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A Beacon In The Dark

During an interview in late November with Randy Crenshaw, executive vice president at CommScope and head of the company's enterprise division, I asked him for his thoughts on the economic meltdown tha...


January 1, 2009  


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During an interview in late November with Randy Crenshaw, executive vice president at CommScope and head of the company’s enterprise division, I asked him for his thoughts on the economic meltdown that is impacting every industry imaginable.

“Certainly there are a lot of people smarter than I that didn’t see the magnitude or the severity of what is going on,” he replied. “The biggest concern for everyone is not what we know, but what we don’t know and how deep and how severe it is going to be.”

To be sure layoff notices are being issued everywhere. A sampling across Canada includes: Sun Media: 600 employees, Rogers Communications: 100 employees, Ford, Chrysler and GM: A minimum of 20,000 workers even with a government bailout, CP Rail: 600 unionized employees, the PepsiCo plant in Trenton, Ont.: 258 workers, Potash manufacturer Agrium: 380 employees at its plant in Vanscoy, Sask., Bombardier Recreational Products: 1,000 employees, including 630 at its Valcourt plant and head office.

Crenshaw noted that the real problem is the uncertainty of it all and the longer the recession lasts, the more things will be delayed: “In previous economic upheavals it’s either been isolated or there was a place to hide,” he said. “This downturn is quite broad and unsettling.

“I have explained to my people here that it’s almost like trying to measure the depth of the ocean with a yardstick. You don’t know if it is a metre or a thousand metres deep.”

Even if it is a thousand metres deep, the recession (depression?) will end eventually, which brings me around to Manitoba Hydro, which for the structured cabling and networking sectors at least, is a beacon for all that might be possible when this prolonged economic slump finally ends. The organization’s new $278 million headquarters will have 100% fresh outdoor air 24 hours a day, 365 days a year compared to a typical North American building where as much as 80% of the air is re-circulated.

A news release from Manitoba Hydro states that the structure optimizes passive systems for ventilation, heating and cooling and also incorporates an array of energy-efficient drive, pumps and lighting systems.

Tom Akerstream, energy coordinator for the company, explains in our cover story, that there are about 3,000 control points in a typical building. This has more than 14,000, which control the building’s air quality, heating, cooling, lighting and security mechanical systems. “The biggest issue in all this was the control systems,” he said. “It wasn’t like what we wanted was an off-the-shelf feature. You can’t go grab a control system that will open a window for example. There was a lot of custom design involved.”

It is all possible, concludes writer Denise Deveau, because today’s bandwidth and network infrastructures have the robustness and capacity to handle loads of extra traffic, and wireless applications are now secure enough to make the job of integration easier and more cost-effective.

In the piece, Greg Turner, director of global offerings for Honeywell Building Solutions in Raleigh, N. C., points out that today’s networks have made it much more cost-effective to reach out to a whole building from a sensing and control perspective and that’s having an interesting impact on operational functions: “It’s not just having the ability to connect everything on a common network, but also extracting value from those facts and exchanging information to make the building more efficient.”

Anything will be possible once the economy starts to improve. As Crenshaw notes, “this collective pause in the real estate build out may give architects, engineers and equipment providers time to come up with a new way to bring these advances forward.”


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