diagnostic tool for locating the cause of high loss. If an outside plant cable running between buildings contains three splices and shows high loss, and cleaning the connectors or reterminating them does not correct the problem, an OTDR can show which of the splices or which length of cable is the likely cause of the problem.

Part 2: Testing Practices

Optical fiber testing practices are specified in TIA-526-14A, Optical Power Loss Measurement of Installed Multimode Fiber Cable Plant, and in TIA-526-7, Measurement of Optical Power Loss of Installed Single-Mode Fiber Cable Plant.

Loss is most accurately measured by injecting a known amount of light into one end of an optical fiber and measuring how much less comes out the other end. This can be done with a light source and an optical meter, often referred to as an optical loss test set (OLTS). A standard test setup using an OLTS is shown in Figure 1.

Testing also can be done with a certification tester that performs the same functions in a more automated way by calculating the allowable link loss for the technician and storing information to produce test reports. Many of these certification testers are twisted-pair copper cable testers with optional optical fiber modules installed. While generally more expensive, a certification tester offers the following benefits:

·         Technicians can be more productive—they can perform more tests in the same amount of time.

·         A certification tester produces test reports showing conditions of each test, such as the wavelength used, which is perceived as more professional by many in the industry.

·         Though not required by TIA-568-C, Optical Fiber Cabling Components Standard, a certification tester makes bidirectional testing easier, a practice recommended by many in the industry and required by some cabling manufacturers to receive a project warranty.

While the basic concept of testing for loss is simple, many misconceptions about the details of testing are prevalent in the industry. Misinformation persists even in much of the training provided, both in formal classroom and informal on-the-job training.

Calibrating the Test Equipment

Before testing, the test equipment must be calibrated to determine the amount of light that the source is injecting into the launch cord.

Time for a pop quiz! Which of the following in Figure 2 is the correct calibration method for a premises cabling optical fiber project, Method A or Method B?

If you picked Method A in Figure 2, you are not alone—probably more than 95 percent of technicians pick Method A. However, the correct answer for a premises cabling installation is Method B. TIA-526-14A Method B for multimode and TIA-526-7 Method A.1 for singlemode both specify the use of a single jumper for calibration.

There are two plausible reasons for the misconception. First, many are trained incorrectly to calibrate with both jumpers. Second, it seems logical that everything in the test setup should be present at calibration except the link being tested. By referencing out everything except the link, it appears to provide an accurate measurement of the link itself.

However, the purpose of calibration is not to measure the loss caused by the two jumpers. Assuming we know the jumpers and the connectors are in good condition (we will examine this further), the loss that the jumpers contribute is insignificant. What we are really measuring during calibration is how much light is being injected into the optical fiber by the light source. This amount varies from jumper to jumper, even if all the jumpers have good connectors. It will even vary if the same connector is plugged into the source multiple times. This is why the setup needs to be recalibrated if the launch cord is ever disconnected from the source. Once we know the amount of light being coupled into the launch cord, we can compare this with the amount of light emerging from the link being tested and the difference is an accurate measure of link loss.

A connector, by itself, cannot be tested for loss—it must be mated with a known good connector to discover how well light will pass from one to the other. When we test a link, we are verifying that the connectors on each end can receive light from and transmit light into a known good connector. We are also verifying that the cable itself has not been compromised by overstressing, crushing, breaking or bending too tightly.

When testing the link, we are measuring the loss from the two mated pairs of connectors (one at each end) plus the loss from the cable in between. This means that after calibration we must add two mated pairs of connectors to the test setup. If the test setup is calibrated with two jumpers, one mated pair has been referenced out of the measurement, and only one mated pair is included in the measurement—the loss measurement is then artificially and improperly reduced. For these reasons, the correct way to calibrate for optical fiber testing is with a single jumper as clearly stated in the standards.

Incidentally, there are two-jumper and three-jumper calibration methods in both of the TIA-526 standards, but these are intended for other applications, such as optical fiber cable installed with no panels, jumpers or adapters, or longer outside plant runs where most of the loss is contributed by the cable and connectors are of less concern.

Testing Optical Fiber Jumpers

TSB-140 describes the procedure required to ensure the launch and receive cords are in acceptable condition. This is done by connecting a light source and an optical power meter with a single jumper and taking an actual power reading (a dBm measurement, rather than dB). The jumper is then unplugged from the power meter, an adapter and a second jumper are added, and then the second jumper is plugged into the meter. The power reading should be within 0.75 dB of the first reading. The second jumper is then unplugged and the ends are swapped. The reading should still be within 0.75 dB of the original reading. Better consistency can be achieved by repeating the process after exchanging the positions of the two cords and by reducing the allowable variance to 0.5 dB for SC connectors and perhaps 0.2 dB for LC connectors.

Using Mandrels

The use of a mandrel, a smooth rod, is one additional practice specified by TIA standards to achieve the most accurate loss measurements during calibration and testing. A multimode launch cord is wrapped five times (nonoverlapping) around the mandrel before calibration. Consistency can be improved by taping the cord around the mandrel and then taping the entire assembly to the source to reduce undesirable movement of the launch cord in relation to the source. The diameter of the mandrel is determined by the launch cord core size and construction, as shown in Table 3.

Table 3: Mandrel Diameter Specifications

Cordage type

Mandrel diameter

62.5/125 3 mm (0.12 in)  jacketed

17 mm (0.7 in)

62.5/125 tight buffered

20 mm (0.8 in)

50/125 3 mm (0.12 in) jacketed

22 mm (0.9 in)

50/125  tight buffered

25 mm (1 in)

Note: Singlemode launch cords should have a single 30 mm (1.2 in.) loop.

The purpose of the mandrel in multimode testing is to remove the modes, or pathways, of light near the outer edge of the core, as shown in Figure 3. Without a mandrel, these outer modes of light will make it through the short launch cord to the meter during calibration and ultimately be included in the reference measurement. When the link test is performed, the normal bends and connections of an installed link will cause these outer modes to be lost, and using a mandrel gives a more realistic measurement by removing these outer modes before calibration.

Most technicians do not use mandrels—in fact, many have never seen one. However, acceptable test results are typically still achieved since the acceptance values specified in the standards are relatively lax as noted previously. If unexpected high loss is encountered in an installed link, using a mandrel may resolve that high loss.

Method B Adapted

TIA-568-C specifies TIA-526-14A Method B for testing multimode optical fiber, which assumes that the connectors installed in the cable plant match the adapter in the test equipment. With the introduction and ultimate recognition by TIA-568-C of five new small form factor connectors, this is not always the case.

For example, to test installed LC connectors with testers equipped with SC connector, SC to LC hybrid jumpers must be used. This makes single-jumper calibration impossible—the SC to LC launch cord cannot plug into the SC adapter in the meter. Some newer testers are designed with changeable adapters that make this adaptation unnecessary, but few existing testers have this feature.

While TIA has not yet addressed this issue, a solution has been informally deployed in the industry, often called “Method B Adapted.”  With this method, calibration is achieved with two hybrid jumpers connected with an adapter, as shown in Figure 4. This method shows a certification tester that tests two pathways in opposite directions at the same time.

To achieve an accurate measurement of the loss in an installed link, it is still necessary to add two mated pairs of connectors to the test setup after calibration, just as with single-jumper calibration. To do this, an additional short jumper must be added after calibration and before testing, as shown in Figure 5.

Since one mated pair was referenced out at calibration, adding the third jumper gives a total of three mated pairs in each pathway. As required, two mated pairs are added after calibration for the actual test, as shown in Figure 6.


Even when proper testing is done in accordance with the standards and shows compliant results, end users should beware of certain situations that can cause problems in actual operation.

First, TIA installed performance requirements are lenient compared with typical performance achieved in actual installations. Consequently, receiving a “PASS” result does not always ensure that all connections are properly terminated and clean. For example, in a 50 m (164 ft) horizontal link tested at the 1300 nm wavelength, a tester will show “PASS” with 0.3 dB loss at one end and 1.6 dB loss at the other end caused by a poorly terminated or dirty connector—the total loss will still be less than the 2 dB limit allowed by the standards. Therefore, a “PASS” result can conceal a bad connector, as shown in Figure 7.

This problem can be even worse when testing multiple links end-to-end through cross-connections or interconnections, a practice allowed by the standards. For example, in a campus setting, it is easy for a bad connector to be concealed, as shown in the Figure 8 example, where the actual loss is within the TIA limit despite a bad or dirty connector with a loss of 2.5 dB.

To avoid these problems, the installer should have a clear idea of the actual loss typically achieved with the connectors and cable being installed—0.3 dB to 0.4 dB for SCs and 0.1 dB to 0.2 dB for LCs. The installer should expect actual loss readings based on these numbers and not just rely on a “PASS” result. If possible, the technician should test each link individually. The technician can also monitor the margins between standards requirements and actual results reported by a certification tester. In most cases, the margin should be close to 50 percent of the standards-based performance required. In other words, the actual performance should beat the standard by half.

A second problem is that TIA-568-C specifies testing an optical fiber link in only one direction, yet a flawed termination will often show different results when tested in different directions. A poor termination may cause loss by failing to focus light into the next polished optical fiber end face and scattering the light at higher angles into higher order modes. If a poor termination is at the far end from the light source, and the light is scattered only a few feet from the power meter, much of the light may make it through that last few feet to the meter and show little loss. If the termination scatters light at the beginning of the link near the source, much more of the light is likely to be lost over the length, connections and bends of the installed link, resulting in greater loss.

Bidirectional testing will reveal flaws that may be concealed by single-direction testing. The default requirement of TIA-526-14A is bidirectional testing, but this requirement may be omitted by the specifier because TIA-568-C requires testing in only one direction. Fortunately, some cabling manufacturers require bidirectional testing as a condition of receiving a warranty.

A third problem can occur, even if all the above problems are avoided. Optical fiber cabling that meets all TIA requirements for loss and distance may not necessarily support an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. ® (IEEE®) specified LAN application that an end user desires to install.

For example, TIA-568-C allows multimode backbone channels up to 2000 m (6560 ft) long while IEEE supporting distances for 10GBASE-SX, the most popular form of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, could be less depending on the optical fiber type, as shown in Table 4. Even though a TIA-568-C compliant multimode backbone link with a main cross-connect, intermediate cross-connect and horizontal cross-connect could have as much as 12.25 dB of loss at 850 nm, the allowable channel loss for most IEEE specified LANs is much less than this. When designing an optical fiber cable plant, it is important to consider the applications the cabling is intended to support.

Optical Fiber type

Standard 62.5/125


Standard 50/125


Laser optimized 50/125


Enhanced laser optimized 50/125


Bandwidth at 850 nm (MHz/km)

2003, 4



4700-49002, 5, 6

Maximum distance

33 m (94 ft)

82 m (270 ft)

300 m (985 ft)

550-600 m (1706-1970 ft) 6

1.       OM-1, OM-2 and OM-3 levels of performance were originally specified in the ISO-11801 international cabling standard; these designations are included in the TIA-568-C.3 revision, approved June 8, 2008.

2.       OM-4 is a proposed addition to TIA-568-C.3. The 4700 MHz/km bandwidth is one performance level currently under discussion; 4900 MHz/km is the highest bandwidth currently available. 

3.       TIA-568-B.3 specified 160 MHz/km bandwidth at 850 nm for 62.5/125 multimode optical fiber, which supported distances of 26 m (82 ft); ISO-11801 specifies 200 MHz/km bandwidth at 850 nm for OM-1 62.5/125 optical fiber; the recently approved TIA-568-C.3 increases the specification to 200 MHz/km, which increases the supportable distance slightly to 33 m (94 ft).

4.       These bandwidth specifications are based on over-filled launch conditions (LED drivers).

5.       These bandwidth specifications are effective modal bandwidth, based on restricted mode launch conditions (VCSEL drivers).

6.       Since the OM-4 level of performance is still a proposal under development, pre-standard proprietary bandwidth and distance guarantees vary among manufacturers.

There are other factors not yet addressed by the standards that can affect test results. A source with a restricted mode launch, such as a laser, may yield different results than a source with an overfilled launch condition such as an LED. The TIA is currently reviewing this and other issues.

Part 3: Troubleshooting

Despite following all the proper testing standards and practices described in Parts 1 and 2, testing failures due to unacceptably high loss may still occur. Many uncertainties remain present in optical fiber cabling, such as driver variance, optical fiber modal characteristics and tester performance. Standards help to reduce the uncertainties caused by these and other factors, but they cannot be controlled completely. The most common causes of test failures are:

·        Contaminated connections.

·        Failure to follow the connector manufacturer’s recommended termination procedures.

·        Damaged cable.

·        Problems with the testers and jumpers themselves.


Every optical fiber installation class dwells on cleanliness for good reason—poor cleanliness practices are the single greatest cause of problems in optical fiber testing and operation. It may take a few extra seconds, but if a technician cleans every connector every time a connector is inserted, it will save time in the long run. Problems will be prevented before they have to be located and solved.

First, it is important to have the right materials. Cleaning optical fiber connectors requires a lint-free paper or fabric pad moistened with alcohol that is 99 percent reagent grade isopropyl. Alcohol from a drugstore may look and smell the same and show isopropyl on the label, but it is often only 70 percent pure—plenty of room for impurities. The wipes must be lint-free and made for this type of work.

Premoistened wipes in foil packets are also available, and many technicians find them convenient. Dry cleaning cassettes with an advancing tape inside can also work well. If using canned air to blow adapters clean, it should be made specifically for this purpose—keyboard cleaners from an office supply store can have many impurities. Buying from a source that specializes in optical fiber termination supplies will ensure that you should get the right materials.

To clean an optical fiber connector, wipe the connector ferrule with an alcohol dampened wipe—the alcohol helps dissolve dirt that may be on the ferrule. After cleaning with the moist wipe, the ferrule must be polished with a clean dry wipe to remove the alcohol and dissolved dirt. If the ferrule is allowed to air dry without polishing, the dirt in the alcohol is redeposited on the ferrule.

After cleaning, the technician should put a dust cap on the connector immediately. This prevents damage to the ferrule and helps reduce contamination. There is dust in the air all the time, and the cleaning process itself may create a slight electrostatic charge on the connector that can attract dust out of the air. A capped connector also should be cleaned before plugging it in—the plastic in some caps can deposit contamination on a ferrule. Do not touch the end face of a ferrule—even “clean” fingers will leave an oily coating on a ferrule, as shown in Figure 9.

Dust covers should be kept on all adapters in optical fiber cabinets until immediately before a connector is to be inserted. If a technician receives a failing test result for one link, the launch cord should not be plugged into another port for comparison without cleaning first—contamination can easily be spread from one port to another.

It is especially important to keep the ports in preterminated cassettes clean. Unlike traditional optical fiber cabinets that allow a technician to unplug a connector on the inside for cleaning, preterminated cassettes are generally factory sealed, making ports difficult to clean if contaminated. This is also true of the MPO ribbon connectors on the back of the cassettes—they are difficult to clean once they are contaminated. Some suppliers now offer an advancing-tape cleaner that can be inserted into an adapter or female connector, but they are not always completely successful. It is more effective and more economical to keep the port clean from the very beginning.


Even after contamination is eliminated, field-polished connectors can be the cause of a testing failure if they have been poorly polished or damaged after termination. Connector end faces should be rechecked with a microscope. If the connector looks like the center photo in Figure 10, additional polishing may remove the remaining adhesive. However, if the connector looks like the photo on the right, the optical fiber will probably have to be reterminated.

Prepolished connectors, also called factory-polished or no-polish connectors, are popular with installers since they can be terminated in about half the time of a field-polished connector. These connectors include a short piece of optical fiber installed in the connector and polished at the factory. Technicians cleave the optical fiber being terminated and insert it into a small mechanical splice inside the connector.

Prepolished connectors can fail for two reasons: a bad cleave or an improperly inserted optical fiber. If testing shows high loss and recleaning connectors does not correct the problem, an OTDR can locate the problem at one of the connectors or in the cable. If an OTDR is not available, the technician can continue trouble-shooting through a process of elimination.

If a bad cleave is suspected, the cleaver can be checked by cleaving a few optical fibers in the cable being installed and checking them under a microscope. Properly done, an optical fiber will cleave with a clean surface perpendicular to the optical fiber, with no angled cuts, protruding glass or chips. Use of a microscope after cleaving and before inserting the optical fiber can prevent assembling the connector with a bad cleave and wasting the connector. As with other aspects of optical fiber termination, multimode connectors are more tolerant of marginal cleaves while singlemode connectors are more demanding.

When installing a considerable number of prepolished connectors, technicians may want to consider buying a higher quality cleaver. The cleavers provided in most optical fiber termination kits are in the $300 range and rated for only a few thousand cleaves. For four to five times the cost, a high-quality cleaver can offer the following benefits:

  • Increased productivity—Reliable, quality cleaves that generally do not require inspection by microscope or use of an inline loss measurement device.
  • Increased yield—Fewer connectors (virtually none) will be lost due to poor cleaves.
  • Longer life—High-quality cleavers are rated for as many as 10 times the number of cleaves as those supplied with most kits.

The other common cause of high loss in a prepolished connector is failure to insert the cleaved optical fiber far enough to make contact with the stub. Index matching gel injected at the factory helps make the connection, but the two pieces of glass must meet inside the connector. Technicians should feel a positive stop when inserting the optical fiber. Some manufacturers instruct the technician to mark the optical fiber buffer to make sure it is fully inserted, and others rely on an inline loss detector with a visual fault locator (VFL) that indicates whether the optical fiber is making a good connection inside the splice.

This problem is common when terminating loose tube cable with prepolished connectors. Loose tube cable contains optical fibers with 250 micron outside diameter (OD) plastic coating, which is only a few times the thickness of a human hair and too fragile to be inserted directly into connectors. Before termination, these optical fibers must be inserted into 900 micron OD tubing and then cleaved and inserted. When inserting the cleaved optical fiber and the tubing into the connector, the optical fiber can be pushed back into the tubing and fail to meet the optical fiber inside the connector, which is referred to as pistoning.

The surest way to prevent pistoning is to use field-polished adhesive connectors, though these require more labor to terminate. If prepolished connectors are specified, care must be taken to push the optical fiber back into the tubing before stripping the 250 micron coating. When stripping the optical fiber clean, the technician should leave some of the 250 micron coating on the optical fiber beyond the end of the 900 micron tubing, as shown in Figure 11. If the optical fiber pushes back into the tubing, the cleaved 250 micron coated optical fiber will still be fully inserted and make contact inside the connector.

Without an OTDR to locate the cause of high loss, the problem could be the termination at either end, or in the cable, as discussed later. However, it is usually easier to try reterminating before replacing cable. Technicians can therefore reterminate one end and retest. If that fails to correct the problem, they can then reterminate the other end and test again.

Most of the termination practices are also applicable to other methods of installing optical fiber, such as preterminated cassettes. Another method is splicing factory terminated pigtails onto optical fiber cable. Mechanical splices have the same issues as prepolished connectors, but fusion splices when properly performed are generally reliable and rarely cause testing problems.

The best way to prevent most of these problems is to simply read the directions and then follow them. After cleanliness, the most common cause of warranty claims is failure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. For all termination problems, it is better (and cheaper) to discover, troubleshoot and correct a problem early. Many technicians have stories to tell about terminating thousands of connectors only to find that when they went back to test them, they were all bad. These stories are upsetting and potentially expensive for all involved—the customer (delay of the project), the installer (loss of labor cost) and the connector manufacturer (cost of replacement of materials).

Much can go wrong during field termination, especially if a termination tool kit is old or shared among technicians, causing problems such as:

·         The polishing puck was dropped and chipped.

·         The polishing paper was used up and not replaced.

·         The polishing paper was used up and replaced with paper of the wrong grit.

·         The polishing paper was used up and replaced with paper of the correct grit but of poor quality—uneven size of abrasive granules or uneven spacing of granules.

·         The adhesive was used up and not replaced.

·         The adhesive has dried into a solid lump—anaerobic adhesives have a relatively short shelf life.

·         The adhesive may still appear useable but could be nearing the end of its life, leaving a film that causes high loss.

·         The cleaver may be worn out or damaged, producing poor cleaves.

Discovering any of these problems after completing a project is unnecessary. Before going to a job site, a technician should check the termination kit and terminate a few connectors with the same cable, connectors and tools that will be used on the project and then test for acceptable results. At the job site, the technician can do a few more terminations and test them to make sure everything is still working correctly.  If this approach fails, contact the connector manufacturer before proceeding with the installation. They will probably request that you return samples of failing terminations to the factory for analysis.

It is much preferable for all involved to discover and correct the problem at this stage rather than after all terminations have been (improperly) completed. Even if the first few terminations test okay, it is best to terminate in small batches of perhaps 100 at a time and then test again. As confidence grows, so can the size of the batches.


If connectors all appear clean and properly terminated, high loss may be caused by cable that has been overstressed, crushed or bent too tightly during installation. If all the optical fibers in a single cable exhibit high loss, that is a clear indication that the cable is the problem. A visual inspection may locate the problem. If not, this is a good application for an OTDR—it can tell you the approximate location of the damage. If the high loss is in only one optical fiber, it may have broken after the outer jacket was removed. A VFL with a bright red laser can locate such a break in the optical fiber cabinet, since light will escape at that point.

A tight bend causing loss in the cable might simply be straightened out if it is not too severe. If the cable is damaged, that section may be removed and the ends spliced together. This is allowed by the standards as long as end-to-end loss is acceptable. If the damage is too extensive, the cable must be replaced. For example, if the cable is pulled too hard by the jacket instead of by the strength members, microbends that cause high loss can be created along the entire length, giving the cable a wavy appearance. In this case, the cable is not repairable.

Tester Issues

In some cases, the cause of test failures is the test equipment itself. Field testers lead hard lives—exposure to temperature extremes, the dusty floors of vans and even occasional dropping. They must be maintained properly to give accurate results. It is important to check with the tester manufacturer for the recommended schedule of factory recalibration. For twisted-pair copper certification testers fitted with optical fiber modules, which are more complex than an OLTS, the recommendation for recalibration is generally once a year. This maintenance is often neglected since the technician will be without the tester for a period of time and recalibration can cost hundreds of dollars.

The performance of light sources in testers is governed by standards, and ideally they would operate to precise limits and uniformly under all conditions. The real world, however, is seldom ideal. The following practices may help reduce uncertainty:

·         Before calibrating, turn the tester on for 10 to15 minutes to let the drivers stabilize.

·         Let the tester come to the temperature at which it will be used before calibrating, since driver output can change with temperature. If a tester has been sitting in a hot van in the summer or overnight in a van in the winter, this may take an hour or more.

·         Recalibrate the tester after any event that can affect the amount of light being injected into the optical fiber, including:

-          Disconnecting, reconnecting or changing the launch cord.

-          Turning the tester off and back on.

-          Moving the launch cord around in relation to the tester.

-          Adding a mandrel.

-          Recharging or replacing the batteries.

Good batteries can also be important for accurate results. As batteries get weaker, the voltage may drop, and some testers will begin to give erratic results before the tester stops operating completely. If the tester uses disposable batteries, it is unlikely anyone will keep track of when the batteries were replaced. It is best to throw the batteries away at the end of a project and start each job with fresh batteries. If the batteries are rechargeable but cannot make it through a single day without recharging, they should be replaced.


Once a day before testing, the quality of jumpers should be checked by the process described in TSB-140 Additional Guidelines for Field-Testing Length, Loss and Polarity of Optical Fiber Cabling Systems. If results become suspect, check the jumpers again—it takes only a few minutes. The standards require that connectors maintain their performance for 500 mating cycles. Jumpers with good quality ceramic ferrule connectors should have a useful life greater than this, but that life is not infinite. Replace the cords if:

  • They show any visible signs of wear.
  • Test results become suspect and no other apparent cause is found.
  • The jumpers fail the TSB-140 process.
  • They have been used for a few thousand tests.

One crucial aspect easily overlooked is that the core size of the test jumpers must match the core size of the optical fiber being tested. Until a few years ago, 62.5/125 micron optical fiber was the most common, and many existing test sets include those size jumpers. Now that 50/125 micron has become more common, it is important that the jumpers match. Coupling light from a 62.5 micron core into a 50 micron core can cause a 3 dB to 5 dB loss, depending on the modal distribution of the light in the core.

Application Failure

After a cabling project is complete, an installer may get a trouble call from a customer who has an Ethernet link fail and suspects that the cabling system is the cause. Before disturbing the cabling and potentially contaminating the connections, take a power reading with a meter at the transmit port on both ends of the failed link. If the customer does not have documentation to show the nominal power output, measure the power from a known good transmit port and compare that with the failed port. If everything was done and tested properly, it is highly possible that the fault is with the electronics and not the cabling system.

Closing Thoughts

Though perfection in field testing optical fiber has been elusive in the past, following the practices described in this article can help avoid inaccurate test results and assure end users that the installation was done properly and that the cabling will support their LAN.

Jay Paul Myers, RCDD, is a training specialist for Ortronics/Legrand. He has served as editor of the TIA/EIA TR-42.6 committee and as secretary of TR-42.8 optical fiber committee. Jay can be reached at

Reprinted with Permission of BICSI News  Magazine 2009 –


Positioning Customers on the Path to Convergence

While not yet a reality, consultants can design for total IP convergence today.

By Paul Kish

There’s no doubt that everyone in the information transport system (ITS) industry is talking about Internet Protocol (IP) convergence as the best way to optimize networks and ultimately deploy intelligent buildings. The idea of transmitting information as IP packets from data, voice, video, security, building automation and life safety systems over one common infrastructure can offer several potential benefits to end user customers. However, the fact remains that total IP convergence is the “holy grail” of networking, and we’re not yet there.

Despite the many ITS vendors preaching total IP convergence today, reaching IP convergence is a long-term process. Most enterprise businesses are just starting to test this approach by integrating data and voice and possibly video. Others are not yet comfortable with the idea of converging a variety of building operating networks over one infrastructure.

With so much talk about total IP convergence, consulting engineers are going to be confronted with questions and concerns from customers about the convergence of various networks and transmitting information from those networks as IP data packets. Consultants can be prepared by better understanding the key benefits of IP convergence, addressing customer concerns surrounding IP convergences and deploying basic design and deployment strategies that position their customers on the path to total IP convergence.

Key Benefits of IP Convergence

IP convergence can offer significant benefits, including enhanced communications, productivity, efficiency, security and facility sustainability—all resulting in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO). Consultants should understand the key benefits of IP convergence and appropriately relay that information to their customers.

IP convergence has already started with data and voice over IP (VoIP) where both are transmitted as IP packets across a common infrastructure, providing the flexibility to use various network connections for either voice or data and reducing the cost of traditional long-distance telephone charges. Some enterprise businesses are also starting to converge video over IP with voice and data for video conferencing or surveillance purposes.

At a higher level of convergence, other building operating systems may also transmit system information as IP data packets over Ethernet networks. Data from the various systems can then be centrally managed and easily shared across the various applications for more simplified and efficient building operations.

For example, with IP convergence, a network login can more easily interface with the security access control system to ensure the user actually entered the building. Security personnel can check surveillance cameras from anywhere on the network, or even wirelessly from remote locations. Critical alarms and notifications from life-safety systems can interface with the corporate local area network (LAN) and telephone system to send alerts to personal computers (PCs), pagers and cell phones of those responsible for facility management. Lights can automatically go on in an evacuation situation, and air-handling units can automatically shut down when smoke is detected. The possibilities are endless.

Responding to Concerns

While total IP convergence ultimately connects more systems and has the potential to provide significant benefits, not every enterprise is ready to adopt the IP protocol for all building operating systems or run various systems over one common cable media. Enterprise businesses have many concerns surrounding IP convergence, which consultants need to understand and address.

  • Supporting Applications and the Environment
    A key concern of deploying IP convergence is the ability to design networks to meet the specific needs of the applications and environment. The consultant first needs to look at all applications to determine if they can be supported by IP and if solutions are available. Customers should never be forced into choosing a single solution for a specific application but should be offered a range of solutions to better fulfill their unique needs, such as deploying either coaxial or twisted-pair cable for transmitting video signals. Consultants also need to consider the unique needs of the environment, such as high-bandwidth in data centers or noise immunity in medical facilities. By working with vendors that provide a variety of solutions across all applications and environments, addressing this concern will be much easier.
  • Ensuring Performance and Reliability
    With so many building systems transmitting data as IP packets, network failures become more unacceptable than ever. While many corporate LANs have achieved 99.999 percent reliability, maintaining that same performance for all networks that support an entire building is a significant concern among customers. Consultants can help ensure maximum performance and reliability by specifying products tuned to work together, such as end-to-end systems with guaranteed performance versus individual components. Each system should also ensure unparalleled signal integrity across all building operating systems and provide ample bandwidth and reliability to avoid failures.
  • Maintaining Security
    Some enterprises may be reluctant to deploy IP convergence due to network security concerns. Some may require separate secure networks for certain building operating systems while others may simply be concerned about potential viruses and hackers gaining access to confidential information through the increased number of possible entry points to the network. Consultants must ensure that proper physical and logical security measures are correctly implemented throughout the deployment process. These can be achieved through a variety of innovations like keyed connectors, encryption and firewalls.
  • Achieving ROI
    While convergence has clear life-cycle cost benefits, many enterprise customers are concerned about proving the value of initial investments, requiring careful risk assessment. For example, if an enterprise has existing, working video equipment and a well-functioning security department with expertise in coaxial cabling and related standards, it may not be cost effective to move to video over IP and replace cameras and head-end equipment until the existing equipment requires replacement. Because reduced operational costs have the most impact on ensuring lower TCO, the ability of the consultant to evaluate how specific products and solutions will ultimately simplify and improve building operations is a key part of ensuring a high return on investment (ROI).  Consultants can also help their customers reduce risk and achieve high ROI by specifying systems and products designed with features that provide reliability, ease of deployment, seamless integration and cost-effective management over the life of the systems.
  • Meeting Codes, Regulations and Standards
    When embarking on IP convergence, each system will need to comply with applicable local and national codes, regulations and standards. As security and life safety concerns increase, and more environmental initiatives get underway, the amount of standards and regulations that enterprise customers need to meet could potentially continue to increase. Consultants with access to a variety of solutions for each type of building operating system and comprehensive knowledge of their related codes and standards is the first step in achieving proper compliance. Consultants should partner with vendors that offer a broad range of products, have close ties with standard-making organizations and have achieved the global presence to address diverse needs.
  • Locating Qualified Design and Installation Partners
    Another customer concern of IP convergence is the ability to find qualified design and installation partners with the knowledge and experience to properly design and deploy the networks. Because every enterprise is different, consultants should only consider telecommunications designers and installers with the knowledge and flexibility to deploy products and systems to meet a variety of unique needs and environments, and with access to an efficient supply chain network to effectively acquire the right products and solutions.
  • Ensuring On-Going Service and Support
    Many enterprise customers are concerned about getting left in the dark if maintenance, upgrades or advice is required in the future. Consultants need to ensure that customers have access to a complete suite of value-added services from all equipment and component vendors for on-going service and support for the life of the networks. These services should address initial concept, design and deployment, followed by post-installation service, long-term maintenance programs, warranty assurance and a total commitment to customer satisfaction.

Basic Design and Deployment Strategies

Whether a customer is ready or not to deploy IP convergence, it is probably the future of networking and is fast becoming the trend. Consultants should therefore learn about new IP applications and the nuances of each. At the same time, consultants must ensure that networks are designed to meet current needs while supporting IP convergence in the future. The good news is that what they have learned in terms of structured cabling will help achieve that goal.

While each application and environment may need to meet specific standards and networking requirements, the structured cabling approach is the foundation for all networking needs. Each application and environment is based on the same basic design principles that established the structured cabling approach over 20 years ago. This fact becomes quite obvious when you look at the various standards— ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, ANSI/TIA/EIA-569-B Commercial Building Standard for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces, ANSI/TIA/EIA-862 Building Automation Cabling Standard for Commercial Buildings, TIA-942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers and TIA-1005 Infrastructure Standard for Industrial Cabling Systems are all based on the same basic design principles.

These basic design principles that have always been encouraged for future proofing networks, are the same principles needed to support IP convergence. Networks must be designed for greater flexibility and scalability to support more connections, reconfigurations, upgrades and increased bandwidth needs. As with any future networking need, it will be difficult for customers to eventually move to IP convergence without flexibility and scalability.

As more applications transmit data as IP, more bandwidth will be required to effectively and reliably transmit that data. Backbone cabling should be designed and deployed to offer bandwidth capacity for future applications. The norm today for backbone cabling is the ability to support speeds of 10 gigabits per second (Gb/s), and many are choosing fiber solutions that may be readily able to support speeds of 40 or 100 Gb/s. It’s important for consultants to specify enough cabling (and the highest performing cabling possible) for future use.

Data centers must also be properly designed for future growth with ample space, manageability and capacity. Simple strategies like deploying cross-connects and better cable management solutions in data centers can enable easier reconfigurations and upgrades without having to disturb the cabling infrastructure or sensitive switch ports. Certain strategies like load balancing and server virtualization can also help to better distribute and manage peak-demand bandwidth throughout the data center.

In open environments, providing ample capacity to support future devices such as wireless access points, video surveillance cameras or other devices is vital to supporting IP convergence. Strategies like consolidation points in the horizontal distribution cabling can make it easier to pull cables to new locations for future devices and applications.

Closing Thoughts

Before construction begins, designing for IP convergence requires looking at the big picture and getting involved at the ground level of a project. Early in the design process, consultants need to review all applications and networking needs to ensure adequate pathways, spaces and cabling solutions are deployed from the very beginning.

While designing for IP convergence can best be achieved by getting back to basics, the fact remains that IP convergence is not yet a reality. Many systems remain proprietary and need to evolve to transmit their data as IP. Access to a variety of products and expertise across all building networks, along with easy-to-follow application and design guidelines, will help consultants position their customers on the path to IP convergence. 

Paul Kish is director of systems and standards with Belden. He is also the current chair of the TIA TR-42.5 subcommittee for Telecommunications Infrastructure Terms and Symbols and also served as Chair of TIA TR-42 Engineering Committee. He can be reached at


Market Drivers Behind IP Convergence

The technological revolution that began with the transition of the typewriter to the PC and the telephone to the Internet has created a momentum for innovation far greater than even the industrial revolution of the late 1800s. In this new digital world, technology transitions are happening all around us. From the advent of the digital camera and mobile communication devices to the recent disappearance of analog television, one only has to blink to miss yet another transition that overcomes the limitations of out-dated analog technologies.

The need for moving more real-time data at faster rates and enhancing mobility, productivity and communications is combining with global efforts to improve safety and security, reduce energy consumption and become more efficient while lowering total cost of ownership (TCO)—all of which forms a catalyst for rethinking building design, construction and value through IP convergence.

  • Increased Data and Bandwidth Demand
    The sheer amount of digital data involved in maintaining daily operations has increased dramatically over the past decade and will continue to grow. Not only is more data being generated in the form of financial account information, transaction records, large-sized digital medical images, product stock keeping unit (SKU) information and research data, but that data is also being transmitted between users and networks across the world. As the amount of data and file sizes increase, so does the need for more bandwidth to effectively and reliably transmit that data. Already standards organizations are developing network standards for transmitting data at rates of 40 and 100 Gb/s.
  • Enhanced Access, Mobility and Communication
    Working people everywhere must have access to information and the ability to communicate. As a result, enterprises are striving to deploy technologies like video conferencing and enhanced wireless communications. At the same time, the movement of goods and services must be effectively tracked and managed. Wireless capabilities are popping up in security devices, inventory tracking systems and even patient monitoring systems. Continued improvement in wireless standards will address new applications, usage scenarios and deployment costs, further increasing wireless adoption.
  • Safety and Security Concerns
    The growing need to protect people and property is likely one of the most significant movements of our time. In recent years, attacks around the globe have ramped up the deployment of security and life safety systems. From financial and medical institutions to college campuses and airports, systems like access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, evacuation and fire alarm and life safety systems are being installed or upgraded. New government regulations and directives are underway that will further increase deployment and improvement of these systems.
  • Environmental Initiatives
    As the rising cost of energy takes center stage in our global economy, initiatives like ENERGY STAR and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) that improve energy efficiency and reduce waste are fast becoming a key component of building design and construction. Through technologies that monitor, manage and control consumption, enterprises are able to significantly reduce energy costs. From recycled materials and better lighting to practices that decrease pollution and improve air quality, many enterprises are also striving to create comfortable, healthier working environments for facility sustainability.
  • Efficiency and Lower TCO
    While the aforementioned key drivers are extremely significant in the movement toward IP convergence, no other driver has the substantial impact as the need to lower TCO. Because operational costs account for nearly 50 percent of a building’s TCO over an estimated 40-year life span, any means of reducing that cost has a considerable impact. By comparison, construction costs account for only 11 percent of TCO.

Reprinted with Permission of BICSI News Magazine 2009 –


Green Building Technology Alliance Makes Progress with New CABA Members

The Green Building Technology Alliance (GBTA), established by BICSI to develop innovation technology credits for the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification system, is pleased to announce that it has added three new representatives from the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA).

Along with CABA’s President and CEO Ronald Zimmer, two CABA board members—Roy Kolasa, a Honeywell open systems solution manager, and Steve Teubner, director and general manager at BAE Systems—both bring extensive knowledge and business experience to the GBTA, which also includes members from InfoComm International®, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and BICSI.

According to Brian Hansen, RCDD, NTS, BICSI President-Elect, with Leviton Network Solutions who currently chairs the GBTA, the group is also pleased with the progress they have made toward developing innovation technology credits within the LEED system. “Our alliance is in the process of developing two to three innovation technology credits—one for physical layer technology and another one or two for audiovisual. If and when any submissions are accepted for credits by the USGBC, we’ll release that information so our members can begin to use those LEED credits for their sustainable building projects,” said Hansen.

At the 2009 BICSI Winter Conference and Exhibition, Tuesday afternoon was dedicated to green and sustainable building design. During the general session, Stanley H. Salot Jr., with the Electronic Component Certification Board (ECCB), and Brendan Owens, with the USGBC, delivered well-received presentations. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about new developments in the LEED rating systems, as well as how changing green certification requirements are affecting the electronics manufacturing industry.

Salot and Owens were then joined on stage by Hansen, Dave Labuskes, RCDD, NTS, OSP, with RTKL Associates; Betty Bezos, RCDD, NTS, OSP, WD, with Bezos Technologies; and Ed Mikoski, with TIA. As representatives from GBTA, the group participated in a “Panel Discussion on LEED” that fielded questions from the audience about BICSI’s involvement in developing innovation technology credits.

“We’re hoping that by the time the USGBC develops LEED 2011, we will have built a suite of innovation technology credits that can be used toward LEED certification,” says Hansen. “It may take a few submittals, but once we get it right, we’ll have a better understanding about how to submit for future credits. In the meantime, we encourage members who receive any technology LEED credits on a project to share the USGBC ID tag information with the GBTA.”

The GBTA is setting up a forum under the Forums Community as a way to communicate about sustainable building design and LEED. Anyone with a project that has potential for innovation technology LEED credits is encouraged to contact Brian Hansen through the forum or directly.

Reprinted with Permission of BICSI News  Magazine 2009 –


Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Over the years, I’ve heard much praise for BICSI as an organization and education provider, but I admit that I’ve also heard a few grumblings—mostly during conference time from those dealing with the logistics and cost of exhibiting. Personally, I never had much of an opinion. While I’ve been a BICSI member for years, I admit that I haven’t been an overly active one—I’ve attended few training courses (okay, maybe just one); I’ve never had the pleasure (or trouble) of being a conference exhibitor; and traveling to one conference a year to find grist for my articles and network for opportunities has been my primary MO (not to mention partaking in my share of entertainment).

But as the new editor of BICSI News, all that changed at the 2009 BICSI Winter Conference where I got my first real look at what goes on behind the scenes. I’d like to share my thoughts with you from that eye-opening experience and my newfound respect for the organization that I may have been taking for granted. 

Upon arrival in Orlando, I attended the NxtGEN subcommittee meeting. It started at 5 p.m. Saturday evening, which I used to think was time to relax and enjoy myself. But here were more than 30 people seemingly not at all interested in calling it quits for the day. Instead, they sat with empty stomachs and tired eyes hashing out ways to deal with the challenges facing the information transport systems (ITS) industry and examining every possible course of action that BICSI could take to help solve those challenges—everything from easing the financial burden taking over our economy to breaking down the barriers that encumber the next generation of potential RCDDs. Several hours into the meeting, I finally excused myself only to see a repeat of the same passion and commitment in the meetings that followed the next day.

It’s not that I didn’t know BICSI was a volunteer organization, but I was unaware to what extent committee members give up their time. When I mentioned this to someone, it was cynically pointed out to me that volunteers are getting paid for that time by their corporations. Since when did a yearly salary cover Saturday and Sunday meetings? Furthermore, I came to the realization that several of the volunteers own their own businesses, and attending BICSI committee meetings and conferences can be thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Then there was the BICSI staff themselves—the many unassuming, hardworking individuals behind the scenes that your average member and conference attendee just doesn’t see, and I admit that I never did until now.

So my trip from subzero Connecticut to not-much-warmer Florida turned out to be (in the words of Jimmy Buffet) both a change in latitude and in attitude. Now that I know what’s really going on at BICSI, I feel moved to take another course, volunteer my time and maybe even work past 5 o’clock—and I hope you do too.

Reprinted with Permission of BICSI News Magazine 2009 –


Multiple Technologies, Multiple Disciplines

Challenges integrating ITS and building design.

By Bruce Turner

The information transport systems (ITS) industry continues to witness the rapid development of new and improved technologies. New design approaches are often presented to designers, installers and end users as discrete applications. An organization wishing to integrate multiple technological advances may encounter difficulties interfacing the various systems with the building design. Add the difficulties of integrating multiple technologies to the complications of the interdisciplinary design process, and you get a picture of the task currently confronting the ITS designer. It is important that the infrastructure designer considers each technology as part of a larger, single system rather than as isolated components. Doing so will help to avoid potential integration difficulties.

This article examines strategies taken to integrate voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), fiber to the enclosure (FTTE) and power over Ethernet (PoE) into a new educational facility. It also points out potential complications that may be encountered when applying multiple ITS technologies simultaneously. The project design decisions relating to the building footprint, equipment room locations and emergency power influenced the deployment of the desired ITS technologies. The challenges encountered substantiate the need to thoroughly integrate ITS and building infrastructure designs early in the design stages of a project.

Design Requirements

The school district built a new 77,000-square-foot facility that consists of two separate, nearly parallel wings—academic and activities—connected by two elevated walkways. The academic wing houses nearly all of the classrooms, the administrative offices and the library. Also included in the academic wing is the main telecommunications equipment room (ER), containing the demarcation points (DPs) of the service provider (SP). The activities wing contains the gymnasium, multipurpose room and music and drama classrooms. The school district imposed the following design constrains:

§         The structured cabling system would employ FTTE with an enclosure in each classroom and each office area.

§         The voice system would utilize VoIP.

§         Telephone handsets would be powered using PoE technology.

§         Emergency power would be provided via uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

FTTE Design

As dictated by the school district, the structured cabling system included the FTTE topology, which consists of radial optical fiber cabling from a central ER to telecommunications enclosures (TEs) located near network end users. This topology provides an advantage against a single point of failure. With a network switch installed in each TE, failure of a single switch affects only a small portion of the entire facility. FFTE also pushes the high-bandwidth portion of the network closer to the end users and reduces the amount of building floor area dedicated to the ITS.

The disadvantages of deploying FTTE include decentralized maintenance and potentially higher electronic equipment costs. For the school project, distributed enclosures also mean that maintenance must either disrupt classes or wait until after classes dismiss for the day. The cost of a smaller switch in each TE is potentially higher than the cost of fewer, centralized large switches—the aggregate number of switch ports purchased using FTTE can exceed the quantity of ports that would be purchased under a centralized scheme. However, when the cost savings due to reduced building area is considered, the increased equipment cost for FTTE is partially, if not totally, offset.

For the school project, optical fiber cables connect the main telecommunications ER to each classroom/office TE through a cable tray system above accessible corridor ceilings. Nonmetallic, flexible raceways within the tray system protect the optical fiber cable against physical damage. The cable distance advantage afforded by fiber distribution allows a single ER to serve the entire facility.

Metallic raceways within the walls connect the cable tray system to the TEs and provide a pathway for the optical fiber cabling. Per bonding and grounding (earthing) recommendations, a copper conductor bonds each TE to the telecommunications bonding backbone (TBB) located within the cable tray system, and the TBB bonds to the telecommunications main grounding busbar (TMGB) back in the ER.

Each classroom TE contains a network switch with a fiber uplink and Category 6, unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) ports. Radial Category 6 UTP cables provide network connections from the enclosure to workstation outlets located within the respective classroom or office area. Metallic raceway provides a cable path from each workstation outlet to above an accessible ceiling where cable hooks support the UTP cables. In addition to workstation outlets, classrooms also contain Category 6 connections for wireless access points (WAPs) and video projector management.

The space above the accessible ceilings is an environmental air plenum, which reduced the required amount of sheet metal ductwork for the heating system but necessitated the specification of plenum-rated cable and flexible raceway. It was determined that the additional cost of plenum-rated cable would be more than offset by the reduction in heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) ductwork costs. The ceiling air plenum also reduced the potential for physical conflicts between the ductwork and cable tray.

Installing the TEs in classrooms mandated consideration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that no projection from a wall be more than 100 millimeters (mm [4 inches (in)]) when located within a zone generally accessible from the floor. In order to provide easier access for maintenance, the owner specified an enclosure height that fell within the zone governed by ADA. However, it was necessary that the depth of the FTTE enclosures exceed 100 mm (4 in) to accommodate active electronic equipment.

To comply with the ADA and maintain the appropriate enclosure depth, the enclosures were semirecessed into the walls. This arrangement concealed the cabling but made it impossible to locate the TEs back-to-back within the same wall. In addition, because the enclosures were partially recessed, the building design had to include special wall construction to allow proper ventilation of the enclosures. An internal fan aided ventilation, and to negate any noise produced by the fans, sound dampening was necessary within each enclosure. Placing the TEs in classrooms and offices required close coordination with the project architect to produce the necessary building details.

Deploying VoIP

In parallel with the design of the new school, the school district began developing a new wide area network (WAN) to link all district buildings together via optical fiber. As part of the WAN development, the district decided to deploy a VoIP telephone system rather than use a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) platform. The VoIP system provides a simplified dialing plan for all faculty and staff within the district regardless of the building location. However, the VoIP system itself could not meet all of the district’s voice requirements.

Analog lines were still required to provide central reporting from the fire alarm system, the security system and the elevator. The lighting system installer programmed the lighting control system remotely through a modem with an analog connection. The school also wanted a voice paging system accessible through the telephone handsets, and an analog port on the VoIP server provides the necessary interface to the paging system. Manufacturers of equipment requiring traditional analog voice connections have not been quick to adapt their systems to a digital format. Until ancillary systems can accommodate VoIP, analog voice service will remain a requirement for most commercial buildings.

Powering Devices with PoE

Along with the decision to deploy a VoIP system, the school district decided to include PoE technology to simplify the power supply requirements for the telephone handsets and for the WAPs located in each classroom. The district needed to make the VoIP system available for emergency communications in the event of a utility company power failure. Since an emergency generator was not included in the project, the alternative for providing backup power for PoE switches in the TEs was multiple UPS.

The first UPS approach considered included distributed units in each TE. Rack-mounted UPS providing 30 minutes of reserve power was available for installation in each TE. However, the district required 90 minutes of backup power for as many telephone handsets as possible. Unfortunately, UPS able to provide 90 minutes was too large for the TEs. To meet the 90-minute requirement, the design ultimately had to incorporate a central UPS in the ER with centralized PoE switches. While this provided maintenance and first-cost benefits, UTP cabling was now required between the ER and each TE to support VoIP and PoE.

Providing Emergency Power

The new school also was required to conform to the International Building Code® (IBC), which requires emergency electrical power for exit/egress lighting and the fire alarm system. A central emergency generator would have met this requirement and provided emergency backup power for the PoE switches, but the school district had made an early decision to provide individual battery-powered units rather than a central generator.

Hybrid Solution

In order to integrate FTTE, VoIP and PoE within the constraints of the project, the design team eventually developed a hybrid FTTE system. The hybrid design designated two ports on each patch panel in the TEs as “voice” ports. Any workstation port in a classroom or office can be connected to a VoIP/PoE channel using a patch cable at the TE patch panels. Category 6 UTP cable connects these ports to a central PoE switch in the ER where a central UPS provides backup power to the PoE switch and the VoIP server. The remaining patch panel ports in the TEs are available for connection to the local area network (LAN) and WAN over fiber through a network switch located in the TE.

This hybrid approach limits one of the advantages of FTTE—increased backbone lengths. However, it allows for longer emergency power backup for the VoIP handsets than would have been possible with smaller UPS units installed in the TEs. The hybrid approach ultimately enabled the ITS to support FTTE, VoIP and PoE while honoring the school district’s request that an emergency generator not be included in the project. 


FTTE is a viable topology for educational facilities primarily because it extends the high-bandwidth portion of the network closer to the end users and reduces the building area required for the ITS. However, VoIP/PoE deployment in conjunction with FTTE requires the system designer to consider the need for, and the application of, emergency power. VoIP likely will become more common in the near future, but until building systems that now require analog voice circuits are capable of using digital connections, ITS designers also must accommodate traditional voice circuits. It is clear that ITS designers must effectively interface with other members of the building design team to ensure the successful integration of all building systems.

This school project demonstrates the potential difficulties encountered when implementing multiple ITS technologies. It also reveals how building design decisions can affect and constrain ITS options. As building design and ITS design become more tightly integrated, and as design teams better understand how one affects the other, the application of integrated technologies will become easier.

Bruce B. Turner, RCDD, PE, LEED® AP, is a principal electrical engineer at NAC Engineering. He specializes in the design of educational and health care facilities and can be reached at   

Reprinted with Permission of BICSI News Magazine 2009 –


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Breaking News from

Top-10 Products for Affordable Green Retrofits

Tristan Roberts

Many cost-effective green retrofit strategies involve expert audits or operational changes. Many opportunities are also available in key product areas. To highlight some of the best, we've combed through our GreenSpec Directory of green building products for this list of the Top-10 Products for Affordable Green Retrofits.

Product Number 1. Fluid-Applied Roofing

Fluid-applied roofing products can be applied over an existing roof to extend its life and increase reflectivity, reducing cooling loads. If you have the budget, however, you'll get even more savings by replacing the roof membrane and adding several inches of rigid-foam insulation.

Link to the full article:

Current Stories from Environmental Building News:

NAIOP Study Shows that Saving Energy Takes Know-How

Allyson Wendt

A recent study released by the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (also known as NAIOP), has become a flashpoint for debate over the cost-effectiveness of green building measures. The study has been cited in the New York Times and elsewhere as bringing into question the feasibility of basic energy-efficiency benchmarks championed in the green building community. However, critics of the study argue that it ignored many savings opportunities and underestimates the savings potential of the measures it does include.

Link to the full article:

Porous Paving

Backpage Primer from Environmental Building News

Also called pervious or permeable, porous paving allows rainwater to infiltrate into the ground. Although some porous pavement types are not new, pavements that are engineered to allow infiltration while also withstanding regular vehicle use are a more recent innovation.

Link to the full article: Launched

Here at BuildingGreen, we're thrilled to announce that formally launched on January 20, 2009 at the International Builders Show. This new residential green building website is the result of an incredible effort by Peter Yost, our director of residential programs; managing editor Dan Morrison, formerly of Fine Homebuilding; Martin Holladay, former editor of Energy Design Update; and others, and supported by our Advisors--15 of the nation's top green residential practitioners.

Combining expert advice, nearly 1,000 thoroughly vetted construction details, real-world examples of green homes, and residential GreenSpec product guidance, serves architects, builders, remodelers, and engaged homeowners.

Link to the full article:

Dates Announced for LEED 2009 Launch, LEED AP Exam

Andrea Ward

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has announced that LEED 2009 (including the new LEED Online) will launch officially on April 27, 2009. The same date will see the transition of LEED project registration and certification to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), the third party that also administers the LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) credential (see EBN Jun. 2008).

Link to the full article:

Remembering Greg Franta

Alex Wilson

Greg Franta, FAIA, 58, was a pioneer of the green building movement-and the solar energy movement before that. Greg was one of the founders of the AIA Committee on the Environment in 1990 and served as national chair in 1994. He was also active in the U.S. Green Building Council and received that organization's Leadership Award for Education in 2006.

Link to full article: presents “What's New in Green Products”

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Alex will discuss how BuildingGreen assesses products for its GreenSpec directory of green building products and review some of the more exciting new products that have come across his desk recently.

Though he has been reviewing and reporting on green building products for more than 20 years, Alex is still excited when he comes across innovative new products. This is a chance to share in that excitement.

Alex Wilson is founder and executive editor of BuildingGreen, LLC in Brattleboro, VT, co-author of the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings (9th edition, 2007) and author of Your Green Home (2006).

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Twitter, Other Digital Bling: Must-Have Tools or Will They Fade Away?

  Published on 4/15/2009 at where you always read REAL perspectives

Carlini’s Comments,’s oldest column, runs every Wednesday. Its mission is to offer the common man’s view on business and technology issues while questioning the leadership and visions of “pseudo” experts.

 CHICAGO – Do some of the social networking tools have real value or are they just a fad?

Do you have a Facebook account? Some 2 million people do. What about Twitter? Aren’t you on Ning yet? Are all these “must-have social networking tools” to conquer the pressures and opportunities of today’s society or are they just part of the current digital bling that will fade away as quickly as a Nehru jacket did in fashion?

Business networking tools like LinkedIn and Plaxo need nurturing.

Which one do you put some time into for populating a database of contacts to maintain? Are you still keeping up your resume or have you figured out that it’s a time waster? Some that were touted as a must-have tool for keeping connected in business circles have already lost their importance and their panache.

  Some universities contemplate adding new curricula to try to stay up with ever-changing society and social networking tools. While they are contemplating developing courses on this, there really is no depth in these types of tools. Some PR experts look at offering courses and/or degrees in social media equaling a master’s in “Republican”. As one source put it:

Digital bling is for the “joiners” of the world who need affiliation. It’s all about “notice me” or “I am cool, too”. Nothing is wrong with that. I’m just not one of ‘em.

Status Symbols Throughout the Decades

There have always been both real and hyped status symbols in the physical world that were the “bling of the day” throughout every decade. Some of us are leery of a must-have social networking application in the digital world. Look into your non-digital life. What did you buy in order to part of the “in crowd” at the bar, disco and/or school?

·  Members Only jacket

·  North Face jackets

·  Harley T-shirt

·  Columbia jackets

·  Abercrombie & Fitch

·  NASCAR jackets

·  Green Bay Packers jackets (in Wisconsin only)

Certain labels scream “I belong” or “I am part of the in crowd”. On the other hand, do they really just say “I’m another sheep who wants to be accepted”? Even watches have gone through a series of cool phases. Are they expensive status symbols, a true symbol of the affluent or just “look at me because I’ve got one on, too”? Which one are you wearing?

·  Rolex. Why buy one when the fakes are so good?

·  Tag Heuer, Patek Phillipe or Breitling. These all scream: “I belong.”

·  Swatch. Do you have the one that has message channels on it?

·  Movado. Some fakes were so good that you couldn’t tell the difference in a bar.

·  Invicta. Yes, you belong. As they say on TV: “This is a fashion-forward statement.”

·  No watch at all. Just a PDA.

Cars: The Ultimate Social Networking Bling

 Everyone understands the status symbol of cars. They have been around for a long time and have gone through a dramatic shift in what’s the ultimate cool.

That said, many names that defined the cool crowd are not even produced any more. Except for a small group of cars that have become rare collectibles and out of reach to mere mortals, many brands that screamed class, culture and cool are no longer made:

·  Duesenberg

·  Delahaye

·  Cord

·  Stutz Bearcat

·  Bugatti (the originals)

·  Avanti


Today, up-and-coming “affluence addicts” are worshipping the BMW 3-series while others look down their noses and comment: “Oh, it’s only a 3-series”.

Other BMW devotees believe you have to drive a 7-series to be “really up there”. Depending on what club you talk to, the “in car” is a Lexus, a BMW or a Mercedes. Still, some are crying that a Cadillac CTS-V should be up there somewhere. What about “green” cars? Please. Here is a car that screams real status with the likes of Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez driving convertibles. Everything else sort of pales next to a twin-turbo, 600-horsepower Bentley especially when you can slide it into a “Fast & Furious” four-wheel drift.

Digital Bling: Same Strategy, Different Implementation

In the non-digital world, we have used many “tools to promote someone’s status”. Let’s return to social networking tools on the Internet. There are some questions to ponder.

Is having 5,000 in your network that much better than 500 or 50? How much time do you devote to maintaining this tool? When do you have to make a full-time hire just to manage your social networking tools for you? So you just stop doing whatever you were really working on to “manage your connections”?

Throughout the years, the gimmicks change but the same strategy is being sold: “Here is the silver bullet that will cure all your problems. You must belong to the group.” Digital bling is nothing more than the virtual equivalent of flashing that “I belong” card for some group or car club.

Are you a twit? Do you send Twitter messages like “I have arrived” when your plane lands or other classics like:

·  Are you there? I am at ______ (fill in the blank).

·  What are you having for lunch?

·  I can’t decide between the hamburger and fries or a chili dog.

·  Where are you?

·  I am in my car driving.

Will we move beyond Twitter? Yes, because it’s a pretty shallow application. There will come a time in the near future when someone will comment: “You still Twitter? How lame.” Let me save some time and move the future forward. You still Twitter? How lame. 

Carlinism: All technology and revolutionary gadgets eventually timeout. Social networking tools are no different.


James Carlini will be the keynote speaker at the Service Industry Stimulus Summit from April 20 to 21, 2009 at the Hilton Milwaukee Center at 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee. Learn more and register here. See James Carlini’s latest interview on intelligent infrastructure with the Strassman Report on Etopia News.

Check out Carlini’s blog at

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at or 773-370-1888.

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Three Critical Issues Facing Many States Across the United States

Published on 5/6/2009at where you always read REAL perspectives

The three most critical issues facing Illinois today are job erosion, education and network infrastructure. These issues aren’t unique to Illinois, I observed on last week’s Comcast “Newsmakers” program on the CNN channel.

With so many people across the country focused on financial recovery, mortgage refinancing and personal and local economic recovery, the roots of the problem are common and run deep.

It’s said that now one out of five houses have been impacted in the mortgage and market value debacle. They’re under water as far as what they’re worth as compared to what their owners owe on their mortgage. It used to be one out of 10.

The financial and economic experts claiming that this mortgage issue was confined to only the subprime mortgage holders (which was only about 2 percent of the market) really missed the boat in their calculations and analysis of the total economy. Getting e-mails like this on distressed properties is a clear indication that the economy has been hit by a tsunami:

Sold on Feb. 17, 2007 for $323,300. Now $99,000. Fully furnished two-bed, two-bath condo near Disney World. Brand-new $25,000 furniture package included! Five days only! This will not last!

Exclusive amenities in condo community: 24-hour gated entry, 24-hour security, community pool and spa, clubhouse, fitness center and tennis court

What Triggered the Tsunami?

All you have to do is drive around and see all the problems. The real problems hit you in the face when you drive into an industrial area whether it’s in Chicago, Schaumburg, Racine, Milwaukee or so many other cities and suburbs. Look at the empty factories and industrial buildings.

Those all housed companies that provided jobs. Those jobs created salaries that were spent locally at the surrounding shops and restaurants. They are now closed, too. Higher-paying jobs bought out-of-state vacation houses

Now those markets are being severely hit with crashing prices. Where did the companies all go? Some companies just closed up permanently while others moved operations out of state or out of the country. Why did they move out of state?

There are several reasons, but when we focus on Illinois, the tax rates are too high. Another reason is because there are other states offering better incentives to locate a business in their state. They want those businesses to sustain their regional viability.

So, what’s the solution being thought about by some Illinois politicians?

Raise taxes? Event the three blind mice can see that this won’t work. Doesn’t that approach parallel the classic “Three Stooges” strategy of getting water out of a sinking boat by drilling more holes in its hull? Sure, it sounds good, but it just accelerates the very thing you want to stop.

If high taxes drove some companies out, increasing taxes again will drive more out and not create larger tax revenues. This is so moronic. They better get a better strategy in place. Calling Sen. Howard, Gov. Fine and Rep. Howard! Get busy.


More money is not needed for education. Reform is needed first. We keep throwing money at an anachronism and it’s not working. Public schools were created to develop a work force for the Industrial Age. The three “R”s that students learned were rote, repetition and routine.

These were the skill sets needed for assimilating into Industrial Age factory jobs. We are way beyond the Industrial Age, past the Information Age and now into the mobile Internet Age. Still, the educational strategy hasn’t changed.

The new skill sets needed are flexibility, adaptability, creativity and technology (FACT©) skills. There are the skill sets needed for today and tomorrow. What are your kids learning? If they’re not learning FACT©, they might as well be practicing “welcome to Wal-Mart” or “do you want fries with that?”

Network Infrastructure

Working on creating a world-class network infrastructure can alleviate the other two problems. The infrastructure creates a solid platform for commerce that businesses can build upon. We need to make sure all the infrastructure can support commerce and secure regional sustainability.

The increase in established businesses will build up the tax revenues. This can help develop and sustain better schools.

Did You Know Crime is Up?

What happens if no action is taken on these three issues? You don’t need someone with a doctorate to understand crime goes up when the economy goes down. More robberies occur and people react to a less secure environment. Crime is up 77 percent on the CTA.

Depending on who you talk to, many people are focusing on defending their house and property, changing paper money in hard coin currency (i.e. gold and silver) and other actions that some naïve observers would describe as survivalist.

Forget the lost-in-their-office economists who think everything distills down into a bar graph or pie chart. Their explanations are laughable at best and utterly clueless at worst. We need to address the three critical issues. Only then we will see a better turnaround in Illinois as well as the other states that are affected by these issues.

The strategic triad of state government – the governor, House of Representatives and the Senate – should not invoke a strategy from the “Three Stooges” to solve major issues.

Carlinism: Job erosion has to be stopped and reversed.


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James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at or 773-370-1888.

Copyright 2009 Jim Carlini


Stimulus Money: Do State Legislators Know How to Spend It?

 Published on 4/23/2009 at where you always read REAL perspectives

Carlini’s Comments,’s oldest column, runs every Wednesday. Its mission is to offer the common man’s view on business and technology issues while questioning the leadership and visions of “pseudo” experts.


CHICAGO – Do any state legislators really have a clue when it comes to prioritizing projects for stimulus package funding? There is a lot of money coming to every state from a federal funding stimulus package. How are they going to spend it?

There are many people coming out of the woodwork with reasons that their agency or organization needs more money. To them, they all have critical items they think must be funded with the stimulus money. Nothing else matters. It’s free money!

There are also some people who think their individual business should get a couple million dollars so they can go to the next level. Everyone should get a million or two.

Wake-Up Call

Sorry to all those who think the federal government is the “goose that just laid the golden egg” in everyone’s backyard.

There are many more requests than there are available funds. In working with my local state senator of Illinois (Mike Noland), I have observed that he’s very concerned about the distribution of the money available. I sincerely hope every legislator takes his or her job as seriously as Noland does.

The question on his mind that should be on the mind of every state legislator in every state accepting stimulus money is this: “How do we distribute this to get the most good out of this one-time ‘goose’ of the funding mechanism?” First, you have to take into consideration that it’s a one-time handout or bailout.

You can’t permanently expand a service or hire an employee based on this one-time gift. You need to spend it wisely and rise above all the noise that’s being created by the agencies, organizations and individual lobbyists who are trying to tell their legislator that they must fund this endeavor or initiative that is paramount to some agency’s survival.

What do we cut? That question seems to be on the minds of a lot of local government bodies when it comes to creating next year’s budgets. Some can’t come to grips with the realities of what they were elected for: to represent the people and be accountable to them for fiduciary responsibility.

You have to make some serious decisions about what can be left in a budget and what has to be cut. Nothing is sacred and laying off people may be the only option left. Many municipalities are facing this right now.

Creating Some Type of Prioritization Process

For every state agency, municipality and any other local government or agency that gets funded by state and local funds, they should be reviewed by some type of objective process before they just get handed a clump of money.

Requests for funding projects have to be reviewed and determined for their impact to the community and legislative district. With two different funding mechanisms that must be utilized for maximum benefit (the stimulus package and the state’s capital funding program), a structured approach is needed and should be adopted by every legislative office.

First, a project should be defined as beneficial using the ICARE© model:

1.       Individual organization or group

2.       Community (municipality)

3.       Area (several municipalities)

4.       Region (the full legislative district)

5.       Everyone in the state

Once that initial benefit analysis is established, a secondary list can be applied to prioritize each project and rank them within that level of ICARE:

1.       Critical

2.       Necessary

3.       Optimal

The three-level ranking approach below provides a second sorting refinement to prioritize projects and afford a realistic gauge about what should be best for individual organizations, communities, areas (multiple communities) and regions (full legislative district).

1.       Critical is defined as public safety, public health, infrastructure and providing critical services that should not be cut.

2.       Necessary is defined as providing necessary services.

3.       Optimal is defined as new programs, benefits or expansion of services.

This provides a structured approach to analyzing where limited funding can best be applied and utilized for the greater good of the district and the state. There needs to be long-term investments that create a broad residual value as the primary intent rather than short-term expenses that benefit only a narrow group.

In these financial times, just keeping the same level of funding for every agency may be considered a great accomplishment. No one should expect an automatic increase in funding.

You’ll hopefully share this with your state representative or state senator as I’m sure they would be eager to look for objective ways to sort through potential projects. Not every legislator is named Jimmy Dean. Not everyone has a primary focus on pork projects for the stimulus package.

As Sen. Noland stated: “In this era of transparency, I believe everyone will be asking how we came to these conclusions.”

Carlinism: When there is no objective yardstick to measure and prioritize project funding, it always becomes a perception of pork.


See James Carlini’s latest interview on Comcast’s “Newsmakers” program five minutes before the hour on CNN all next week starting on April 25, 2009 regarding the critical issues facing Illinois.


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James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at or 773-370-1888.

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Copyright 2009 Jim Carlini



Taming The Energy Beast

Data Centres consume more and more power: With rising densities and increased hardware capabilities, cooling has become a critical element in power saving strategies.

By Andrew Brooks

Data centre power and cooling costs are accelerating at a rapid rate. Having been dwarfed by new server spend for years, since 2000 they began to grab an ever increasing share of data centre spend, to the point that last year the money devoted to power and cooling actually exceeded new server spending for the first time. That trend is not likely to change anytime soon.

Today, the peak cooling demand of an enterprise data centre covering 6,100 square kilometres is similar to that of a 61,000-square-kilometres commercial office building. Total annual energy consumption is comparable to that of a 122,000-square-kilometre commercial office building.

Gartner Group warns energy expenditure will emerge as the second-highest operating cost (behind labour) in 70% of data centre facilities worldwide.

"If they are not fully aware of the problem, data centre managers run the risk of doubling their energy costs between 2005 and 2011," Gartner analyst Rakesh Kumar wrote in a research note released before the 27th annual Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas last December.

Kumar went on to warn that on the assumption that data centre energy costs will continue to double every five years, "they will have increased 1,600% between 2005 and 2025." According to Gartner, a conventional data centre devotes 35% to as much as 50% of total electrical energy consumption to cooling, compared to 15% in a best-practice "green" data centre.

At a broad level, the transition from an industrial to digital and now to a services-based economy has heightened the importance of secure and available power.

It is no longer a question of preserving investments in expensive industrial hardware: the digital economy ended up transforming critical business data into electronic form, and electronic data is fundamentally dependent on the supply of power.

With power consumption levels on the increase, IT managers need to plan ahead to ensure they can always get the power they need, and that means using it as efficiently as possible.

"Data centre energy usage has grown two to three times in the last three years," said Joe Oreskovic, regional sales manager for Eaton Power Quality Company. in Toronto, Ont., in a presentation at the recent 2009 BICSI Winter Conference in Orlando, Fla. "Most traditional data centres constructed three to 10 years ago were engineered to accommodate three to five kilowatts per rack, but the new technologies can pack in IT equipment with a power and heat load as high as 30 kilowatts per rack."

Other factors Oreskovic addressed:

• High-density blade servers and rack mounted storage arrays are being touted as the saviours of today's space-hungry data centre manager;

• Virtualization of IT applications can increase server utilization from an average of 15% to over 80%;

• Virtualization of disc storage can allow much higher utilization of the attached storage, therefore reducing the number of discs required;

• Data centre consolidation can reduce operations costs, freeing up capital for the acquisition of more hardware, extending power requirements.

"There is a massive movement toward consolidation and virtualization, which brings its own challenges in terms of energy footprint," says Sreeram Krishnamachari, worldwide director of Green Networking Initiatives for HP. Data centre managers are not in a position to acquire extra space, especially in today's economy, he says, but at the same time computational capacity requirements continue to rise.

The result: increased density of networking hardware, servers, storage, cabling and heavier power consumption per square kilometre.

Resiliency used to be the number one objective in designing data centres, says Bernard Oegema, Data Centre Consultant with IBM Canada Ltd. "Today, efficiency is becoming the prime consideration, or at least equal with resiliency, thanks to the high density of equipment."

Oegema says that 20 to 40 kW per rack is more common in enterprise data centres, a figure that goes as high as 85 kW per rack in the supercomputing installations IBM has worked on.

As a result of the amount of heat produced at power densities like these, more efficient responses like liquid cooling, once considered 'exotic,' are becoming more common. IBM Canada's recent deployment of a modular data centre for golf and corporate clothing provider Ash City Worldwide Inc. in Richmond Hill, Ont. provides a case in point.

IBM installed 'close-coupled in-row' liquid cooling, where the cooling is placed as close as possible to the heat source, although not actually in contact as is often the case with mainframes and supercomputers.

"We ran the cabling on top of the racks, since there is no raised floor," Oegema says. "Often when a raised floor is used for cooling, putting the cabling under the floor damps the air flow, reducing the effectiveness of cooling, and making it less efficient. Bad airflow management can increase cost probably as much as 15-20%t, Oegema says. What is more, the racks can overheat, the air conditioning has to work harder, and the lifetime of the equipment is reduced.

Unfortunately, the need for more cabling goes hand-in-hand with the evolving data centre. "More and more servers can be stacked in the cabinets, therefore, more network ports need to be installed to connect the servers," says Benoit Chevarie, product line manager for Belden. "With sometimes up to 100 connections per server cabinet, it's very important that the patch panels and patch cords be very dense and that the EDA sub-system be very well organized and maintained to avoid interference with the server cooling system. Inefficiency in the cooling system will have a direct impact on the power consumption in the data centre."

According to Tarun Bhasin, server market analyst at IDC Canada in Toronto, the proliferation of multicore and blade servers is playing a huge role in elevating the importance -- and the financial draw -- of power and cooling.

Virtualization is now a widespread phenomenon, saving costs by reducing server count, enabling consolidation of data centres, increasing availability of critical systems and applications while making disaster recovery easier and faster.

At the same time, virtualization also increases server utilization rates which intensifies power consumption, not by nearly enough to offset the savings it brings in other areas, but enough to ensure that power usage and cooling efficiency have to be taken into account when planning the layout of a new data centre or upgrading/redesigning an existing one.

"We see the energy costs of powering and cooling the equipment continue to increase quickly, and it becomes very critical to increase the airflow in the data centre," says Charles Newcomb, product manager at Panduit Corp. in Tinley Park, Ill. "Typically you will want a hot aisle/cold aisle layout, but you also need to control where the hot air is going and how it is handled."

A hot aisle/cold aisle layout can cut equipment cooling costs by as much as 40%. One way of then controlling airflow as Newcomb suggests is to set up a contained system that directs the heated air back to the computer room air conditioner (CRAC) unit.

A side-to-side airflow layout is optimal for switches and routers because it allows for the greatest port density: switches designed around front-to-back airflow can't be deployed in the same densities because added spacing is required to let the cool air in at the bottom of the switch, upward through the switch and then out the back.

As power and cooling systems manufacturer APC states in its white paper, Cooling Options for Rack Equipment with Side-to- Side Airflow: "This presents a problem with today's trend of converged data/voice/ video networks. In the past, telephone systems were located separately in small secure rooms, but with the advent of convergence, data, voice and video equipment are being collocated using standardized rack enclosures." Another trend driving convergence is Storage Area Networks (SAN) where storage equipment is being utilized with switching devices such as routers. As these trends gain momentum, IT managers find it necessary to combine side-to-side airflow equipment with the traditional front-to-back airflow equipment.

To achieve maximum port density, side-to- side airflow cooling is employed by many switch and router manufacturers. Panduit provides ducting with their cabinets that manages the airflow for the switch based on a hot aisle/cold aisle layout.

Products include a new ducting system that optimizes airflow for top-of-rack switches, which are used in server cabinets where the heat is exceptionally high. The duct will draw air from the cold aisle and keep the switch in the desired temperature range. Installing blanking panels will prevent air from flowing through unused racks, which sometimes allows heated air to mix with cooler air before it reaches the equipment, reducing the efficiency of cooling.

Outside the box

Although servers and storage are the prime heat generators in the data centre, networking equipment and cabling can have a greater influence on power use than is generally recognized. Chevarie echoes Oegema's warning about the effects of lots of cabling under a raised floor, adding that network performance can be degraded by transmission impairment in the cables or by having too many connections in close proximity.

Chevarie believes that an optimized cabling infrastructure can have a more subtle, but highly positive impact on data centre efficiency. He offers some considerations to help optimize the design:

Current and future requirements: the cabling infrastructure will survive two or three generations of equipment.

Planned network growth: a fast growing network will likely take advantage of a modular cabling infrastructure design where switches are distributed in every row of cabinets (end-of-row).

Frequency of moves, adds and changes: a data centre that sees a lot of movement in server cabinets will benefit from the implementation of Zone Distribution Areas (ZDA), which keeps the network connections outside the server cabinets.

Cooling type: a data centre using in-row cooling will likely use 100% of the mounting rails for servers in order to optimize the return on their investment.

Cost per square foot: if it is high, managers will want to use high-density connectivity systems to save space. In these cases, wall cross-connects would be a good option.

Network cabling can have an indirect impact on data centre power consumption by offering additional bandwidth to enable server virtualization and consolidation. Power distribution and thermal management solutions of the kind that Belden and other vendors manufacture can play a more direct role in reducing power consumption when power distribution is augmented with remote monitoring capabilities, while heat containment solutions can improve the efficiency of cooling.

It is also important to note that data centres will never be served by a single vendor, Krishnamachari says. "The networking equipment will come from one vendor, the servers from another, and so on. So it's important that all entities can talk to each other in meaningful way -- if they can do this, you can share information around metrics like utilization rates. This enables you to make sure that power is not over-provisioned. For example, a security camera that needs 8 watts to operate doesn't get any more than that."

Krishnamachari says that broad industry standards are essential to enable this kind of interoperability. One example he cites is the Link Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), a vendor-neutral Layer 2 protocol that allows a network device to publish its identity and capabilities to the local network.

LLDP-Media Endpoint Discovery (LLDP-MED) is an LLDP enhancement that, among other things, allows for extended and automated power management of Power over Ethernet end points. "LLDPMED lets us adjust the power usage of an endpoint device to very granular increments, such as 0.1 watt," Krishnamachari says.

"The drive for power efficiency is having a huge impact on data centres today, and it is shaping what data centres will look like in future," says IDC's Bhasin. "Considering that the average lifespan of a data centre is 15 to 20 years, planners and managers will have to factor 'green' principles into what they do now. Data centres now are running out of power before they run out of space." CNS

Andrew Brooks is a Toronto-based freelance technology writer. He can be reached at

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –


A Terminal Rebuild

Quebec City's Jean Lesage International Airport has been transported from the '1960s' to the wireless age thanks to an ambitious technological overhaul.

By Paul Barker

Pascal Belanger, the president and chief operating officer of Quebec City's Jean Lesage International Airport, knew there would be no room to penny-pinch when the board he reports to gave him the go-ahead to rip out the facility's existing infrastructure and, literally, start all over again.

The multi-million dollar project included the installation of 10 Gigabit copper and fiber cable from Superior Essex, Hubbell Premise Wiring faceplates, patch cords and patch panels and sophisticated wireless and networking equipment from Cisco Systems Canada Co. throughout the airport in order to implement what Belanger describes as a "passenger first" strategy. The goal was to ensure mobile collaboration between users, devices, critical applications and airport systems.

HP Canada served as the project's systems integrator.

"It was not a cheap proposition, but then, we were not looking for the cheapest, we were looking for the best," says Belanger. "The chairman of the board and I decided that we were tired of being in the 1960s. We also knew that to that end, technology will be a key component for future development in airports."

Put simply, the facility, which accommodates more than one million passengers annually and handles upwards of 400 flights a week, needed a robust back end system in order to fully support a common use infrastructure.

"When we were starting to look at the rebuild of the terminal facility, we felt the IT component should be considered heavily," Belanger says. "The first point that came to mind was to have a common use type facility where we would have total flexibility from a check in and gate perspective.

"That is when we began to look more actively at who could support such an infrastructure and who could deploy it quickly. We also looked at other airports around the world to see who had what and listen to success stories and horror stories."

One such horror story, which Belanger describes as an "ugly" situation, unfolded when Terminal 5 opened at London's Heathrow Airport in late March 2008. The first 30 days were a fiasco, and resulted in over 500 flights being delayed and upwards of 28,000 bags that failed to travel with their owners. The problems were later blamed on the terminal's IT systems and insufficient staff training.

While nowhere near the size of the massive terminal 5, this scenario was something that Belanger and others wanted to avoid in Quebec City.

"We were very aware of the Terminal 5 fiascos and also of other airports that have had significant failures in their backbone systems in the past for whatever reason. We wanted to keep the problem away because passengers would have suffered if this had failed."

The deployment chosen included a new network infrastructure, unified communications offering and 802.11n wireless mobility network from Cisco Systems Canada Co., and the installation of all new structured cabling throughout the facility.

According to Marc Andre Bedard, IT manager at the airport, it is one of the first sites in Canada to contain both 10-Gigabit Ethernet fiber and copper cable. "We had to put the latest cable available in order to fulfill our needs for 10, 15 or 20 years," he says. "The whole idea is to have a backbone that can handle any application we can think of that will accelerate the passenger flow."

The deployment was completed in less than a year.

Wireless hardware installed includes Cisco's Aironet 1250 Series Access Points, the first to be 802.11.n draft 2.0 certified.

According to Cisco, 802.11n technology delivers up to nine times the throughput of current 802.11a/b/g networks. In addition, "data rates of up to 600 Mbps support more users, devices, and mission-critical, bandwidth- intensive applications."

"Using an IP-enabled wireless network with 801.11n performance allows airport staff to access applications anywhere in the airport faster than older wireless networks," Belanger points out. "Runways, for instance, can be prepared faster, reducing the need for airlines to circle around the airport."

In addition, new self-service kiosks are connected the wireless network and can be moved to areas in the airport when and where they are needed.

"We are establishing the next generation airport infrastructure, which this clearly would be evidence of," says Geoff Kereluik, vice president of commercial sales with HP Canada "The whole premise behind it is to make airports far more efficient in terms of how they operate. In addition, do far more with as little space as possible.

"There is only so much bricks and mortar. Through digital signage and various other wireless technologies we have deployed here, airline representatives can show up on a moment's notice and project the image that it is their ticket stand."

He adds that the relationship between the various vendors and airport staff was such that should an issue arise, it would be quickly solved.

Luc Deschenes, Cisco's vice president of commercial sales for Eastern Canada, points out that now the infrastructure is in place, it will be relatively simple to add different applications.

For example, the airport authority is considering utilizing its 802.11n network for location tracking and monitoring of trucks, snowplows and other equipment. According to a joint release from Cisco and HP issued earlier this year, vehicles can use the wireless network to communicate the amounts of de-icing materials dropped on runaways and time spent on each area.

Plans are also under way to install a baggage- tracking system using radio frequency identification in order to track every piece traveling into and out of the terminal. CNS


The Mainframe: A Platform For Energy Efficiency

For comparable levels of computation, mainframe systems take up dramatically less space and are proving to be extremely efficient in cooling and power consumption.

By Elisabeth Stahl

My eight passenger car may not initially seem very energy efficient, but I can consolidate and carry many passengers.

I can virtualize by successfully and securely transporting the old, the young, male and female, dogs, telescopes and sports equipment, all in the same vehicle. And suddenly I have a very energy efficient solution.

Energy efficiency for data centres has become a crucial area of focus as the price of energy increases and systems grow beyond the capacity of current facilities to supply their power and cooling needs.

Using energy management strategies including virtualization and consolidation, the mainframe, in some ways like my car, is an outstanding platform for power efficiency. This article will discuss the dynamic infrastructure and energy efficiency of large systems, highlight energy management, and conclude with recommendations for the future.

The Dynamic Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency of Large Systems: The world works in very sophisticated ways these days. Every person, business, organization, government, natural system and man-made system interacts.

Each interaction presents us with an opportunity to do something better, more efficiently and more productively.

Interconnected technologies are changing the way the world works: the way my car, for example, was designed and developed, manufactured, bought and sold; the way services are delivered; the way people, money, water and everything else on this planet is moved. The catalyst for this change is the transformation of the world's infrastructure, which is becoming increasingly instrumented, interconnected and intelligent.

A dynamic infrastructure will bring more intelligence, automation, integration, and efficiencies to the digital and physical worlds.

It will enable businesses and governments to better manage challenges presented by today's globally integrated planet.

There are three critical requirements for this new infrastructure: the ability to integrate all of an organization's digital and physical infrastructures, the capacity to store, manage and analyze massive amounts of data, and the means to reduce inefficiencies in business processes, technology and costs.

This dynamic infrastructure must encompass service management, asset management, virtualization and consolidation, information infrastructure, energy efficiency, security, and business resiliency.

Data centre costs including energy have risen eight times what they were since 1996; average distributed server utilization is just 6-15%. So for a data centre, smarter can involve server consolidation, space savings, and energy efficiency. Smarter can be a lower total cost of ownership. Smarter can be a mainframe.

The mainframe is designed to increase data centre efficiency by significantly improving performance and reducing power, cooling costs, and floor space requirements.

A large system can offer unmatched levels of security and automates the management of IT resources to respond to changing business requirements. A mainframe delivers, in a single footprint, unprecedented performance and capacity growth while drawing upon the rich heritage of previous generations.

A mainframe meets the needs of large enterprises having large scale, mission critical transaction and data processing requirements while also delivering the scalability and granularity to meet the needs of medium sized enterprises.

For comparable levels of computation, mainframe systems take up dramatically less space and are proving to be extremely efficient in cooling and power consumption.

Many enterprise and business class systems even have a hybrid cooling system that is designed to lower power consumption.

Energy management strategies, including server consolidation and virtualization, are also a key component to the efficiency of a large system. The mainframe can be an integral part of this strategy by leveraging strengths such as:

• The ability to host hundreds of workloads on a single server.

• Providing advanced management and automation techniques.

• Offering highly secure and robust technologies.

Virtualization is a key strength of a large system. Virtualization can be supported through both hardware and software. Virtualization creates the appearance of multiple concurrent servers by sharing the existing hardware.

Its major goal is to fully utilize resources, lowering the total amount of resources needed and their cost.

Distributed servers often have low utilization levels, which makes them a prime target for consolidation on a larger server using virtualization and workload management. The mainframe runs more application environments on fewer processors and has sustained high utilization levels without reducing throughput and response times.

Consolidating low utilization servers on a large system or mainframe will help reduce power and facility costs.

Energy Management on the Mainframe: Several tools are available to monitor the power consumption and heat dissipation of a mainframe. An estimation tool, an external power meter, management console, and specialized energy efficiency software can assist in measurement and monitoring of systems.

To assist in energy planning, a power estimation tool can estimate server energy requirements before a new server purchase. A user inputs the machine model, memory, and I/O configuration and the tool will output an estimate of the system total heat load and utility input power.

For planning and performance purposes, an external power meter can be very useful in measuring and monitoring a large system.

Actual power consumption of the system can also be seen on a management console. A "mainframe gas gauge," which my car also happens to have, can provide power and thermal information. Current total power consumption in watts and BTU/hour as well as the air input temperature are useful metrics.

Advanced software tools can help IT managers control and automate large numbers of physical and virtual servers across a full range of hardware.

Through a single interface, users can map virtual resources to physical servers; throttle energy consumption up or down as needed; and collect data on hardware temperatures and data centre energy use.

This type of software can automatically monitor remote hardware operations and take proper action based on alerts.

Software tools can provide a single view of actual power usage across multiple platforms and increases energy efficiency by controlling power use across the data centre. They can provide visibility to and enable energy savings and cost reductions. This type of tool can enable organizations to:

• Increase energy efficiency by monitoring power use across the data centre

• Negotiate the best utility rates based on accurate trend assessments

• Limit server power requirements by capping maximum power consumption

• Manager power use and potentially reduce power costs

• More effectively plan new data centre construction or modifications

• Plan power capacity requirements based on actual usage

• Justify incremental hardware purchases based on available power capacity

• Better utilize existing resources

The Future of Energy Efficiency on the Mainframe: The mainframe provides sustained leadership in energy conservation and management by continuing to deliver power-management and cooling technologies. With these technologies, systems use less power, generate less heat and use less energy to cool the system.

For the future, we should expect to see even more efficient server design. We should see increased server energy efficiency techniques available such as power capping and specialized power napping of system components. Performance benchmarks will incorporate even more sophisticated energy efficiency metrics.

And we will see an extension to energy efficiency tools on the server which will bring automation to the management and reporting of energy consumption to non-IT assets -- an office building air conditioning system, for example, or streetlights in a city.

With this new type of software, organizations will be able to generate reports to help them track and visualize energy dynamics.

They can then take appropriate action while extrapolating how changes will yield different business outcomes using sophisticated "what if" calculations.

Through innovative technologies, energy management strategies such as consolidation and virtualization, and energy management tools and techniques, it is apparent that the mainframe is a truly outstanding platform for energy efficiency and will continue to be so in the future. Just maybe, like my car.

Elisabeth Stahl is the Chief Technical Strategist for the IBM Systems and Technology Group and has been working in systems performance for over 25 years. CNS

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –


Standard Importance

Simply put, QoS is negatively impacted when network cabling is not manufactured AND installed properly.

By Richard Smith


A standard is defined in BICSI's Information Transport Systems Installation Methods Manual as "a guideline documentation that reflects agreements on products, practices or operations by nationally or internationally recognized industrial, professional, trade associations, or governmental bodies."

Standards are often generalized as 'performance-focused' documents concerning how well something works as opposed to its electrical safety, which is defined in codes and enforced by law.

Standards-based installations fall into the realm of 'buyer beware' because only the buyer can demand that the infrastructure meets their expectations. This is usually confirmed by test results. Everyone involved in information transport systems (ITS) projects should be knowledgeable about standards that impact the infrastructure for which they have responsibility.

In the ITS industry, there are numerous sources of copyrighted standards documents available that focus on physical in-building infrastructure. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is one of the more commonly referenced entities producing ITS infrastructure standards. BICSI is an ANSI-accredited standards-making body and is producing standards in association with ANSI, some of which will be released during 2009, such as:

ANSI/BICSI-001 K-12: Information Transport Systems Design for K-12 Educational Institutions

ANSI/BICSI-002: Data Centre Design Standard and Recommended Practices

ANSI/NECA/BICSI-607: Telecommunications Bonding and Grounding Planning and Installation Methods for Commercial Buildings

Performance is often quantified in terms of Quality of Service (QoS), numerically expressed in percentage, i. e., it will work 99.9% of the time (usually based over a year).

A recent Bell Labs study reported that 87% of downtime is due to power issues lasting no more than ½ a second. Digital controls are everywhere today and so is the ITS infrastructure that supports them.

Power quality or lack thereof can shut down critical digital components, which is usually easy to identify because of the immediate or sudden reaction of ITS equipment.

Consider also that transmission of properly working power creates magnetic force fields around the electrical wires that carry electricity to powered equipment.

Many people do not realize that, by nature, AC and DC currents on electrical conductors and within powered equipment such as transformers, dimmer switches and motors of all types create magnetic fields. AC and DC also have distinctly different magnetic field and strength characteristics with the potential to disturb data transmissions.

What is important is to understand that data carried through magnetic fields are subject to transmission errors. IP services and IT data devices of all types, even when carried on high quality balanced twisted pair cables within buildings, are prone to Electromagnetic Interference (EMI). Simply put, bits (of data)/ second being carried on copper cables can be negatively impacted by magnetic fields. The type and quality of the low voltage IT conductor, the spacing between conductors and even the types of insulation and the air gap between insulation of individual conductors impacts transmission quality. Simply put: QoS is negatively impacted when network cabling is not manufactured AND installed properly.

Standards are the sources of information for everyone in elements of manufacturing, designing, installing and maintaining quality IT networks so that they meet the expectations of the end user.

Does the company working on your IT services or IP networks have and understand today's ITS standards?

One standard that focuses on power-related issues is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE) ANSI-recognized IEEE 1100-2005: IEEE Recommended Practice for Powering and Grounding Electronic Equipment.

The ANSI/IEEE 1100-2005 speaks to electrical issues of all types, but there is a section on telecommunications that covers "powering and grounding telecommunications, information technology and distributed computing systems."

Topics contained are outside plant exposure, ground potential rise and other traditional powering subjects. However, it also contains sections of finer detail such as Electromagnetic Influences (EMI) onto data lines, which corrupt data packets.

Specifically noted is: corruption of an address bit, or part of a computer command can cause "hanging" with in a computer system or storage array. Have you ever had your computer simply not respond to a command? EMI field strengths are a very important factor in today's world of IT and IP. AC magnetic fields as low as five milligauss can cause distortion on video display terminals. Guidance to the type of meters needed to identify and isolate sources of EMI, which negatively impact data transmission, are also referenced by IEEE.

Standards are an integral element of quality training for those in the IT industry today. BICSI's focus on ITS education includes training and testing students on many important topics, including standards. For further information go to CNS

Reprinted with Permission of CNS Magazine 2009 –

Communication News

To my friends and associates in the technology industry – I’m leaving. But I’m just moving next door. And I hope you will join me.

For 45 years, Communications News has been providing useful information about enterprise data and voice networks to professionals responsible for those networks. The magazine - initially focused on organizations’ voice networks - witnessed and reported on the beginnings of the computer age, the birth and growth of the Web, the furor over Y2K, to today’s converging voice and data networks – a history of coverage unmatched in the field.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that Communications News is being merged with our sister publication, Health Management Technology (HMT), to provide the same hands-on, useful information to today’s hottest vertical market.

HMT has been covering the healthcare market for 30 years and, like Communications News, is focused primarily on case study editorial – real peer-to-peer useful information for senior executives in hospitals, healthcare organizations, integrated delivery networks, managed care organizations and health plans, and physician practices and IPAs. HMT’s readers are CEOs, CIOs, CFOs, CMOs, CTOs, IT directors and managers, and other decision makers working in information technology in healthcare settings.

I have been named the publisher/editorial director of Health Management Technology, in charge of the editorial, business and sales efforts of this well-known publication. I plan to continue the popular PR E-view newsletter outreach to marketing and PR professionals each month, so if your company sells into the healthcare market or you represent such a company, please contact me. I’m busy now revamping HMT to include many of the same type articles as have been featured in ComNews.

Vince Catena and Christine Noddin are joining me on HMT, and we will be working with Editor-in-Chief Michael McBride and Associate Editor Kristoffer Stewart, as well as the HMT sales staff. Associate Editor Denise DiRamio has been promoted to managing editor of another of our sister publications.

Communications News will continue to publish its monthly Spotlight product/white paper lead-generation e-newsletter that is sent to about 68,000 subscribers. Please contact Vince Catena regarding that marketing opportunity.

Ken Anderberg, Publisher/Editorial Director, Health Management Technology

To reach other members of the now re-assigned Communications News team:

Denise DiRamio, Associate Editor

Christine Noddin, Administrative Assistant

Vince Catena, Sales Manager


Electrical Contractor Magazine

Awards Won in Recent Years by Electrical Contractor Magazine


* 2009 Snap Excel Award, Silver, Magazines—General Excellence for Best Writing, Graphic Design and Overall Packaging, Circulation of 50,000 to 100,000


* 2009 Snap Excel Award, Gold, Media Kit—Judged on Organization, Clarity and Graphic Design

* 2009 Snap Excel Award, Silver, Magazines—Redesign, Security + Life Safety Systems

2008 Awards


* 2008 Tabbies Award, Silver, Front Cover Illustration, Electrical Contractor, April 2007

* 2008 Snap Excel Awards, Magazine Cover Photo Illustration, Electrical Contractor, January 2008

* 2008 Snap Excel Awards, Magazines—Redesign, Circulation More Than 50,000 Electrical Contractor


* 2008 Folio “Eddie” Award, Silver, B-to-B, Energy/Utilities/Engineering, Full Issue, Electrical Contractor, March 2008

2007 Awards


* 2007 Apex Awards for Publication Excellence Magazine Design and Layout, Electrical Contractor, March 2007

* 2007 Apex Awards for Publication Excellence Magazine Cover, Electrical Contractor, January 2006


* 2007 Folio “Eddie” Award, Silver, B-to-B, Energy/Utilities/Engineering, Full Issue, Electrical Contractor, March 2007

* 2007 Folio “Eddie” Award, Bronze, B-to-B, Energy/Utilities/Engineering, Best Article or Series of Articles, “Successful Succession Planning” Series, Electrical Contractor

Previous Awards

* 2005 Snap Excel Award, Gold, Magazine Cover Photo Illustration, Electrical Contractor, April 2004

* 2002 Folio “Ozzie” Award, Silver, B-to-B, Circulation over 35,000, Best Redesign


A look inside the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the Economic

by john paul quinn

Stimulus Package Recharging the Industry or electrical contractors, the most interesting aspect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 (the stimulus bill) is that, out of the $789 billion in available funding allocations, roughly 20 percent—or $150 billion—is earmarked for the kinds of work many contractors have been doing for years.

The bill calls for spending $81 billion on cranking up the infrastructure, which involves power and lighting work on highway, rail and bridge construction and renovation, as well as wireless connections and water treatment; an additional $50 billion for renewable or energy-
efficiency projects, including photovoltaic, solar thermal and wind installations; and $13 billion for housing renovation and repair. The main thrusts of the administration’s stimulus program are revitalizing the 
construction industry, rethinking how to power the national grid, and doing it green wherever possible.

Also, the price tags on individual line items are impressive, even by Beltway appropriations standards.

There are provisions to spend $11 billion to modernize the nation’s power grid, and industry sources estimate electrical contractors stand to earn the lion’s share of this amount—perhaps as much as $7 billion.

Another $7 billion is included for renovation and repairs to federal buildings throughout the country. While this is essentially construction bid money, as much as 20 percent of it would involve electrical work.

Getting part of the pie

For contractors hoping to take advantage of the significant opportunities this legislation offers, understanding the mechanics of the funding and bidding process is the essential first step.

 “Nearly 60 percent of the stimulus funds will go to the states, where state agencies will decide how they will be allocated,” said Terry Hatch, director of legislative affairs for the National Electrical Contractors Association. “On the federal level, there are a number of projects already in the pipeline. Most of the funds expended on the federal level during the first nine months of the stimulus are likely to go toward projects already approved by federal agencies, but have yet to be funded. In the coming weeks, various federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy, Education, Transportation, Labor and the Interior, will establish guidelines for the ensuing stream of ARRA funds that will be made available through competitive grants and contract bidding. The projects likely to receive the greatest amount of stimulus dollars include high-speed rail, energy-efficient construction, green building retrofitting and broadband expansion.”

Hatch said many of the projects are intended to pump money into the states and involve the kind of work that electrical contractors are experienced in and qualified to do. Since most infrastructure projects will be handled by state or municipal governments, contractors should make a point of staying current on any proposed local public construction projects.

“Even if an electrical contractor doesn’t directly bid on a given project contract through a federal agency or the relevant state agency that holds the stimulus funds, they will be able to bid for a subcontracting portion of the contract with general contractors,” Hatch said.

Be ready to move fast

One of the key principles driving ARRA is time. By definition, stimulus involves urgency, so contractors interested in participating in any of these projects have to be ready to move fast.

Electrical contractor Cogburn Bros. Electric in Jacksonville, Fla., has focused primarily over the years on water and wastewater treatment plant work, and the firm’s president, Larry Cogburn, has been tracking the stimulus bill, especially the $2.5 billion allocated for water and waste-disposal projects.

“We hope to see more of these projects being funded out of the stimulus money,” Cogburn said. “Normally, the engineering and design on these jobs can take up to a year or more, so if the intent is to get people working as soon as possible, there won’t be the time to go through the usual design/bid process. I would think most cities and states will be looking at the design/build method of construction on any stimulus project in order to get going fast, so workers can be hired.”

Just how fast this process is likely to work is reflected in an experience Cogburn had in early March.

“We were bidding on a project involving a municipal water treatment plant,” Cogburn said. “One of the questions put to the bidders was: ‘If [the city in question] should obtain stimulus money for this project, can you have construction underway within 120 days from notice to proceed? Can you have the project at substantial completion within 24 months from notice to proceed? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes,’ how will you do it?’

“The stimulus issue is on everybody’s mind, and if a city or state gets stimulus money for a project, they are going to make sure that whomever they select is going to get on-site and start working immediately because they won’t offer it to anybody who can’t get moving right away,” Cogburn said.

Follow the spending chain

Electrical contractors would be well-advised to acquaint themselves with exactly what kinds of work ARRA covers, said Mel Buttrum, CEO of Service Electric Co., Snohomish, Wash.

“It would pay for a contractor to get a hold of the summary of the stimulus bill to see what the government is going to spend money on,” he said. “For example, there’s a grant program allocating $7 billion in loan guarantees for renewable-energy projects, including wind, solar and fuel cell technologies, all of which are opportunities for electrical contractors. There are incentives to provide 30 percent credit for the purchase of residential photovoltaic [PV] systems and solar hot water units.

“In addition, there are tax credits for energy-efficient renovation work on existing residential units. This is an obvious chance for a contractor to go in and redo the lighting, provide some load calculations and work on load-shedding. And anybody who’s already into PV and solar hot water can benefit immediately from the stimulus bill,” he said.

Buttrum said virtually all federal work is publicly bid, so contractors should find out what’s available in their state and follow the money down the spending chain to the local level.

“In my case, I have a one-page listing of projects that will be funded in Washington state by the stimulus bill,” he said. “They range from HVAC [heating, ventilating and air conditioning] and electrical upgrades for $17.5 million, central plant electrical upgrades at major institutions for $12 million, lighting retrofits for the Seattle Municipal Tower for $3.5 million, and various energy-efficient projects involving city-owned facilities for $3.4 million. This is federal money that is going to be bid out by the states. And they will be publicly advertised, so contractors should be aware of these projects and then bid them.”

Depending on the nature of the job, the electrical contractor’s role will vary, Buttrum said. On a solar power project, the electrical contractor might be the prime contractor, but in HVAC work or central plant upgrades, the electrical contractor would probably interact with a general contractor. But the key point is to know what kinds of jobs are out there and then to network with trades with which you have been involved before in order to participate in the projects.

Internals and externals

Whether working as prime or sub, the electrical contractor has to have the internal qualifications and the track record on-site as well as the external contacts for the type of job the stimulus bill provisions call for.

“My sense of the stimulus bill is that you have to be prequalified to be involved,” said John Bosma, president of Boz Electrical Contractors Inc., Vernon, N.J. “You would most likely have to be a known quantity in public sector work, which is what our firm has been focusing on primarily for the past three years. We’ve been reaching out to architects and cultivating relationships with general contractors who do public projects, because this is a highly competitive market.”

The firm has done work as both a prime and sub for the School Development Authority of New Jersey, New Jersey Transit, various municipality building maintenance and new construction projects, and domestic water and sewage pumping installations.

“The buzzword in the stimulus bill is anything green,” Bosma said, “and there will definitely be niche opportunities in areas like wind, solar and other energy-efficient systems. Just tread cautiously into any markets that aren’t your normal meat and potatoes. It’s a good idea to align with other companies that do work in these fields and have an established customer base. By speaking with people at a mechanical or a solar farm outfit, you can make connections beforehand and have common ground with them as general contractors and with their end-user customers.”

While this kind of relationship is critical, so is the internal structure of any contractor firm looking for stimulus work, in Bosma’s opinion. The entities with funding to spend are looking not only for quick turnaround on-site, but proven efficiencies within the home-office operations.

“To qualify for the stimulus-related work available, you have to position yourself internally to handle these projects,” he said. “Spend time on your credit situation and have the back-office procedures and controls in order. Be ready to engage in pre-project-planning communications with other players on the project to identify ahead of time any surprises. Be able to prove your abilities in tracking manpower and materials handling skills on a project. Speed and efficiency are crucial in getting this kind of work, so be able to demonstrate accurate estimating, purchasing and project management capabilities.”       

QUINN reports on a broad range of business and industry issues for journals in the United States and Europe. He can be reached by phone at 203.323.9850 and by e-mail at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009



“The stimulus issue is on everybody’s mind, and if a city or state gets stimulus money for a project, they are going to make sure that whomever they select is going to get on-site and start working immediately because they won’t offer it to anybody who can’t get moving right away.”

            — Larry Cogburn, Cogburn Bros. Electric


> Focus recharging the industry

The buzzword in the 
stimulus bill is anything green, 
and there will definitely be 
niche opportunities in areas like wind, solar and other energy-efficient systems.”

— John Bosma, Boz Electrical Contractors Inc.


Sparking a Recovery

by mark e. battersby

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, including nearly $300 billion in potential tax savings. This massive bill provides immediate relief to both individuals and businesses with most of the tax incentives retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009. Most of the $280 billion in tax relief is concentrated within the next two years.

Electrical contractors (ECs) will see the effect of the recovery act in many aspects of their businesses. It will help ease the out-of-pocket cost for new equipment. Two new groups have been added to those whose first-year wages are partially underwritten thanks to the work-opportunity tax credit. Business--related tax breaks include tax-deferred debt forgiveness income. There is a five-year carryback of net-operating losses (NOLs) that may return taxes paid in earlier years to the coffers of many ECs.

While there may be benefits from the boost to the economy for which this bill was designed, there is little question that every electrical contractor and electrical contracting business can share in more than $75 billion in tax benefits for 2009 and 2010.

Cash infusions from losses

The NOL carryback provision provides the greatest potential savings of all the business tax provisions in the new stimulus package. Under current law, NOLs are carried back to the two taxable years before the year the loss arises. NOLs also may be carried forward to each of the succeeding 20 taxable years after the year of loss.

The recovery act gives ECs and other businesses the choice to carry NOLs from the 2008 tax year back three, four or five years—generating a refund of taxes paid in those earlier years. Obviously, the extended NOL carryback provision has the potential to provide an immediate cash infusion to many troubled businesses.

Faster, larger write-offs with a bonus

To help small businesses quickly recover the cost of newly acquired equipment and other capital expenses, ECs may choose to write off the cost of these expenditures, in lieu of recovering those costs over time through depreciation. The new recovery act extends the small business expensing, aka Section 179, write-off, increased temporarily as part of last fall’s Emergency Economic Stabilitzation Act. For 2009, an electrical contractor can write off up to $250,000 of the cost of newly acquired equipment. The $800,000 ceiling, beyond which the deduction is reduced, is carried over for 2009.

Of course, bonus depreciation was introduced as a temporary measure to stimulate the economy following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was enhanced in 2003 and extended several times. Businesses can recover the cost of capital expenditures over time according to a depreciation schedule. Last year, lawmakers allowed businesses to recover the costs of capital expenditures made in 2008 faster than the ordinary depreciation schedule would allow by permitting these businesses to immediately write off 50 percent of the cost of depreciable property, such as equipment, wind turbines, solar panels and computers acquired in 2008.

The new rules extend for another year the 50 percent bonus depreciation allowed for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer. Unlike Code Section 179 (expensing that is available for new or used property), bonus depreciation is available only for new property or equipment.

Higher caps on vehicle write-offs

Also extended for bonus depreciation purposes is the regular dollar cap placed on vehicles. The cap for new vehicles placed in service in 2009 is, once again, raised by $8,000. This increase mirrors the temporary 2008 cap increase resulting in a $10,960 depreciation cap for autos ($11,160 for light trucks and vans) for 2009.

Remember, however, as with any accelerated depreciation write-off, a large current depreciation deduction will result in smaller future deductions. Two situations in which a taxpayer might consider making an election-out (opt-out) are when the electrical contracting business has about-to-expire NOLs or anticipates being in a higher tax bracket in future years.

Discounted wage payments for some new workers

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) rewards employers that hire members of “targeted groups,” such welfare recipients, disabled people, etc. Under current law, businesses can claim a WOTC equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to employees from one of nine targeted groups. The recovery act extends the WOTC to include two new groups: unemployed veterans and disconnected youth (someone between the ages of 16–24, lacking basic skills and who is not in school).

Generally, the WOTC is a percentage of first year wages up to $6,000 per employee ($12,000 for qualified veterans and $3,000 for qualified summer youth employees). The percentage of qualifying wages is 40 percent of first year wages, for a maximum credit of $2,400 per employee.

Qualified small business stock

Ordinary deduction treatment is available to individual investors on the sale of stock or the bankruptcy of a company. Under the old rules, an individual investor could exclude 50 percent of any gain realized upon the sale or exchange of “qualified small business stock” held for more than five years. That means an incorporated EC could create a unique type/class of stock, called Section 1244 stock, using as an incentive the fact that only part of the eventual gain would be taxed to the investor.

The recovery act makes small business stock more attractive by increasing the amount of gain from the sale of small business stock held for five years or more that may be excluded from 50 percent to 75 percent for stock issued after the date of enactment of this legislation and before 2011.

Temporary small business estimated tax payment relief

This is not exactly a financing incentive, but it will allow small businesses to keep more money in their pockets. The recovery act decreases estimated tax payments for individuals whose incomes primarily come from a small business in 2009. Rather than being required to make quarterly estimated tax payments based on 100 percent of their 2008 returns, the new law allows computations based on 90 percent.

The “Making Work Pay” tax credit included in the recovery act increases the take-home pay of workers and requires employers to use new payroll tax withholding tables. Self-employed electrical contractors, who are not subject to wage withholding, can receive the credit in advance by reducing the amount of their estimated tax payments. Remember that it is easy to overshoot the mark and become liable for underpaying estimated tax penalties.

Cancelled debt equals income now deferred

When debt is forgiven, taxable income usually results unless the electrical contracting operation or business is insolvent or in bankruptcy. The new law allows some businesses to choose to recognize taxable income resulting from the cancellation of indebtedness over a five-year period beginning in 2014. Although all the debt discharge income eventually will be recognized, the taxpayer benefits from the deferral of tax to later years.

Some ECs would be allowed to recognize so-called “cancelation of debt income” (CODI) over 10 years (defer tax on CODI for the first four or five years and recognize this income ratably over the following five taxable years) for specified types of business debt repurchased by the business after Dec. 31, 2008, and before Jan. 1, 2011.

The built-in gains of S corporations

The stimulus bill temporarily shortens the holding period from 10 to seven years for assets subject to the built-in gains tax imposed after a regular C corporation elects to become an S corporation. This reduction applies to regular corporations that convert to S corporation in tax years beginning in 2009 and 2010.

The built-in gains tax prevents an incorporated electrical contracting business from avoiding corporate level tax on the disposition of appreciated assets it acquired while a regular corporation by first converting to S status. However, it also discourages S conversions in situations in which the business may not otherwise survive under regular corporation rules. The new law will give shareholders more flexibility during the current economic crisis.

Energized investment credits

Under the tax rules, businesses can claim a 30 percent energy tax credit for expenditures made to enable the business to use alternative energy sources. The tax credit applies for the cost of energy property that includes fuel cell property, solar property and geothermal heat pump property.

Last fall’s bailout bill made wind energy property eligible for the tax credit. This is property that uses a qualifying small wind turbine (with a nameplate capacity of not more than 100 kilowatts) to generate electricity. The recovery act eliminates the former $4,000 cap on the tax credit for qualified small wind energy property.

Something for us, as well

The recovery act includes an alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch for 2009. The patch was designed to insulate approximately 26 million middle-income taxpayers from the reach of the AMT. The AMT patch will save taxpayers approximately $70 billion.

The 2009 AMT patch raises exemption amounts slightly above the 2008 patch levels. The 2009 AMT exemption amounts are $70,950 for joint filers and surviving spouses (up from $69,950 in 2008), and $46,700 for singles and heads of households (up from $46,200).

While the overall size of the new law is massive, a number of provisions have either been pared back or eliminated during the course of the political debate that raged. For the owner or manager of any electrical contracting business, professional advice is almost a necessity to ensure the operation will profit from the new recovery act.     

BATTERSBY is a freelance writer based in Ardmore, Pa. For more than 25 years, his tax and financial features have appeared in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR and other leading trade publications.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Keep the Lines Open Communication is key to building an integration team

Focusby john paul quinn

Years ago, when Casey Stengel became manager of the New York Mets, he said in amazement, “For these guys, every fly ball is a new adventure.” He might as well have been talking about building an integration team because every project of this kind requires a unique skill set and a custom cast of characters on the job. There is no such thing as a standard lineup for an integrated building systems team.

The electrical team might be headed by a traditional but diversified electrical contractor firm that does all of the electrical/-electronic work on the project. Or, the prime electrical contractor may choose to assemble a crew of electrical subcontractors for specific aspects of the job. Whatever the makeup of the team, the key to getting the job done is ensuring everybody knows what has to be done and when, from the first review of shop drawings through every phase of the project.

Talking ahead of time

“Communications ahead of time is the name of the game,” said Kevin Flanigan, telecommunications project manager at Miller Electric Co., Jacksonville, Fla.

The company works on both traditional electrical and low-voltage systems, but depending on the requirements of the project, it may bring in subcontractors for fire alarm, paging and intercom systems. In that case, Miller Electric’s personnel coordinates and directs the tasks of the subcontractors the company has hired.

“Getting a buy-in from these subs on their commitment to the overall schedule and determining where they can be flexible is essential,” Flanigan said. “Also, they have to understand how they can share network space in the backbone cabling system because telecommunications, security and lighting can run through the same tray. So if you are the prime electrical contractor on the job, you have to coordinate all of your subs’ efforts so that nobody asks late in the game where his pathway is or why a sleeve wasn’t installed.”

Lead contacts with electrical subs and other trades involved have to be developed early, and working relationships have to be established to avoid problems if or when late changes from the owner or consulting engineer hit the heating, ventilating and air conditioning technicians.

It’s the responsibility of the prime electrical contractor to ensure the altered documentation is disseminated to the appropriate subcontactors, so everyone in the chain understands how the changes affect the scheduling and his or her part in the project. From a practical logistics standpoint, even in the best-case scenario when communications are set up early and maintained throughout the project, it’s wise to limit the number of subs in order to streamline the chain of command.

“If you’ve been working closely together with your subs from early in the process, much of the uncertainty and confusion is mitigated,” Flanigan said. “If everybody knows who to talk to in the eleventh hour, any problems that arise can be more readily rectified.”

Do more, sub less?

Making the call on whether to bring in subs can be problematic for the prime electrical contractor.

“The electrical contractor today has to diversify into integrated building systems,” said Mark Huston, president of Lone Star Electric in Fort Worth, Texas. “What we did was to designate one man to head up this kind of work and to bid on it. He then has to decide whether the nature and scope of the job requires electrical subs. We do most of the work ourselves but would subcontract fire alarm and other life-safety matters that require special licensing. In those cases, we have to maintain close communications at all times with the people we are working with.”

With the accelerating evolution of the electrical installation business, Huston urges small to medium-sized contractors to think about investing in educating their own people on at least some of the disciplines they are currently subcontracting to other firms. Outsourcing may have immediate cost-benefit advantages for the smaller contractor, but over the long term, it could become a debilitating tactic if same-size competitors are adding skill sets to their in-house capabilities. While industry statistics indicate that diversification into low-voltage and other niche disciplines is typically done by larger firms, that may be changing.

“As technologies develop and change, it’s becoming more critical to educate ourselves so that we do more and sub less,” Huston said. “Naturally, we have to stay with our traditional electrical power distribution work and lighting, plugs and switches, but we’re going to have to become more involved with photo sensors, dimming switches and everything that’s energy efficient.”

The company team

Even if the team is completely internal in makeup and no subs from other electrical contractor companies are involved, the critical functions of coordination and communications have to be performed throughout the process. Much of this responsibility rests with the prime electrical contractor. Zwicker Electric Co. Inc. in New York typically does all of the electrical work on a job without subs.

“We have a sequence for our company team to follow once the job comes out of estimating and is awarded to us,” said David Pinter, president of the firm. “You have to understand that the first chance for the possibility of a foul-up on any job is the transfer point from estimate to actual project. You need a day-long formal session involving estimators and operations, including office and field personnel, because there has to be internal interaction from the start.”

In most cases, Zwicker Electric handles the wiring layout for the project and leaves points for the building management systems people to tie into for the regulation of air conditioning, installation of dampers, security systems and night lighting for energy efficiency.

“All this requires a high level of coordination,” Pinter said. “You have to look closely at the shop drawings and also at whatever documentation the BMS group has put together to make sure that everything that will be required has been put into the electrical specifications section of the contract.”

Zwicker Electric produces its own customized set of computer--aided design documentation, so everything for which the firm is responsible is available for review by anyone on the job who may need to access such information.

“Ongoing communications involving the owner, general contractor, consulting engineer and all the trades are the only solution to resolving issues before they impact scheduling,” Pinter said. “Constantly updating each other on the progress of everyone’s individual responsibility is the best way to keep everyone focused on the fact that the objective is to build an affordable project that meets both specifications and expectations and is finished on time.”

Backup resource

Any electrical contractor who takes on the formidable task of putting together and directing a team of integrators, or even managing its own internal team on a complex IBS project, can use all the help it can get. One resource sometimes overlooked is the vendor group supplying the major products to be used on the job.

“Choosing vendors who offer end-to-end solutions minimizes the risk that products won’t interface well,” said Tom Turner, business development manager at Panduit Corp., Tinley Park, Ill. “The lead electrical contractor should choose suppliers who not only have the right products but who also have experience with the type of project in question. The right vendors will ask questions about each sub’s scope of work and, by doing that, will facilitate communications and help ensure that nothing is overlooked as the flow of work passes from one sub to another.”

Turner also said electrical subs seeking to participate in such an integrated endeavor should keep in mind that their profitability and reputation will be on the line. So they should do their homework and ensure they will be working with a quality team of integrators, contractors and product suppliers who are willing and able to act as trusted advisers on the job.

Since communications are of such vital importance in this kind of integrated project work, Turner said that if any member of the team senses that the information exchange is less than it should be, he or she should raise the issue and improve the situation. He said it is everyone’s responsibility to prevent lack of communications from developing into problems that can affect the job schedule and the ultimate success of the project.

QUINN reports on a broad range of business and industry issues for journals in the United States and Europe. He can be reached at 203.323.9850 and

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Getting Your Ducts in a Row; Cables, other wiring methods in plenums

BY mark c. ode

For the past few National Electrical Code (NEC) cycles, there has been a concentrated movement by parts of the construction industry to permit fire alarm cables, burglar alarm cables, communications cables and signaling system cables to be installed in a fabricated duct or plenum used for environmental air. Is this an acceptable use of this duct or plenum? What wiring methods are currently permitted to be installed in these ducts or plenums in the NEC? These questions and their answers may help keep the installer from erroneously installing a system that must be removed based on a violation notice from an inspector or a call back notice from a customer due to “unknown noise” whenever the air conditioning system operates.

The answers to these and related questions actually start in Article 100 of the NEC with the definition of “plenum,” since there isn’t a definition of a “duct.” A plenum is defined as “compartment or chamber to which one or more air ducts are connected and that forms part of the air distribution system.” Not very clear is it? This is the same definition located in 3.3.22 of NFPA 90A document, the Standard for the Installation of Air--Conditioning and Ventilating Systems, the origin of the definition.

NFPA 90A further defines plenum as “air-handling unit room plenums,” “apparatus casing plenums,” “ceiling cavity plenums,” and “raised floor plenums.” Then there is an annex entry that further explains plenum in A.3.3.22 of NFPA 90A, covering supply, return, exhaust, outside, and mixed air plenum. NFPA 90A defines “duct” or “air duct” as “a conduit or passageway for conveying air to or from heating, cooling, air conditioning, or ventilating equipment but not including a plenum.” Easy? Not exactly.

Determining the wiring methods permitted in these areas would be difficult at best, if not for the NEC. The NEC adequately covers all of the aformentioned areas in Section 300.22. Section 300.22(A) covers ducts specifically fabricated for transporting dust, loose stock or flammable vapors, and no wiring of any type is permitted in these ducts. In addition, no wiring shall be used in a duct used for vapor removal or ventilation from commercial cooking hoods, other than luminaires permitted by 410.10(C) within the hood itself.

Section 300.22(B) covers ducts that are specifically fabricated to transport environmental air. Within these specifically fabricated ducts, electrical equipment and devices are only permitted to be installed if necessary for the direct action on, or sensing of, the contained air within the duct.

Only the following wiring methods are permitted to be used to make the connection to the electrical equipment and devices within the fabricated duct: Type MI cable, Type MC cable with a smooth or corrugated metal sheath (not the interlocking type MC cable) without a nonmetallic covering on the cable, electrical metallic tubing, flexible metallic tubing, intermediate metal conduit, or rigid metal conduit without nonmetallic jacket on the conduit. Flexible metal conduit can be installed only for lengths not exceeding 4 feet and then only to connect to physically adjustable equipment and devices. Section 300.22(C) covers all “other spaces used for environmental air” and provides the installation requirements for wiring methods and electrical equipment permitted in these spaces. To make it simple, if it is specifically fabricated as a duct for use in air movement for environmental air, refer to 300.22(B). For any other space used for environmental air, refer to 300.22(C).

Section 725.154(A), covering plenum rated Class 2, Class 3, and power limited tray cable (PLTC) in ducts, and Sections 760.3(B), 760.53(B)(1) and 760.154(A), covering plenum-rated non-power-limited and plenum-rated power-limited fire alarm cable, only permit these plenum-rated cables to be installed in accordance with the requirements in Section 300.22. Sections 800.154(A), covering plenum-rated communications cables; 820.154(A), covering plenum-rated CATV (coaxial) cables; and 830.151(A), covering plenum-rated medium--powered broadband communications cables, and 830.154(A), covering plenum-rated low-powered broadband communications cables, also require compliance with 300.22. Effectively, plenum--rated cables may be installed only in a specifically fabricated duct using the wiring methods provided in 300.22(B).

To answer the question raised in the first paragraph of this article, fabricated ducts never should have open plenum cables, or unlimited lengths of any wiring methods, installed within the duct, since air movement can cause noise, and over a period of time, the constant movement may damage the outer cable jacket, thereby affecting the operation of the system. A fabricated duct used for environmental air should never be used as a conduit for cabling systems.          

ODE is a staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 and at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Going up ... in Flames

BY wayne d. moore

Integrating building systems with fire alarm systems

When integrating building systems with fire alarm systems, we normally consider the more obvious list of building systems: heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC); lighting; fire protection (sprinkler, restaurant hood suppression, etc.); security; access control; other low-voltage; and elevators.

NFPA 72-2007 labels some of these integrated systems “fire safety functions” and defines them as “building and fire control functions that are intended to increase the level of life safety for occupants or to control the spread of the harmful effects of fire.” Some of the more typical fire safety functions include elevator recall, elevator power shut down, door release, door unlocking, HVAC shutdown and smoke damper control. Other systems that are not directly related to fire safety functions simply may be monitored or integrated to operate with or through the fire alarm system.

Fire safety functions are normally performed automatically but are not allowed to interfere with the fire alarm system operation, power for lighting or power for elevators. A fire safety function control device is “the fire alarm system component that directly interfaces with the control system that controls the fire safety function.”

Contractors are aware that any listed appliance or relay connected to the fire alarm system used to initiate control of protected premises’ fire safety functions must be located within 3 feet of the controlled circuit or appliance. They also know the installation wiring between the fire alarm control unit and the relay or other appliance must be monitored for integrity. This requirement can be avoided if the fire safety function is wired in a fail-safe fashion. For example, if the fan that is to be shut down when the fire alarm system smoke detector actuates will automatically shut down if the installation wiring is cut, the system is wired in a fail-safe mode, and the installation wiring does not have to be monitored for integrity.

Elevator recall for firefighters’ service  is a common fire safety function that often  challenges contractors. Typically, smoke detectors are used to initiate elevator recall, and unless otherwise required by the authority having jurisdiction, only the elevator lobby, elevator hoistway and the elevator machine room smoke detectors, or other automatic fire detection as permitted by the code, will be used to recall elevators for firefighters’ service.

There are multiple ways of providing elevator recall, so the contractor should be aware of the requirements of each method. The code requires that each elevator lobby, elevator hoistway and elevator machine room smoke detector be capable of initiating elevator recall when all other devices on the same initiating device circuit have been manually or automatically placed in the alarm condition. This issue only arises when two-wire smoke detectors are used in initiating device circuits. With this type of circuit and detector, any short on the circuit will prevent the operation of the elevator recall function.

Another little-known requirement is that smoke detectors must not be installed in unsprinklered elevator hoistways unless they are installed to activate the elevator hoistway smoke relief equipment. This requirement in NFPA 72-2007 is to prevent false alarms from occurring from a detector that rarely receives service, and since NFPA 13 does not require new elevator shafts to be protected by a sprinkler, contractors should almost never be required to install a smoke detector in the hoistway.

Also, the contractor is allowed to program smoke detectors mounted in the air ducts of HVAC systems to initiate either an alarm signal at the protected premises or a supervisory signal at a constantly attended location or supervising station.

In many building security situations, door-unlocking devices will be employed. The code requires that any device or system intended to actuate the locking or unlocking of exits be connected to the fire alarm system serving the protected premises. All exit door locks connected in this fashion must unlock upon receipt of any fire alarm signal by means of the fire alarm system serving the protected premises.

Integrating building systems with fire alarm systems can be challenging, so it is important to know what is expected of the integrated operation and how to properly install these systems. Obtain “Building Automation Control Devices and Applications,” the recently published book by the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Industry and American Technical Publishers Inc. It will provide a foundation for you to understand the common applications of control devices and the integration of multiple building systems into sophisticated building automation systems.

Owners of new buildings will continue to look for savings in both the use and operation of building systems. Some of these savings will be from the integration of the various systems to provide more efficient operation. If you become knowledgeable in the use and installation of these systems, your business will grow with the market.     

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Where There’s Smoke, There’s Danger

BY edward brown

Air-duct smoke detectors

Air-duct smoke detectors are not the same as open-area room detectors. Area detectors’ main function is to sense smoke as a sign of fire. Duct detectors are designed to trigger a fire alarm and also to reduce the circulation of smoke through heating, ventilating and air conditioning ducts (HVAC). Why is this so important? Smoke and toxic fume inhalation is the leading cause of death and injury and can affect people much faster than the heat of the fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can’t make it to an otherwise accessible exit. The synthetic materials commonplace in today’s homes produce especially dangerous substances. As a fire grows inside a building, it often will consume most of the available oxygen, slowing the burning process. This ‘incomplete combustion’ results in the release of toxic gases.”

Smoke’s components—particles, vapors, toxic gases—each can be lethal in their own way, according to the NFPA. The very systems that circulate the air will circulate poisonous substances in a fire, even a slowly smoldering one. Sensing that smoke is traveling through the HVAC ductwork and quickly reacting to it can save lives.

“It is imperative to control the spread of smoke in any structure,” said Steve Hein, general manager, Global Fire and Life Safety Systems, GE Security, Bradenton, Fla.

Controlling the spread of smoke

To control the spread of smoke, Hein said, a building needs a system engineered to integrate with its air circulation system. In response to smoke, the HVAC system must be shut down immediately, and appropriate dampers, pressurization and exhaust equipment must confine the smoke to the fire’s immediate area. If possible, the system should pump smoke to the outside.

“When there is a fire alarm, the fire alarm control unit takes over almost all of the building systems,” Hein said.

This procedure is advocated in NFPA Standard 90A, Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilating Systems, and has been backed up by testing performed by the Fire Detection Institute in conjunction with the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering and the National Research Council Canada, as detailed in the collective report, “Investigation of the Application of Duct Smoke Detectors in Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Systems.”

A System Sensor, St. Charles, Ill., application note, “Duct Application Smoke Detectors,” makes a similar point: “National and local safety standards and codes recognize the ability of air duct systems to transfer smoke, toxic gases, and flame from area to area.”

It goes on to say that, in a typical single zone system, the dampers close and the fans shut down. But that is not the only approach; another possibility is to shut down just the supply fans, while keeping the fans that provide exhaust to the outside air running.

As Hein pointed out, the primary purpose of a smoke control system is to safely evacuate all of the building’s occupants. Smoke and toxic fumes often prevent people who are in no immediate danger of being burned from safely exiting. The Air Products and Controls, Pontiac, Mich., slide presentation, “Duct Smoke Detector Training, General Course: Codes and Standards,” by David L. Hall, points out, “You have less than 60 seconds to escape a smoke filled environment before inflicting potentially serious damage to your health.” It goes on to describe the hazards of a smoke-filled area: “Reduced egress speed due to sensory (eye, lung) irritation, heat or radiation injury (beyond that from the flames themselves); reduced motor capability, and visual obscuration; choice of a longer egress path due to decreased mental acuity and visual obscuration; and chronic health effects in firefighters and occupants.”

The best way to use smoke detection to save lives requires careful system design. For example, if smoke is detected on the fifth floor of a high-rise, the approach might be to seal off the air supply to the fourth and sixth floors, evacuate all three, send all elevators to the main floor for firefighter use, and selectively release electrically held door locks that could prevent access to stairwells to initially keep occupants of the other floors away from the stairs in order to minimize crowding and confusion.

To accomplish this “smoke control,” the fire system would automatically open exhaust fan dampers on the fifth floor and start the evacuation fans. On the floors above and below, the smoke floor (floors four and six), the fire system would start pressurization fans to “sandwich” the smoke and contain it to the fire floor. Additionally, the stairways (used to evacuate occupants) would start their exhaust fans to ensure the fire rated exits are free from smoke.

Duct smoke detectors are a vital part of a fire management system. The system must be designed to detect fire as soon as possible; to control the spread of flames, smoke and toxic gases; to minimize injury and loss of life; and to help occupants evacuate as quickly and safely as possible.        

BROWN is an electrical engineer, technical writer and editor. He serves as managing editor for Security + Life Safety Systems magazine. For many years, he designed high-power electronics systems for industry, research laboratories and government. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Installations On the Fly

by wayne d. moore

Contractors must adapt during renovations and upgrades in existing healthcare facilities

Whether a healthcare occupancy is a full-service hospital, assisted living facility or nursing home, codes and common sense require that the fire alarm system be reliable and operational 24/7 all year long. Contractors are aware that installing a fire alarm system in any healthcare facility during initial construction is relatively straightforward, but requires care and knowledge of the applicable codes. However, when a fire alarm system is replaced in an existing facility, a whole new array of challenges present themselves.

When approaching a fire alarm system replacement in a healthcare facility, the wise contractor will first learn as much as he or she can of the existing system’s operation to determine what will be needed for the replacement system. This information also will help determine what critical interfaces exist to ensure nothing is disconnected in error that will affect the facility’s operation. Of course, if the new system is a result of an expansion of the facility, additional information must be gathered to ensure a complete understanding of the facilities’ fire alarm system needs.

In general, healthcare facilities must meet the requirements of the Life Safety Code, NFPA 101-2008. The Life Safety Code has specific requirements and allowances regarding fire alarm systems that are not found in the building codes, so it is important that you understand these differences. Some of the differences include requirements, such as those found in Section, which state, “Manual fire alarm boxes in patient sleeping areas shall not be required at exits if located at all nurses’ control stations or other continuously attended staff location […] .” This allowance can only be used if the manual fire alarm boxes are visible and continuously accessible and the 200-foot travel distance requirements are not exceeded. NFPA 72 establishes a travel distance limit to ensure that an occupant will not have to search for a manual fire alarm box and also will be able to reach the box in a timely manner. Travel distance is used to accommodate the actual path necessary to get to a manual fire alarm box. This requirement becomes especially important when corridors to an exit (where a box also is required) are long.

The Life Safety Code also has requirements that alter NFPA 72 requirements. One such change is that fixed extinguishing systems protecting commercial cooking equipment in kitchens that are protected by a complete automatic sprinkler system are not required to initiate the fire alarm system.

The code also allows modifications to occupant notification through the use of a positive alarm sequence that allows staff to investigate the alarm before sounding the notification appliances. This type of signaling is allowed only in healthcare occupancies protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system installed in accordance with NFPA 13.

Before the new fire alarm system is designed and purchased, you must determine the existing system’s integration with the building management system and any security systems. The existing fire alarm system may interface with the facility’s building automation system and may affect things such as temperature and airflow. If there are existing or new security systems that monitor patient movements or are installed to prevent the kidnapping of babies, these systems will undoubtedly have an interface with the new fire alarm system and must be in working order at all times during the new system installation.

Preplanning the new fire alarm system installation is extremely important. Obviously, the existing system must remain online and in complete working order while the new system is being installed. If the owner’s intent is to bring portions of the new fire alarm system online prior to totally removing the existing system, additional care needs to be taken. This includes verifying the operation of the various interfaced systems as well as ensuring both the new and existing systems work in concert with each other.

Impairments to the existing system may need to occur during the installation of the new system. When this happens, you are responsible for developing an impairment plan. NFPA 72-2007 specifically addresses the issue of fire alarm system impairments in Section 4.6 and defines impairments as encompassing “a broad range of circumstances wherein a fire alarm system or portion thereof is taken out of service for a variety of reasons. Fire alarm systems are routinely impaired in order to perform hot work (e.g., open flame operations) in areas with automatic detection, construction, painting, etc., as well as to conduct normal fire alarm system maintenance and testing. Impairments can be limited to specific initiating devices and/or functions (e.g., disconnecting the supervising station connection during system testing), or they can involve taking entire systems or portions of systems out of service. This section is intended to help building owners control impairments of the fire alarm system(s) in their building(s) and to ensure that systems are restored to full operation and/or returned to service afterward.” Based on this understanding of impairments, you must ensure through installation preplanning that no other fire protection system will be impaired while you are working on the existing system or any interfaces to the new fire alarm system.

Preparing an impairment plan before working on the fire alarm system requires the development of mitigating measures. As NFPA 72-2007 states, “The need for mitigating measures is typically determined on a case-by-case basis.” With healthcare occupancies, one must consider the nature and duration of the impairment during the active work being conducted during the impairment. It is equally important to monitor the condition of other fire protection systems that are interfaced with the fire alarm system during the impairment.

NFPA 72-2007 also requires that the system owner or designated representative be notified when a fire alarm system or any part of it is impaired. When a zone or system is not working or is out of service due to work being performed, that event is considered an impairment. As with any new system installation in an existing building, the local fire department should be made aware of your installation and your impairment plan and be included in the plan’s development.

Finally, you must manage the new fire alarm system installation with the needs of the patients and hospital staff in mind. Your installation cannot disrupt ongoing medical procedures or patient care.

For example, you should know that the Life Safety Code allows visible alarm-indicating appliances in lieu of audible signals in critical care areas. As the code states, “It is the intent of this provision to permit a visible fire alarm signal instead of an audible signal to reduce interference between the fire alarm and medical equipment monitoring alarms.”

Additional preplanning must include avoiding all possible disruptions to healthcare services to the patients. This includes avoiding the inadvertent and unannounced sounding of alarm signals; the release of magnetically held doors; the inadvertent release of fixed extinguishing systems protecting commercial cooking equipment in kitchens; or the shutdown of important heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.

Testing the new fire alarm system poses additional significant challenges. Specifically, the notification appliance testing must be accomplished with as little disruption as possible to the patients and staff members. In order to meet this challenge, discussions with the owner, staff and the fire department are imperative. You may be allowed to test individual circuits at different times to avoid disruption to staff member and patient activities or there may be a more creative way to test the notification appliances that would be acceptable to the fire officials. In any case, you cannot conduct the testing or commissioning of the system without planning and discussions with those who will be affected by your work. As I have stated many times in previous columns, all interfaced fire protection systems and fire safety functions (such as elevator recall and door unlocking) must be tested. These types of tests must be coordinated with the owner to avoid both legal and safety issues from developing.

Installing a new fire alarm system in an existing healthcare facility may not be an easy task, but with careful planning and clear procedures in place, you can easily meet the challenges. 

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Making Sense of Access Control Protecting safety and assets

The need to control access into and out of buildings is fundamental to maintaining effective security. Not only is this important from the perspective of asset protection, but also for the safety of those who live, work at and visit these locations.

The immediate objective of an access control system is to deny entry to unauthorized individuals. Included in this mission is the need to allow authorized individuals to enter at will without creating a traffic jam at key portals.

An effective access control system creates an audit trail of authorized actions and events as they occur. User data should include time and date of each entry as well as exit data when egress readers are employed on the inside of the building. The audit trail feature enables building management and/or security personnel to quickly determine culpability when a crime has taken place. This data is especially valuable to law enforcement when there’s no sign of breaking and entering.

Stand-alone vs. multiple-portal

There are two basic kinds of electronic access control systems on the market:  stand-alone and multiple-portal. A portal is any opening that we seek to control. Examples include a common door and an overhead door.

A stand-alone system offers the advantage of economy while incurring the limitations associated with single-door operation. Because this type of system operates on a local level, there are no cables to install between the portal and a central control system or a host computer.

A facility equipped with a stand-alone access control system today might require the integrated, centralized approach later. The latter requires the use of network technology, often forming a proprietary local area network (LAN) that often runs parallel to the one already installed for office use.

One way to accommodate the possibility of expansion later is to buy dual-use stand-alone units now. Cost still is often a motivating factor in the use of dual-purpose or convertible access control equipment at the door, but when the network approach is needed, the same reader/controllers will communicate with a centralized host.

There are advantages to using the network approach right out of the gate. A fully functional multiple-portal system has the added benefit of scalability. This type of system allows security technicians to build what is required today while allowing for expansion later. These systems can accommodate hundreds of doors.

The greatest incentive associated with networking access control is programming time. In a stand-alone environment, management often will use a portable programmer that enables them to enter the operating criteria, but in this case they are forced to do it door-by-door.

In an integrated network environment, the same programming effort can be accomplished in a fraction of the time with the press of a single key on a centralized PC. Here, the data is entered just once, and the network carries it to each door reader/controller unit simultaneously.

Another benefit of a fully networked system is that a detailed audit trail of all events can be stored and uploaded to the central host. In this case, access to the data can be achieved at a single work terminal where it can be saved and printed. Stand-alone reader/controllers require someone to carry a hand-held printer door to door, printing activity data on a small roll of thermal paper.

Determining identity

Personal identity can be determined at the portal using one or more of several technologies. In brief, these include the following:


Card readers

Biometric readers

Probably the oldest method of establishing identity is through the use of a keypad. Users are issued a unique personal identification number (PIN). They  enter the PIN as they walk into a building, and the data is analyzed either inside the keypad or at the host. When authorization is granted, the system transmits the go-ahead, and the access controller automatically unlocks the door.

A card reader, on the other hand, is a device that “reads” a unique ID number contained within or on a card or keyfob. A keyfob uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to store and transmit data to a reader. The access card, which also contains user data, is inserted or swiped through a card reader positioned at one or more doors.

Biometric access readers also are designed to establish a user’s identity using unique ID criteria. In this case, instead of a PIN or unique ID number within a card, a unique physical or behavioral trait that belongs to the user is employed. This biological information can be in the form of a finger, hand, voice or eye print. An example of a common behavioral trait is one’s signature.

Access control strategies are complicated, but these projects are a perfect fit for a qualified installer.

Colombo is a 35-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Keeping Security Work Clean

by claire swedberg

Hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare facilities are transitioning to digital. This renovation is necessary to maintain and upgrade data, surveillance and security, often with convergence of all low-voltage systems on one cable infrastructure. According to a January 2009 article in the Washington Business Journal, software systems and IT services for healthcare are continuing to rise, even though overall technology acquisition was down in 2008. That trend is expected to continue.

To balance technology upgrades with patient comfort, hospitals employ contractors and installers who understand the technology and can install it without disruption. Those knowledgeable in both low-voltage wiring and the healthcare environment are a small group and heavily in demand.

Most expansion and retrofits happen in active hospitals. Patients are there 24 hours a day, maybe even on the other side of the wall where electricians are drilling. Since there is no down time, healthcare facilities require that their own staff members and contractors can work together to ensure the work is done without compromising health, comfort or safety.

Union Memorial Hospital near Baltimore employs a construction supervisor to oversee the upgrades, maintenance and expansion work at the 154-year-old hospital’s complex of buildings, totaling 1.2 million square feet with 300 beds. Before any new project, the construction supervisor sits down with a team of infection control personnel and the contractors who will be doing the work.

“We need to be very sensitive to patients’ needs in that area,” said Neil McDonald, Union Memorial operations vice president.

For some areas of the facility, work can be done outside clinical hours, limiting the disruption, which takes coordination with vendors, he said. But much of the work needs to be done in the hospital, and before that work begins, an infection control plan—including erecting plastic partitions or temporary walls to control dust—is needed, McDonald said.

For that reason, McDonald said he would be reluctant to work with a vendor without healthcare experience.

Southwestern (SW) Electrical Co. Inc., Wichita, Kan., has been doing low-voltage work in hospital settings for a dozen or more years.

“Hospitals are constantly upgrading,” said Dick Drake, SW Electric vice president. He added that contractors are present at many hospitals on a daily basis.

“It’s not hard for us anymore; the most important thing is to take into consideration the needs of patients who go there,” Drake said.

The company typically receives a request for the installation of new cable drops (usually Cat 6 or 5e or fiber) for data connections; these require very fast turnaround—typically 72 hours to get the work done.

“We may get 20 to 30 work orders like it a week,” he said.

Many hospitals have multiple campuses, so there may be several crews working at the same time.

The work can mean data or surveillance installations, but the low-voltage demands are expanding. For example, biomedical equipment often needs to be upgraded or installed with higher capabilities and integration, which require wiring equipment back to a server, Drake said.

Hospitals usually strategize their construction upgrades, bringing in low-voltage contractors when they renovate or expand a floor or wing.

When opportunities allow contractors to work without disrupting operations, the heavy work gets done. Instead of adding connections to bring new low-voltage functions to a server, for example, it is easier to replace old cable with fiber or another low-voltage cable.

“What drives their security needs is often the geographic location. We want to ensure our patients feel they are coming to a safe environment,” said Union Memorial’s McDonald.

The hospital had been using time-lapse VCRs but has now allocated $500,000 for a new surveillance system with intentions of spending another $300,000 over the next two years. Union Memorial is switching the 125 cameras from analog to digital. While the older cameras work, replacing parts for analog systems is getting harder, McDonald said, and the new technology is intriguing. He liked the idea of intelligent cameras that detect unusual behavior, then tilt, pan, zoom and send an alert to a remote location.

“We’re seeing, throughout the city, everyone is moving toward digital technology. There’s so much more capability with the newer stuff,” he said.

McDonald is facing the same dilemma as many other healthcare facility directors: how much to invest in now because technology evolves so quickly. He relies on his integrator to advise him and to ensure the installed technology will work for the hospital’s needs.

“I felt I didn’t want to spend a half-million dollars on a system and then not have it perform as I expected,” he said. “It’s very important that the people I work with understand and can advise us on the technology,”

McDonald expects the hospital to continue budgeting for security upgrades after the immediate work is complete.

“There has been a dramatic increase over the years in security concerns,” he said. “We’re still a primarily female-dominated system, and unless [female employees] feel this is a comfortable, safe place to work, they won’t be coming.”

Low-voltage technology has a short lifespan in the healthcare world, which leads to more expansions and reinstalls. According to Chicago healthcare communications company Jeron Electronic Systems’ director of marketing, Miles Cochran, IT infrastructure technology has a lifetime of three to four years, while wireless phones and nurse call systems can last closer to a decade. However, as more hospitals begin integrating their technologies onto one backbone, the life spans are shorter.

Wireless networks will become more prolific in the healthcare environment in 2009, Cochran predicts, based on each facility’s analysis of how the technology could affect workflow and lessen the effects of nursing staff shortages. Hospitals are integrating systems, allowing remote information retrieval from locations around the campus.

Whether it is all being installed at once or incrementally, Cochran said all installations start with the infrastructure.

“The LAN gives you access, and you can add the wireless aspect as you go along,” he said, adding that the amount of renovation depends on whether the hospital chose a vendor for what other technology would be compatible. “It all goes back to the backbone and how the technology interfaces,” he said.

The new technologies that draw hospitals to more security renovations are many and varied. Night-vision technology is one popular trend that Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y., is banking on. Bosch recently acquired Extreme CCTV, which makes an infrared video system for use in hospitals, sleep labs and mental health facilities. The idea is to capture footage in low light, which would allow facilities to better track their residents at night and make it possible to lower the lights in stairwells or unoccupied hallway areas where lighting (and energy consumption) currently has to be kept high to allow camera recording.

The infrared camera responds to a wavelength beyond the visible light spectrum, so it is invisible to the human eye. Cameras can record in a dark room without disturbing the room’s occupants.

“It’s being used in mental institutions and hospitals for safety and security,” said Willem Ryan, product marketing manager at Bosch. “One of the good things about active infrared is you can simply add the small illuminators to almost any camera, although they need a black and white mode.”

Those cameras can be either analog or digital. The ease of upgrading is one reason the technology is being well received, Ryan said.

“Most healthcare facilities already have cameras in place […] and with this system, the principles of surveillance don’t change,” he said. He added that users can take comfort in the fact that while technology changes, the principals of video, namely lighting, do not. “The fact is, they shouldn’t be limited to good images during the day.” With the ability to shoot in low light, companies can enhance their energy-savings initiatives.

The systems also are being installed in front of emergency entrances, providing cameras with the ability to capture a license plate as a car arrives and leaves the facility. That way, if someone drops off a patient, especially a victim or participant in a crime, the car can be traced if necessary.

Wireless devices include nurse call systems integrated into a hospital’s universal communication system. Ascom Wireless Solutions Inc., Research Triangle Park, N.C., for example, offers an advanced nurse call system integration system. IBM Enterprise Mobility Services provides doctors and nursing staff with wireless communications and real-time access to patient records anywhere on the facility premises. Vocera Communications System, San Jose, Calif., is selling a wireless platform with hands-free, voice communication throughout an 802.11b/g networked building or campus.

Ultimately, hospitals need more than security systems, they need faster data transmission and integration of equipment and systems. This means removing Cat 3 or 4 cable and installing Cat 5e, 6 or fiber. Increasingly, healthcare facilities look for one contractor to provide it all—design, installation and support. While integration companies and manufacturers are moving into this realm, so are many electrical contractors.           

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Low-Voltage Opportunities in Healthcare

Contractors are positioned to provide myriad products and services

by Allan b. colombo

Quality, timely healthcare is an absolute must. Whether we are dealing with an aging population or younger people who have experienced health problems, everyone deserves medical assistance when they need it. This is true whether they find themselves confined to an institution or their own home.

The need for healthcare has increased dramatically over the past century. This is, in part, because the general population is experiencing an extended lifespan.

“In 2006, 37 million people age 65 and over lived in the United States, accounting for just over 12 percent of the total population. Over the 20th century, the older population grew from 3 million to 37 million. The oldest-old population (those age 85 and over) grew from just over 100,000 in 1900 to 5.3 million in 2006,” according to Older Americans 2008, published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Statistics.

This is an even greater concern as the baby boomer generation, which includes those born between 1946 and 1964, enter the healthcare market. The first of the baby boomers will turn 65 in 2011, which will begin a huge influx of older Americans into the long-term healthcare market. As a result, the need for quality healthcare is growing every day, and the number of products designed to provide health assurance has grown right along with it.

Healthcare opportunities

The growing number of elderly is not the only reason low-voltage contractors should take special interest in the healthcare market. If there were ever a generation of older Americans who are prepared to pay top dollar for long- and short-term healthcare, it’s the current one.

According to the Older Americans 2008, “Overall, most older people are enjoying more prosperity than any previous generation. There has been an increase in the proportion of older people in the high-income group and a decrease in the proportion of older people living in poverty, as well as a decrease in the proportion in the low-income group.”

For these reasons, there is currently a huge need for low-voltage solutions in the healthcare marketplace. Among these are personal alert systems for the home, and emergency call systems for institutional applications, such as assisted living centers, hospice facilities and nursing homes.

Government veteran medical centers are another market segment. As the U.S. government strives to improve veteran services in their medical facilities, the number of low-voltage systems will continue to rise. Although not every low-voltage contractor will have access to this specialized sector, a percentage will.

Community opportunities

Low-voltage contractors are in a good position to provide myriad products and services to the healthcare community. This includes access control, nurse call, door monitoring, video surveillance and patient wandering systems (PWS). Best of all, many of these subsystems can be integrated into a single cohesive system using a common operating platform.

There has been a marked increase in the number of older Americans who have chosen to remain at home during their illnesses, while others live in assisted living centers that appear more like condominiums or apartments than healthcare facilities, and in many cases they are.

On the home front, emergency medical help can be arranged using a personal alert system that calls directly to a 911 dispatch center. In other cases, this involves a contractual arrangement where a central monitoring station is notified electronically when an ailing homeowner presses a button for help.

Most of these systems center on a wireless transmitter, such as the one in the famous commercial where someone has fallen and can’t get up. This technology involves a wireless pendant that the individual wears around his or her neck. Another type of transmitter comes in the form of a wristwatch. Through wireless technology, originally pioneered by the electronic security industry, a small transmitter sends a radio signal to a receiver when someone presses it.

Some pendant transmitters contain two or more buttons, as is typical of a combination burglar/fire alarm system. In some cases, the second or third button can be programmed to arm and disarm the security portion of the system and a fourth can be used to turn lights on and off.

Exception reporting as a health aide

Another approach uses motion combined with an alert-type system that automatically calls for help when physical motion is not detected in a specific area within a specific time frame. This could be a hallway between a bedroom and bathroom or within a living room—anywhere the homeowner is apt to pass during his or her normal daily routine.

Some of these systems have a one-time fee at the time of purchase while others require a monthly fee. While the former is typically installed by the end-user, the latter is installed by a low-voltage contractor. The contractor can charge a monthly fee for monitoring. This type of recurring revenue is good for business because it helps to ensure a dependable, predictable cash flow.

By contrast, the do-it-yourself system relies on a series of phone numbers that the end-user programs into the unit at the time of installation. Some of these systems will dial 911 directly, allowing the operator to dispatch help. This kind of system relies on electronic digital communication. A central station operator simply communicates with the paramedics or others when someone signals for help. In some cases, an operator interacts with the individual through two-way voice technology to find out what the problem is so he or she can provide the appropriate response.

Opportunities in nursing homes

There are more than 16,000 nursing facilities across the United States. These specialized facilities contain more than 1.9 million beds with more than 1.6 million residents who receive the specialized care they need while enjoying social activities. There are numerous opportunities in this type of venue for low-voltage firms that have the know-how to install and service equipment that a nursing home commonly uses.

In a typical nursing home, you will find PWS, public address, fire alarm and telephone systems, emergency call, intercoms, sprinkler system monitoring, and others.

Traditional emergency call systems long ago earned the respect of healthcare operators and government agencies. For evidence, look to the fact that almost all nursing homes are equipped either with a nurse call or emergency call system. The difference is that where nurse call systems are UL-listed and approved for hospitals and large nursing homes—providing audible/visable signaling with two-way voice confirmation—emergency call systems offer audible/visible signaling only.

At the heart of these life-saving systems is a control unit that provides two-way voice and multiple-voltage switching for corridor lamps, nurse duty stations, call directories and more. Call stations are traditionally installed in patient bathrooms and by beds. The majority of nurse call and emergency call systems use metallic cable, offering continued business for electrical contractors with the knowledge to install and service them.

Another opportunity for low-voltage contractors involves fire alarm maintenance, which is extremely critical for healthcare facility operators. So critical is it that every year most facilities elect to conduct a sensitivity test of every smoke detector, even though the National Fire Alarm Code, NFPA 72, only requires this test every two years, or once every five years when a detailed history is kept of every smoke detector in the complex.

Sprinkler system monitoring also is a sizable area for contractor income in the nursing home market, since almost every sprinkler system installed requires 24/7 monitoring. This is accomplished per code through a central station or a supervising station. The profitability is even higher when low-voltage contractors develop partnerships with local sprinkler companies.

Maintenance contracts are a huge boon for those who work in low voltage. This usually requires a well-defined contract that states exactly what is covered and what is not. The benefit of selling a maintenance contract is that the healthcare facility agrees to have the contractor do testing and maintenance, which in itself provides a healthy source of recurring revenue.

Patient wandering systems

Another boon for low-voltage contractors is the revenue that comes from the installation and service of PWS. This system type uses highly specialized equipment, involving the control and monitoring of mechanical points of egress for the sake of special patients, such as Alzheimer’s sufferers, who are not permitted to exit without supervision.

At the same time, the fire code requires that everyone be given ready and immediate egress in the case of a fire. This is a delicate balancing act that low-voltage contractors must manage. This is where PWS come in.

PWS use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. This is essentially the same technology used in electronic article surveillance systems, only instead of identifying retail items, PWS are designed to identify individuals, such as Alzheimer patients.

These patients are fitted with an ankle or wrist bracelet containing an RFID tag, which has a microchip with an antenna. The chip is capable of transmitting an identifiable radio signal when the patient approaches a door that has been equipped with an RFID reader.

There are two types of RFID-based devices on the market: active and passive.

Active RFID tags contain their own power source, whereas passive models rely on a static field that surrounds an antenna near the door. When this type of RFID transmitter enters the field, it is made to oscillate at a particular frequency. This signal is, in turn, picked up by the same antenna.

Anyone who does not bear a PWS wrist or ankle bracelet is permitted to exit the facility without delay. The door may be locked and is only released when visitors who are not wearing an RFID tag approach and are detected by an egress motion detector, or there might be a pushbutton they can press to release the lock. This allows visitors to leave freely.

When someone with an RFID tag strapped to their wrist or ankle approaches the door, a 15- to 30-second delay occurs, during which time a piezoelectric or audible alert sounds at the door and maybe elsewhere. An electronic door lock can be engaged to delay the patient. During this delay, nursing home workers are alerted, giving them time to reach the patient before the system releases the door.

There are many low-voltage strategies that can be enlisted in a healthcare facility or in the home for those aging in place. An experienced contractor can help facilities managers or home-owners learn about and have these systems installed. Discuss these strategies, and you may find some areas for improvement.


COLOMBO is a 35-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


GEMs in the Rough

By Edward Brown

I’ve been listening to Frank Bisbee preach about the value of the GEMs: government, education and medical sectors. These are the sectors that electrical contractors should be looking to in these difficult economic times. These are the sectors that continue to be funded and also have growth opportunities due to the recently passed economic stimulus. Sure, they feel a pinch, but they continue to have resources. They have money to invest in keeping their control, communication, security and life safety systems up-to-date. This issue of Security + Life Safety Systems provides evidence to support this. It also presents some useful advice for successfully doing business in these markets.

Darlene Bremer writes about Kaiser Permanente’s new $240 million, 340,000-square-foot, 150-bed hospital facility and 297,000-square-foot medical office building in California. Contra Costa Electric installed lighting, security, life safety, infant protection, closed-circuit television, CATV, nurse call, patient monitoring, paging and medical gas monitoring systems. In other words, it was the whole range of modern low-voltage systems.

Susan Casey writes about E J Weber Electric Co. Inc., a San Francisco company, which has completed 800-plus projects over the last 25 years at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF), which is composed of various medical and student campuses. Yet Weber is not a large national company. An important aspect of the Weber story is that the company continues to win upgrade contracts for UCSF because it has developed strong relationships. Even more importantly, it is familiar with this medical center’s special needs and has developed training and staffing techniques to meet those needs. Did you notice that the UCSF Medical Center, a university teaching hospital, is in both the medical and the education sectors?

There’s a lot of detail in this issue that will be useful for anyone interested in the healthcare market. For example, Wayne Moore and Thomas Hammerberg give valuable information about fire alarm requirements in healthcare settings and coming code changes. Richard Bingham takes us on a tour of a typical hospital with an eye to pointing out areas where energy use can be reduced. He details how contractors can be proactive in coming up with new business by conducting an energy audit.

And that’s not all; read the very useful article by Michael Johnston about what the National Electrical Code has to say about grounding in low-voltage systems.          

just my opinion

By frank Bisbee

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


The Power to Heal and More ; Selling video surveillance to hospitals

Security and Life Safety Systems are a necessity in the healthcare industry.

The datacom and telephone infrastructure market is changing. For more than two decades, we have seen a shift in the healthcare industry from traditional telecommunications service providers to electrical contractors (ECs) for cabling and other services and systems.

In the U.S. hospital market, the EC remains absolutely dominant for the installation and maintenance of power and related control systems. However, many are expanding their services to include low-voltage and fiber optic cabling, and the EC that offers integrated building systems services becomes a competitive alternative to the datacom and telephone contractor.

Properly located video surveillance cameras can extend the range of the security staff and provide valuable incident information. Since electronic security is a means for increasing the productivity of existing security personnel, it has an excellent return on investment for facilities managers and building owners. But that’s not the only benefit.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that hospital workers are more than four times more likely to be assaulted on the job than workers in other private-sector industries. According to FBI statistics, doctors, nurses and aides who deal with psychiatric patients; members of emergency medical response teams; and hospital employees working in admissions, emergency rooms and crisis or acute care units experience the largest number of Type 2 assaults, defined as violence directed at employees by users of an organization’s services.

These statistics support the need for electronic security solutions to help reduce assaults in the workplace, a solution that systems integrators and security contractors wish to provide. Emergency rooms are often the site of the most egregious violence. Gang activity that begins on the streets can continue into the emergency room, where injured gang members seek medical treatment. Cameras should be mounted to view the main entrance, waiting room and non-treatment areas within the examination/treatment space.

Video surveillance cameras should view all hospital entries, where people may look for other ways to gain entry into the emergency room to continue their dispute with a patient. Priority areas that also deserve monitoring include the admissions desk, elevator banks and the pharmacy. With its cache of controlled substances, the pharmacy mandates cameras at the dispensing desk, within the pharmacists’ work areas and at the receiving docks, where the drugs arrive and enter the hospital.

Video surveillance cameras also should be placed outside the nursery, psychiatric and geriatric wards to prevent newborns from being kidnapped  or those suffering from mental disorders from wandering off.

Nearly all hospitals operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week; employees and visitors are coming and going at all times. A parking garage offers an attacker many places to hide in wait. This is another area for deployment of video surveillance.

Public monitors placed at main visitor entry points will put anyone entering the hospital on notice that they are under video surveillance. This will help the cameras serve as a further deterrent to criminal activity.

All video should be transmitted to a central security station where it will be recorded for investigative purposes in case of an assault, theft or other crime. And it is important that hospital security staff (or computer analytics) be assigned to monitor the live video in order to immediately respond with staff members or local law enforcement in case of an emergency situation.

Any full security system for a hospital should include access control, intrusion detection, lighting control and emergency phones. The placement of alarm points, such as sensors on doors and windows, in addition to the surveillance cameras should be carefully thought through to ensure that they monitor all critical areas.

Mass notification is another important piece of a security system that should not be overlooked.

Installing and maintaining these critical systems can make the electrical contractor who provides integrated building systems services a vital member of the hospital team. In these unpredictable times, contractors should focus on the most stable markets: government, education and medical. The medical sector is still growing, and with an influx of federal dollars provided through the economic stimulus, it will continue.        

BISBEE is with Communication Planning Corp., a telecom and datacom design/build firm. He provides a free monthly summary of industry news on

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


Know the Rules ; Grounding Low-Voltage Systems

by michael johnston

Low-voltage systems often are ungrounded, but noncurrent-carrying metal parts of equipment associated with low-voltage systems are generally required to be grounded if the supply system is grounded. This article reviews National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements for grounding low-voltage systems. We also will visit NEC provisions that do not permit systems to be grounded.

It is helpful to differentiate between system grounding and equipment grounding. When a system is grounded, one conductor of the supply system is intentionally connected to ground (the earth), establishing a reference to earth for the other conductors the system supplies. When equipment is grounded, it is connected to earth or to some conductive body that extends the ground connection. The process of equipment grounding results in equipment being placed at or close to the same potential (voltage) as the earth. A conductive body that extends the ground connection is often the equipment--grounding conductor, or it could be another grounding conductor.

NEC 2008, Article 100 provides the following definitions:

• The equipment-grounding conductor is the “conductive path installed to connect normally non-current-carrying metal parts of equipment together and to the system grounded conductor or to the grounding electrode conductor, or both.”

• “Grounded Conductor. A system or circuit conductor that is intentionally grounded.”

• “Grounding Electrode Conductor. A conductor used to connect the system grounded conductor or the equipment to a grounding electrode or to a point on the grounding electrode system.”

• “Grounding Electrode. A conducting object through which a direct connection to earth is established.”

There is a lot of detail in the Code concerning grounding because it is a very important subject. And, if not done correctly, it can cause problems for low- voltage as well as higher voltage circuits.

The Code uses 50 volts as a threshold when referring to low voltage. The rules in the NEC dealing with grounding systems less than 50V are provided in Section 250.20(A). There are three conditions for which these systems must be grounded:

1. Systems less than 50V have to be grounded, where supplied by a transformer that is supplied (on the primary side) by greater than 150V.

2. Systems less than 50 volts have to be grounded, where supplied by a transformer, if the transformer is supplied (on the primary side) by an ungrounded electrical system.

3. Systems less than 50 volts supplying conductors that are run outside as overhead conductors also have to be grounded.

The NEC also indicates there are some low-voltage systems that are not permitted to be grounded. Those rules are found in Section 250.22(4) and (5). Section 250.22(4) provides a reference to 411.5, dealing with low-voltage lighting systems. The secondary circuits supplied by transformers for these lighting systems are not permitted to be grounded. Examples of these systems include low-voltage landscape lighting systems and systems used for area lighting within buildings. An example of another system that is not permitted to be grounded is an isolated power system, such as those installed in swimming pool lighting.

What constitutes a grounded system? Grounded systems are those that include one conductor of the system that is intentionally grounded, whereas in an ungrounded system, there is no conductor supplied by the system that is intentionally grounded (connected to ground or earth). The definitions of the terms ground and grounded (grounding) are provided in Article 100 as follows: “Ground. The earth.” “Grounded (Grounding). Connected (connecting) to ground or to a conductive body that extends the ground connection.” See the figure above.

Understanding the definitions of terms used in NEC grounding rules is one of the basics of properly applying the Code to installations and systems in the field or in design. Words and terms defined in the NEC help users understand how the requirements should be applied. Code rules mean what they imply by definition.


Low-voltage systems are either grounded or ungrounded. When a low-voltage system is grounded, one conductor of the system is intentionally connected to ground (earth). Equipment supplied by electrical systems of any voltage is generally required to be grounded unless the supply system operates at less than 50 volts or where equipment is supplied by a low-voltage system that is grounded in accordance with 250.112(I).  

JOHNSTON, is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is former director of education, codes and standards for IAEI; a member of the IBEW; and an active member of the NFPA Electrical Section, Education Section and the UL Electrical Council. Reach him at

Reprinted with permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – 2009


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