How To

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For decades, owners and architects have hired engineering firms with solid reputations, expertise and credentials to design MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) systems for their buildings.

Today, a 4th discipline has emerged: Technology.

The emerging question for consultants quoting fees to owners and architects is not “if the building has technology” but rather “how much technology do you want to include?” No facility today escapes the demand for Technology Systems. (Note the technology items in the illustration above.)

The Low Price is Not Always the Best (or most complete) Price

Though MEP systems are certainly important elements, the firm that can design complete turnkey Technology Systems, like JDRM Engineering, is a bit harder to find. Many competitive bids submitted for engineering services are not equal. Some firms are simply quoting basics, not a full and complete technology design including all equipment, licensing, terminations, software, network electronics programming and execution. Owners may mistakenly assume that the Electrical discipline is providing Technology or Architects believe the owner hired a vendor.

Often, the building construction is almost complete when the owner realizes the design fee did not include complete technology systems, it included raceways and only some Category wiring and jacks, but no head end network equipment or other important hardware and software. Owners then rush to contract with vendors to complete what should have been in the design up front. Some technology designs do not even include data racks and patch panels, leaving these design elements and more up to the bidding contractors. The resulting pricing differences between bidders can be huge, due to the lack of detail on the bidding documents. Worst-case scenarios leave owners with systems that do not meet their needs, requiring difficult, costly and often unsightly additions to their new facilities.

Why do some firms practice incomplete design for technology? Some lack the staff with the proper credentials and expertise. Sometimes clients requesting and reviewing quotes do not fully understand the ramifications of technology systems and the need to have more information in the RFP expounding the requirements of the technology scope.

Some Technology Issues to Consider

Buildings today have a plethora of low voltage systems bundled under the term “Technology” or “Communications” which did not exist 15 years ago. VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephones, cameras, card access, systems utilizing IP technology and residing over Category wiring, WiFi, DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems), digital paging and intercom, network switches, fiber plant, sound masking, interactive projectors and Interactive LED displays, collaborative learning systems, distance learning, sound systems, Audio Visual, clocks, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tracking, WAN/LAN, Nurse Call, patient tracking systems, mass notification — the list goes on and on. All these systems are classified as technology because they are low voltage, reside on the network, and utilize category structured cabling.

Most RFP’s today are very vague regarding the requirements of these systems and, therefore, what is needed within the project Who is responsible, the level of system complexity and the end-user requirements of the system design are not always specified. Many times the full scope is not known until several meetings with the client have occurred, generally as the building nears completion. Because of the unknowns, the proposed engineering fees are not on equal playing fields. RFP’s for engineering services need to be very specific and precise on what should be quoted for design on technology and communications systems. Technology systems are very complex and the difference between full turnkey design and a “raceway only” design quotations can be extreme.

Utilizing Technology/Engineering firms with BICSI certified RCDD’s is the first step to rectifying some of these issues. The BICSI RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer) designation indicates that the Technology Consultant has been tested, certified, is experienced, and is capable of providing a complete “turnkey” technology design, not just a raceway design or contractor bid finished design. RCDD’s are equivalent to the PE’s of the Electrical and Mechanical disciplines. Their professionalism and expertise is confirmed by independent reviewers and they meet the difficult requirements.

What is the Owner’s Role in Defining the Technology Scope of Work?

How can you assure your RFP’s are on a level playing field and your facility needs are addressed in the area of Technology? Follow these 4 steps for success and make sure:

1. Your RFP’s include ALL technology systems required by ALL users in your building.

2. The depth of systems requirements are spelled out in detail on the RFP.

3. All consultants are competing on a level playing field and quoting equal design services.

4. Your technology consultant has the RCDD designation.

By following these four steps your Technology engineering — the 4th discipline — will be every bit as complete in its design as the MEP. JDRM is unique and fully-4th discipline enabled, delivering a full spectrum of technology/communications design for your systems. JDRM Engineering’s staff includes:

– 3 BICSI certified RCDD’s (Registered Communications Distribution Designer  a.k.a. Really Cool Data Dude)

– 1 BICSI certified ESS  (Electronic Safety and Security Designer)

– 1 INFOCOMM certified CTS (Certified Technology Specialist)

– 1 RF In-Building Distribution Solutions Certified Professional

Call us to discuss the details of your next project. We can see to it you’ll be covering all four disciplines (MEP+T) and all the dimensions you need!