Category Archives: General

Is the 4th Utility included in your District’s 2015 Building Conditions Survey?

AT-TCS-01-introFor NYS school districts, the Building Condition Survey (BCS) is designed to identify facility-related issues that need to be addressed to ensure student learning and safety. The results of the BCS assessment are used as a basis for the district’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

Existing BCS forms include systems that deliver the three major energy utilities—gas, electric and water—but fail to address the newer fourth major utility: information.

Information-based infrastructure and systems in the 21st century are just as important as their energy-delivering counterparts and should receive equal attention in your district’s BCS, five-year plan and School Facility Report Cards.

In this series of weekly blogs, I’ll be discussing the idea of adding a technology assessment component to your BCS survey to ensure your district’s information flows as well as its energy. This separate technology assessment is eligible for state aid and can be used as a starting point for your Smart Schools Investment Plan.

Are your information-based systems as critical as to operations as your energy systems? Do you think it makes sense to add a technology component to the BCS?

DonBrownI’d be interested to hear your opinions and experiences in this area.

— Don Brown, P.E., CLA Consultant

NYS Smart Schools Update from March 12 School Facilities Summit

On Thursday afternoon I was fortunate to attend the 2015 School Facilities Critical Issues Summit in Albany, NY hosted by the NYSED, the School Facilities Management Institute, and the NYS School Facilities Association.

The topic is especially timely as public school districts across the state are preparing for Building Conditions Surveys. If these Surveys include a technology component, they can provide a baseline of critical data as districts begin the process of preparing their Smart School Investment Plans.

2015-SFMI-SummitInviteAs you can imagine, there was quite a bit of discussion about the technology-based impact of the Bond on school facilities such as network connectivity, instructional software and systems, and end-point devices. With the Bond’s primary goal to improve K–12 student achievement via technologies that prepare them for the 21st Century workforce, it’s not surprising that professionals dedicated to district facility management would be interested in the wires and boxes that will make it all possible.

However, the human side of the Smart School Bond Act’s affect on classrooms was also evident. As an industry, we must never lose sight of the fact that what we do is empower people. We connect ideas, ambitions and interests among people, organizations and communities of all kinds. But if people aren’t trained on and motivated to use technology correctly, all the tablets, whiteboards and video displays in the world won’t solve the problem.

During the Q&A session of his Smart Schools Bond Act/SED Critical News You Can Use presentation, I asked Carl Thurnau, P.E., a Coordinator at the SED Office of Facility Planning, if Bond Act funding could be used for teacher and staff training in the effective use of technology in the classroom. I was happy to hear that, to his knowledge, it could. That’s great news for thousands of teachers across the state and the exponential number of students they touch.

I plan to post more blogs about the Smart Schools Bond Act and the opportunities — and potential pitfalls — it brings to residents of all ages in the Empire State.

In the meantime, I’d be interested in your thoughts as to how technology can best be used to support education in NYS.

Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from anyone with an interest in the success of our students.

TomRauscher— Tom Rauscher, President, Archi-Technology

Knock. Knock. Who’s There? Door Hardware And Lots Of It.

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One of the best parts of any job is discovery: learning new things about things you already thought you knew.

In my relatively new position at Archi-Technology, I’m constantly learning about something new every day. Like what a “butterfly diagram” is and how it can help better connect buildings and occupants to each other and the world. Or how many miles of cable are still required to enable Wireless Access to the Internet. Or why the full name of the BICSI trade association seems to have nothing to do with its acronym.

Another topic I never gave much thought about prior to this position is Door Hardware and, more specifically, how complicated it can be to select and install the appropriate parts, components and hardware sets that meet the owner’s project requirements. With so many doors in commercial buildings being connected to networked technology systems like Security (think video surveillance) and Door Access (e.g., swipe cards), Door Hardware is anything but old school.

Some of the things that make Door Hardware so complex include:

  • Every door requires numerous hardware sets based on required functionality that can include more than 100+ parts per door. Sets include levers, roses, escutcheons, latches, etc.
  • A project can include hundreds of doors with different functionality combinations that need to be coordinated through each project phase.
  • In addition to functional requirements, aesthetic considerations for finishes add another dimension to specifying products.
  • Door Hardware sets usually need to integrate with low-voltage networked building systems such as Security and Door Access.
  • Access devices such as keys, swipe cards and fobs bring other issues that need to be addressed in planning and carefully coordinated to avoid costly Change Orders.

Originally published in 1999 by Architectural Record, I found this article to be an excellent overview of the myriad issues associated with meeting an owner’s Door Hardware project requirements:

“The Ins and Outs of Door Hardware” by Charles Wardell and Wendy Talarico.

What’s the biggest Door Hardware challenge you’ve ever faced on a project and how did your firm resolve it? Archi-Technology would love to hear your experiences and share advice on this subject.


— Mark Winterstein, Marketing Manager

Archi-Technology Blog: 2014 in Review

AT-Blog-14ReportIt’s been an interesting first six months for me as the new Marketing Manager for Archi-Technology (and its affiliated software company, MasterLibrary™).

Crafting the brand messaging for an independent technology consulting company that doesn’t easily fit into an existing market niche has been challenging, but rewarding, especially as our website has grown in scope and depth.

When friends asked what my new employer does, I used to answer “we make buildings smarter” followed by a  short torrent of techno-babble about core infrastructure and Communications, Life Safety and Automation (CLA) systems.

Now I take a different tact.

We help students learn and enable teachers to become better educators.
We help health-care facilities improve patient outcomes while operating more productively.
We save, inform, educate, entertain, and secure people, places and ideas.

And in between points A and Z, we take care of myriad details about the technology that makes these things possible.

As part of brand development, another responsibility has been to start the company’s blogging efforts to share knowledge and start conversations with clients and colleagues. We’re definitely new to the world of blogging but, hey, you gotta start somewhere.

View Archi-Technnology’s 2014 Blog Report.

Thanks for reading and, as always, we’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

—Mark Winterstein, Marketing Director

Keeping Rochester Moving At The New Downtown RTS Transit Center

Greater Rochester has welcomed the recent opening of the downtown RTS Transit Center with open arms after more than two decades of discussion, planning and construction. RTS-TransitCenter-hzl I was privileged to be Archi-Technology‘s Project Manager for our scope of work on the Transit Center which included strategic planning, systems design assistance and acting as the equivalent of a “Technology” Clerk of Works for select technology-based infrastructure, systems and components. Like any project, this one was not without its challenges including the need for systems’ redundancy and resiliency: with an estimated 20,000 riders per day using your AV and communications systems to get from Points A to B, it was our job to ensure operational integrity of these systems based on strategic planning and unique project requirements. I especially enjoyed working with so many dedicated people in varied disciplines who all had the end goal in sight throughout every step of this complex project. If you haven’t had a chance to see the new Transit Center in person, you owe yourself a visit to see how tranLukePoandlsformative it is for downtown Rochester, along with a host of other significant capital projects.

— Luke Poandl, K-12 Practice Group Leader and Project Manager

Every Veteran Has Their Own Story To Tell

Scanned DocumentIt was the United States Air Force (USAF) that gave me my first real taste of what, exactly, “telecommunications infrastructure” meant.

During my four years in the USAF, first with the 31st Expeditionary Communications Squadron in Italy, and later with the 96th Air Base Wing at Elgin AFB in Florida, I was exposed to field maintenance, troubleshooting and installation of a variety of communications system types and components including microwave antennas and fiber optic and copper-based systems.

One of my best AF gigs was helping maintain the microwave antennae system that runs down the center of Europe called the Digital European Backbone or DEB. This system ran squarely through that Alps where I got to ride to work in style. Plus, the views were magnificent.

JB-HeliRideWhile I never took my responsibility and duty to the troops whose efforts I supported lightly, I was never in what could remotely be called battle conditions. That’s why I was a little surprised to receive a call from an elderly statesman the first November after I started working for Cornell University. This gentleman, who was a co-worker and Vietnam War veteran, called to thank me for my service in the USAF. Here was this guy that saw real action and he took the time to call to thank me?

The incident remains so vivid that, to this day, I make a point to reach out and thank all the veterans I know for their service on November 11. I count myself fortunate to have served with such distinguished company. Happy Veteran’s Day.

Joe Blasz, Higher Education Group Leader, Project Manager, RCDD and former Senior Airman of the United States Air Force. Aim High…Fly-Fight-Win.

Technology Systems That Save Lives And Improve Operations

Implementing the Systems That Keep Patients and Medical Campuses Healthy

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As the third and final Archi-Technology practice group introduction, I like to think they saved the best for last (although my fellow Practice Group colleagues may disagree). What is beyond argument, however, is that hospitals and other healthcare campuses are integrating technology-based systems at a more complex and costly level than that seen in the education market…or in most any other industry for that matter.

The reason is simple—technology that saves lives is expensive, sophisticated and extremely precise. In total, the various technology infrastructure and systems found in most hospitals—including communications, AV, security, and clinical—can now account for 5 – 10% of total construction project costs for a healthcare facility.

Like other markets, the effective and efficient integration of technology in healthcare settings is as much about improving daily operations as it is about the campus’ primary objective: improving patient outcomes in the case of hospitals. From accounting and scheduling to energy management and facilities maintenance, technology systems impact so many aspects of the healthcare business that no facility is truly healthy without a well-designed and maintained technology infrastructure.

During my 16+ years at Archi-Technology, I have worked extensively with healthcare clients. As both a Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) and a Construction Document Technologist (CDT), I have a deep appreciation for the nuances technology systems bring to the healthcare market, and what it takes to integrate these systems into a capital construction project.

As Archi-Technology’s new Healthcare Practice Group manager, I’ll be blogging on various topics of interest to Facility Managers, Architects, engineers and other specialists involved in the integration of technology infrastructure and systems in support of medical professionals

MarkHowlandI welcome your feedback and opinions. Thanks in advance.

Mark Howland, Heath Care Group Leader, Project Director and RCDD

Electronic Facility Records (EFR) Give Documentation New Life And Value

A Repository, Process and Management System For Facility Systems Information

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So your most recent project is over and, if you’re like most people, you assume you have complete documentation for everything that was done. But do you know that for certain?

As soon as system components are added or changed, documentation is no longer up to date: after changes increase above 10%, the as-built documentation starts to lose its value. Who’s updating your documentation and how? And who can access it quickly during an emergency when the right information can dramatically slash system outage times?

And how was the Facility Manager’s retirement party? How much institutional knowledge did that person take home in their heads?

Organizations of all kinds can no longer afford to be complacent about their facility systems documentation. What is needed is a process to collect all documentation and keep it updated, along with a system for organization and access.

Electronic Facility Records (EFR) is akin to Electronic Medical Records but for buildings instead of people. EFR consists of two key components:

  • An electronic repository of facility information that is instrumental for building operations and maintenance.
  • A process of collecting, organizing and updating the facility information.

An Electronic Facility Records Management System (EFRMS) is an electronic system used to store, organize and control access to EFR information.

These three components—repository, process and system—create a foundation to reduce facility maintenance costs with secure access to mission-critical, up-to-date information.

EFR project documentation keeps facility systems drawings, project files, and O&M information current, organized and accessible for the life of the building. It also allows centralized facility documentation storage and access by everyone who needs it instead of residing on someone’s laptop or, worse, only on their head.

Future blog posts will to discuss the importance of EFR, how it can help improve technical knowledge management, and the process needed to obtain it. I welcome your feedback, questions and opinions on this new topic that transcends industries and profession.

DonBrown— Don Brown, P.E., Electronic Facility Records (EFR) Subject Matter Expert (SME)

Preserving History While Creating A Future On Higher Ed Campuses

Effectively Integrating Technology Within Distinct College Cultures

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When it comes to technology infrastructure and the Communications, Life Safety and Automation (CLA) systems it connects, few settings match the complexity and challenges of today’s wired college campus. With dozens of buildings of all ages and with different functions spread across miles of geography, the cohesive connection of the discrete systems within a facility and to each other is a daunting task at best.

That’s exactly what I like about my role at Archi-Technology as a Project Manager where I’ve worked with literally hundreds of colleagues to help develop technology infrastructure that’s smart, scalable and performs to spec from day one. I’m fortunate to have spent most of my professional career on higher ed campuses and have learned about organizational structures  that can be as complex as any of the systems that we design.  Yet for all is complexity, I have found the higher ed market to be a place where “everybody knows your name.” Relationships are long term and you have time to really get to know the client’s needs.

Another favorite part of my job is exploring turn-of-the-century buildings—or even older—and finding places that have gone unseen for decades; kind of like Indiana Jones but I’m searching for hidden cable pathways instead of ancient relics. In the age of wireless, people forget just how many miles of fiber and cable needs to be behind the scenes to support WiFi access. Given the historic nature of many college buildings, higher ed campuses regularly offer this type of opportunity.

As Archi-Technology’s new Higher Education Practice Group manager, I’ll be blogging on different aspects of technology’s impact on colleges and universities, paying special attention to the network-hardened infrastructure that needs to be in place to keep all those  1s and 0s moving in the right direction.

JoeBlaszI welcome your feedback, opinions and insights, and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

— Joe Blasz, Higher Education Practice Group Leader, Project Manager and RCDD

Helping Sort Through The Hype To The Hope Of Technology in K-12 Districts

Starting A Conversation About Technology’s Impact In And Outside The Classroom

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The efficient integration of technology throughout K-12 school districts has never been more important or challenging. From “smart” classrooms that support educational objectives to daily operations such as security and communications that rely on networked systems, technology has become an integral part of every school.

As long-time specialists in technology infrastructure and related facilities-based systems, Archi-Technology is experienced in taking a holistic view to the planning, design and construction management of a district’s “core fiber” as a starting point for any infrastructure upgrade. After all, how can you efficiently plan and design an upgrade to your existing network-based systems if you aren’t 100% certain of what you already have?

Our recently announced Technology Building Condition Survey (TBCS) service for New York State K-12 school districts is based on more than 15 years of working with major higher education clients such as Cornell and Syracuse universities on intricate, multi-year programs to upgrade campus technology infrastructures.

As Archi-Technology’s Practice Group leader for the K-12 market, I am excited about the possibilities technology can bring to multiple facets of a school district but am tempered by the associated challenges that go beyond devices and systems to encompass human factors such as teacher training and student adaptation.

The vote on the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 on the Nov. 4 NYS ballot will, of course, be closely watched by state-wide districts but, whether it passes or not, the districts’ work will have only begun. We invite your contributions to this blog about technology in the K-12 setting as we raise each other’s game on this important issue.
So what’s the single biggest challenge facing your classroom, school or district when it comes to technology integration and is there advice you can share on how to face it?

We’d like to hear from you. LukePoandl

— Luke Poandl, K-12 Practice Group Leader and Project Manager