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Flying High With LEED

Anyone who thinks the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design initiative has no bearing on the cabling and networking sector is sadly mistaken. As proof, you need to look no further than the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre in Trenton.


May 1, 2008  


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Bill Weekes certainly understood the importance of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED prior to signing on as the telecom designer for an environmentally ambitious construction project at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

LEED was launched in 1998 by the United States Green Building Council and adopted in Canada six years later under the auspices of New Construction and Major Renovations version 1.0, which is tailored specifically for Canadian climates, construction practices and regulations.

It is administered by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), an organization that represents 1,600 members involved in the design, construction and operation of buildings.

As in the U. S., it recognizes six key areas — sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation. Both nations adhere to a points system system in which upwards of 70 points in the six categories can be awarded. LEED Certfication Levels are as follows: Certified (26-32 points), Silver (33-38 points), Gold (39-51 points) and Platinum (52-69 points).

“If you are a RCDD and you look at this list, you sigh with relief because nowhere is there anything remotely related to communications or what we do,” says Weekes, who spoke on the subject late last year at the BICSI Fall Conference in Las Vegas, Nev.

At the base in Trenton, Ont., it did not take long for him to realize that would not be the case with this particular assignment. The Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre (CFAWC), which was first created three years ago as the “engine of Air Force transformation,” needed a new home, a new green home.

The mission of the CFAWC is to provide the Air Force with the knowledge to acquire the right capabilities and “develop appropriate doctrine” to successfully conduct aerospace operations now and into the future. An article that appears on the Department of National Defence web site describes it as a “think tank for all things Air Force, covering everything from doctrine, transformation and joint operations to lessons learned, testing of equipment and system simulations.”

Weekes, president of Fancom Network Integrators in Mississauga, Ont., initially took the job assuming he would be responsible for voice and data systems, however, he also ended up being in charge of the electronic safety and security systems and video conferencing.

In terms of the cabling infrastructure, there will be both fiber and copper to the desk when the facility opens in two years time. The cabling infrastructure itself contains more than 30,500 metres of 50/125 fiber and more than 45,700 metres of Category 6 A copper cable, which will support staff work, experimentations, training and education and teleconferencing, that according to a concept of operations report from the Canadian Air Force will require connection to several networks.

These include the Defence Information Network, Canadian Forces Experimentation Network and Defence Research Establishment Network. The mix of secure and non-secure environments will

require security zoning and physical access control, the report states

“The fiber system is 100% in conduit end-to-end, but the copper system is not,” Weekes says. “The challenge was how to take the two different cabling and pathway systems and integrate them into a floor box. There are some great opportunities for floor box manufacturers to jump on the LEED bandwagon for a number of different reasons.”

Any work completed must adhere to the LEED gold standard as a minimum, the result of a federal government mandate implemented in April 2005. Since that date, all new government facilities need to be 25% more energy efficient than existing structures. Ottawa is also retrofitting 20% of its commercial buildings by 2010 to improve energy efficiency.

“If I have a project, I need to worry about whether I need plenum or non-plenum cable so I can take the safety issue away. What kind of performance do I need — 5e, 6, 6A, 7, optical fiber? I can pick that requirement, but now, let’s go back to LEED.

“Which one of those cables can I purchase and actually do a favour to the environment? Think about this. If the cable is made in Canada, the U. S. or Mexico, I know that we have tough environmental laws. However, if that cable is made 5,000 miles away in a jurisdiction where environmental laws are lax, that poses an issue.”

At the CFAWC, there will be extensive use of exposed ceilings to maximize natural lighting, raised access floors will be used throughout the facility (except in main floor common areas) and a scalable design approach is being implemented for the equipment rooms and telecom rooms in order to allows for scalability in UPS and air conditioning design.

During the planning phase, Weekes says material selection ended up arguably being the most controversial part of the entire project.

In his presentation in Las Vegas, he stressed that ITS professionals need to start thinking about the environment and think about it holistically, particularly when it comes to energy considerations.

And while ITS design and methodologies are not spelled out in LEED, designers must be prepared to discuss, engage and support other professions involved in a project. He predicted that:

• ITS requirements will not change significantly, but how ITS professionals implement and coordinate them with architects, electricians and mechanical and structural engineers will become increasingly more important.

• In the future, today’s LEED points will look insignificant as all new facilities reach Gold and Platinum.

• By necessity, the points program will become more stringent and ITS will play a greater role in monitoring new facility management systems.

• Since IT equipment is now becoming the largest user of energy, expect new LEED requirements for ITS design and implementation.

• The ITS industry has been driven by innovation, but now it needs to pushed more in the green direction.

“If we are truly focusing on lowering our energy costs, there is going to be a new formula that comes out,” he says. “For years I built around Moore’s Law — the doubling of CPU power every 18 months. It has also meant a doubling of energy requirement in the data centre.

“I am willing to bet moving forward that energy thing is going to flatline. I think energy efficiency is going to move in to the front of the design criteria. People are going to say, ‘I will pay a little bit more now to guarantee both an economical and more importantly an environmental benefit down the road.’

“I’m asking the cabling manufacturing community to help me out as I’m going to be doing more and more LEED projects. Help me take more to the mechanical people, help take more to the architects. Spell it out for me.”

That will be even more necessary after CaGBC hosts its first national summit, Shifting Into the Mainstream on June 11-12. The event will stage the launch of the next generation of the LEED Canada rating system and showcase the latest in green building performance in Canada.

“LEED definitely changes the paradigm,” says Weekes. “Communications people are not on the radar right now. Still, in my situation, I have to listen to the architects as they are picking what type of exterior materials are going on the outside of the building and where are they going to pick it from.

“All of a sudden they get into this discussion about floor tiling … where is the floor tile going to come from? How much energy is it going to take to bring a container load from over here when we can get it from a company located just 800 kilometres away? Can we re-use wood from another building? Have any of you purchased reclaimed Category 5, Category 5e or Category 6 cable? Can we buy it? Is there a system for recycling old cable? Can a cable manufacturer come to me and say, ‘90% of the copper we are using to bui
ld this new cable is from the old cable because we found ways to get it back.’

“What are we doing in our industry to show the world that we are leaders in some kind of recycling, energy efficiency or environmental efficiency? Until I sat in on meetings for this project, honest to God, I never even thought about it.”