The Business of Information Technology in Construction

Project teams must ask clients deeper management questions to discover how to plan for the space and use of technology in a new facility.
By Tasha Phelps
January 3, 2019

There’s no doubt that the conversation surrounding cyber security is abundant, and in many cases, it is quite complex. Information Technology industry experts continue to fight vulnerabilities, in business applications, networks and databases, but there’s another layer of vulnerability that has been overlooked for quite a while: information transport system designs (found in Division 27 specifications of a construction design project).

When architects draft designs for buildings, they are tasked to consider the amenities, the use of the facility and building aesthetics. Engineers are also key members of the design team because of their knowledge and expertise in the design of mechanical and electrical systems. Tasks for engineers are often centered on the design requirements for the guts of the building and how the building will “work.” Clearly, the art of a new construction project is not new, but the integration of the strategic design of the information transport system is becoming more critical in the planning of new facilities.

Businesses today don’t all communicate or share information as previously done in the past. Many businesses conduct secure transactions online and transport information over networks that require hard (secure) fiber connections. Because of the evolution in technology, and the enhanced requirements, there is a new environment for the storage and preservation of information.

In order to address these industry changes, design teams must now ask clients deeper management questions to discover how to plan for the space and use of technology in the new facility. Questions like these can play a pivotal role in the construction of a new facility:

  • What are the space requirements for IT systems and computers?
  • Are there distance requirements for MDF/IDF closets?
  • How many independent networks are anticipated to be used within the facility?
  • How many data cabinets are in use by the IT staff of the new facility? And where do they need to be located?
  • Does any of the IT equipment have special power / electrical needs?
  • What security requirements need to be document for IT equipment?
  • How “wired” or “wireless” is the new facility? And are there building materials or obstructions to the successful use of this connectivity plan?

On the surface, many of these questions seem simple. But digging deeper, it’s evident that these questions drive the design of location, fiber, electrical capacity and even cable tray systems. Having a conversation with business professionals (such as CPAs, attorneys, executives) in Phase I about technology and their business processes hasn’t traditionally been practiced, but this must change.

The long-term impact of not considering the influence of technology in the design process has the power to cripple a business in just a few years. Thought leaders in IT should be required to integrate best practices for the growth of technology so that the skeleton of a building has the capacity to be scaled or modified to fit any new requirements.

What exactly does this mean for the next generation of architectural and engineering teams?

It means that A/E teams have the opportunity to provide a scale of savings for the client that has not traditionally been realized in the design process. It means that by including specialized IT firms who know how to write design specifications for information transport systems, building designs will be more comprehensive of the needs of the facility, and not just the shell. It means that clients will benefit by not having to address (or re-dress) IT requirements after the facility is built.

More than ever, it is important to consider the business of IT in construction, because more than ever, the information in businesses is physically vulnerable. As stewards of a design project, it is imperative that A/E teams begin to leverage the knowledge and expertise of IT infrastructure sesign professionals so that the difficult questions of information transport systems are evaluated in the process of design.

by Tasha Phelps

Protecting the integrity of information continues to be a strategic focus within Ms. Phelps’ Cyber Security efforts. She has seen the impact of businesses being compromised by malicious threats, and shares how building contingency plans can be of value. Her approach is to align business processes with technical solutions to create powerful plans for sustainability. Her experience detecting, responding to, and prevention of cyber threats in online environments, grants a unique perspective to ensure the security of information assets with industry accepted risk management tactic. In short, she leads a team to implement organizational awareness for cyber actors. Upon completing the Level 1 Anti-Terrorism Awareness training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she became even better positioned to create strategies for success – knowing WHAT to do is equally as important as HOW to do it. 

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