What items should be included in a Technology Condition Survey?

If you agree that a Technology Condition Survey (TCS) is a good idea and that the existing NYS Building Condition Survey (BCS) format is not inclusive enough, then what items should be included in a TCS?

TCS-checklistAt Archi-Technology, we have put together a TCS Checklist form to help our consultants assess Technology infrastructure and systems. Our checklist was developed by experienced vendor-independent technology consultants and is designed to look at the most important aspects of your facility’s Information-based Infrastructure and systems.

We like to use checklists because they help keep the results organized and prevent any important items from slipping through the cracks.

The draft checklist we are currently working with is six-pages long and includes a minimum of 75 items related to technology infrastructure and systems (versus the one paragraph provided in the BCS). A passing mark in all of these categories is an indicator that your facilities are in good shape to keep your information flowing. Information flow ensures that critical business functions can take place, students can receive technology-based instruction, and that their safety can be ensured by the operation of networked security and communications systems.

The following is an outline of categories we selected to include in our TCS survey:

  1. Telecommunication Infrastructure
    • Horizontal Cabling
    • Backbone Cabling
    • Communications Pathways
    • Rooms/Spaces
  2. Data Network
    • Network Hardware
    • Wireless Network
    • Network Security
    • Telecommunications Services
  3. Instructional Technology
    • Integrated AV Systems
    • PCs, Laptops, Tablets
    • Servers
  4. Communication Systems
    • PA System
    • Telephone System
    • Local Pa/Sound reinforcement systems
    • Master Clock System
  5. Safety and Security Systems
    • Access Control System
    • Intrusion Alarm System
    • Visitor Entry System
    • Video Surveillance System

Do you agree passing TCS grades in these categories will ensure information flow? Do you think this format is better than the single category as per the NYS BCS form?

DonBrownThanks for reading and let me know what you think.

— Don Brown, P.E., CLA Consultant

Form Follows Function…Unless It’s An Existing BCS Form

The existing Building Condition Survey (BCS) Form lumps lots of different system types into one category which makes it difficult to access these vital building components, and easy to omit or miss critical systems that should be assessed.

BCS-Form-CommSystems

School Facility Reports Cards, five-year Capital Improvement Plans, and Building Condition Surveys all mention the need to keep major systems upgraded. The attached communications section taken from the 2010 BCS is the only place to document the condition of all of a school’s Communications and information-based systems, and related infrastructure.

If you look at the list of all these building systems (as many as 20), they would all likely have different:

  • Conditions
  • Dates for year of last major Reconstruction/Replacement
  • Estimate years of expected remaining life.

In past technology surveys, I’ve expanded the Comments section to try to document as much of this information as possible to have supporting documentation for the corresponding five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

But not all consultants performing Building Condition Surveys have the same background so another consultant may decide that Communications Systems is limited to Public Address (PA), and will consequently neither access nor document the condition of other systems This can lead to the exclusion of major technology-based systems such as Telephone, Data Network and Access Control from your 5-year Plan.

Do you think it makes sense to expand the BSC forms to include technology infrastructure and systems?

DonBrownThanks for reading and I’d be interested to hear from you.

— Don Brown, P.E., CLA Consultant

NYS Smart Schools Planning In Action@Pembroke CSD

As the father of two children who are both students at Pembroke Central School District (NY), I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email with a Technology Survey for Pembroke Parents and Guardians.

pembroke_dragonsThe survey, which took less than five minutes to complete, asked questions about the types of internet connections, devices and digital communication practices my family has at home as well as soliciting some general thoughts on potential uses of the district’s $1.1 million allocation from the NYS Smart Schools Bond Act.

As a technology professional actively engaged in the education market, it was satisfying to see Pembroke CSD reaching out to its stakeholders for direct input into how to best spend this one-time NYS-supplied windfall.

From a more personal perspective, the survey was a validation on the evolution of the classroom from my chalkboard-and-eraser days to my kids’ more digitally based experiences. One can only wonder what changes the next ten or 15 years will bring not only to the classroom but everywhere in our lives.

Here’s a link to the Technology Survey for Pembroke Parents and Guardians.

AT-GStone-smAs school districts around NYS start preparing for Smart Schools Investment Planning, I’d like to hear what teachers, technologists and students think are some of the most effective uses of technology in today’s classrooms. What’s your thoughts?

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead.

— Gregg Stone, K–12 Practice Group Manager

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.

AT-blog-DH-intro-013015

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

Playing “What If?” With Capital Tech Projects

AT-b-RiskMgmtWhether renovation or new build, technology project plans and designs are subject to a number of uncertainties no matter how well conceived they may be. From market forces to unforeseen technical or manmade obstacles, all construction projects have elements of risk in their planning and design, and technology projects are no different.

For the technology component of a capital project, Risk Management focuses on reducing the exposure to potential barriers a client faces in the delivery and implementation of technology infrastructure and related systems on time, in spec and within budget.

Developed during the planning and design phases of a project, a Risk Management Plan:

  • Identifies potential obstacles to project completion.
  • Provides metrics against which to gauge project progress.
  • Recommends alternate paths should an identified risk be encountered.

One Risk Management example would be an enterprise that wants to upgrade its wireless (WLS) infrastructure in multiple buildings within the same year. However, the enterprise has not yet:

  • Evaluated its existing Telecommunications spaces and backbone infrastructure to ensure that each has the capacity to support ever-increasing space and bandwidth requirements.
  • Clearly identified the standards by which the new infrastructure should be designed and constructed.
  • Communicated project expectations, goals and commitments of the internal stakeholders to potential vendors.
  • Secured enough funding based on the above findings.

A Risk Management plan for this project would identify these and other potential project pitfalls to create a foundation by which the client can make smart, strategic decisions. Getting this strategic advice early in the planning process is critical to avoiding unnecessary cost and schedule overruns during project construction.

JoeBlaszLook for future blogs about this and other important topics that can affect your current or future projects.

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

Visit Us at NYSCATE Booth #103

If you’ll be attending this year’s NYSCATE (New York State Computers And Technology in Education) Conference Sunday through Tuesday, I hope you’ll visit Archi-Technology at Booth No.103.

NYSCATE-14Conf-logoWith passage of the Smart Schools Bond Act in November, schools districts around the state each have technology-funding allocations based on student and community need. Assessing a district’s technology infrastructure to determine what’s already in place is critical to developing a smart Smart Schools Investment Plan that maximizes this one-time incremental funding. Our Technology Building Condition Surveys (TCBS) do just that.

Harness Archi-Technology’s unwavering focus on technology infrastructure in educational settings to start your district off on the right path with experienced, independent consulting services.

We hope to see you at the Conference and safe travels. (For the record, here in Roc we only have a trace of snow compared to the 4+’ 60 miles to the west.)

Note: NYSCATE Exhibit Hall hours at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center are:

  • 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Mon., Nov. 24
  • 8 a.m.-12 p.m., Tues., Nov. 25LukePoandl

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