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How to Prevent Data Center DAS From Causing Costly Changes

Adam Wrzeski

Data center owners know the importance of in-building wireless systems. Emergency responder radio coverage systems (ERRCS) support two-way radios for security staff outside and inside the building. Cellular distributed antenna systems (DAS) enable technicians to use their cell phones in a data hall, a penthouse, or the mechanical spaces where they need to diagnose equipment. Often, data centers’ remote location makes robust cellular DAS design even more critical, as there may be no cell coverage in the area.

TEECOM and wireless integrators both use iBwave to model how wireless signals propagate through the building and determine (in theory) where antennas and devices should be placed. TEECOM also uses Revit to coordinate the wireless system design with the building design through our early and close involvement with the whole design team. Wireless integrators are typically not involved in integrated building design using Revit.

Left: iBwave predictive model with heatmap. Right: Revit model showing the result of what we modeled.

How Costly Change Orders Occur

Data center owners want to avoid a situation where the wireless integrator comes in late in the process and indicates where to place the equipment based purely on iBwave modeling. The general contractor and electrical contractor who have to install the physical infrastructure then discover that the data center DAS was not planned for and the necessary cable pathways do not exist. The design team then has to go back and make costly changes to the conduit infrastructure of the building.

In an office building with an open ceiling or a drop ceiling, it’s simple to run a cable to the antenna. A data center could not be more complicated with all the infrastructure necessary for cooling, from HVAC to hydraulic piping. The scale of these projects is also a differentiating factor. A misplaced antenna in a 50,000-100,000 sf office building can be fixed without too much of a problem. With a data center DAS, a repeatable mistake in one location that cascades over a million sf of data hall becomes extremely expensive.

How TEECOM Can Help

TEECOM uses virtual reality (VR) for even better coordination than what is possible in 3D BIM. This provides a more “real-life” context for how the building and the services within it will be constructed, with a greater level of detail and visualization. We have used Resolve for the Oculus Quest. We can look at where antennas are located in relation to cable tray and other equipment. This has led to better strategies for installing antennas and bi-directional amplifiers (BDAs) as, for instance, we discover a large duct in VR that was not apparent even in 3D.

Designing a data center DAS requires not just understanding wireless distribution, but also how all of the building components are installed and coordinated. TEECOM is involved with the design team at such an intimate level that we actually understand what the wall materials are constructed of. We can model, predict, and coordinate the pathways in ways many wireless-only shops can’t because they don’t have access to Revit. Working in Revit and VR, we can coordinate at a higher level of detail to ensure wireless design does not impact the rest of the construction process.

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Adam Wrzeski
Adam Wrzeski, RCDD, Principal Consultant

Although he started his journey in the AEC industry as a drafter, Adam's passion for problem-solving and troubleshooting led him to pursue engineering. As a Principal Consultant at TEECOM, Adam wears many hats, working in telecom, audiovisual, security, and wireless design. He believes in asking his clients the right questions and takes the time to find the best possible responses.