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IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO AVOID INSTALLING SOME SORT OF ICT WITHIN A BUILDING TODAY

TECHNICAL & PRACTICE

In an eight-part monthly series, Gardiner & Theobald's information communications and technology (ICT) specialists will provide a working knowledge and guidance through the world of ICT and its implications for the wider construction industry.

We aim to expand, develop and enhance the architect's knowledge of the basic terms and principles that concern the industry, as well as providing a high level of understanding of ICT's implications across the various construction sectors.

We will concentrate particularly on the close relationship between the ICT and construction industries and show how, with the use of tried-and-tested procedures, we can minimise major redesign time, reduce programme implications and maintain close budget control.

We will also summarise (via weblinks) some of the technologies currently available, their advantages and disadvantages and the future outlook for the technologies.

We will also provide comparable costs (where applicable) to assist in understanding any financial implications.

WHAT IS ICT?

The ICT acronym has evolved within the industry over recent years as communications have become increasingly harmonised with IT, and is now standard terminology. ICT elements generally include everything from the mainframe servers and equipment to the interconnecting cable infrastructure and desk outlets that make up a complete data, telecommunications and media network.

MARKET OVERVIEW

The ICT European market is currently exceeding £20 billion per annum and accelerating fast. It is almost impossible to avoid installing some sort of ICT within a building today. Every sector within the industry is embracing ICT technology, enabling higher productivity and a better working environment, narrowing geographical range, minimising energy consumption and improving services and end products.

LIFE-CYCLE COSTS

When considering ICT within a construction project, a basic understanding of the timescales involved from early concept through to the refresh period (end of life for the system and equipment and time for replacement) is required. The chart on page 38 provides a simplified view of the timescales that could be used as a rule of thumb for most types of project.

NEVER TOO EARLY

The ICT industry is in its infancy compared to construction, and so entails a significant learning curve for most individuals involved with construction projects. There will be many challenges, from the initial structuring of an ICT programme team (made up of people dedicated to the management, design, programming, administration, cost/change/risk management of the ICT packages) to attempting to procure and cost-manage ICT packages that have missed the boat as far as the construction programme is concerned.

So it is obvious an architect should start thinking about ICT at the onset of a project. For example, Terminal 5 at London Heathrow started forming an ICT programme team as far back as 1998, initially conducting business process mapping (identifying and understanding the business needs to enable business continuity and the flexibility to expand into the 21st century) and developing a conceptual budget that could be used as a basis throughout the project for accurate cost management.

It is a misconception that technology advances so rapidly that there is no urgent need to start thinking about ICT design, budgets and programming. While it is true technology will advance rapidly, establishing a basis for the design, costs and programme at an early stage of the project will prove to be invaluable later.

GETTING IT RIGHT

The right direction depends on a number of factors, such as:

Type of client - private or public sector;

Client's requirements - does the client know his requirements? ;

Client's type of business - banking, legal, property developer, retail, tc;

Client's organisational structure - corporate procedures, management chains, etc;

Client's in-house expertise - are there in-house ICT personnel, or is the client completely naïve? ;

Client's resources - if there are in-house resources, are they available and are they a help or a hindrance? ;

Type, shape and size of building - high-rise tower, low-rise campus, large square floor plan, small elongated twisted floor plan;

Construction materials used - use of metallic coatings on glass or steel frames can have an effect on radio networking within a building. I will explain this in a future article on wireless networking;

Future expandability - are there future phases planned that might extend the building? ;

Overall construction budget - this can determine the number or type of ICT programme staff required;

Total build time for the project;

Available budget and funding; and

Attitude to future technology and risk.

There are 12 rules that apply to the majority of construction projects (see page 39). These will assist in preparation of the correct budget so that strict change-control and cost-management can be applied, ensuring that packages are delivered on time and meet the client's requirements.

AVOIDING FAILURE

Major ICT packages can be kept under control if the correct measures are applied and suitable individuals are put in place at the right time. The most common reasons why ICT packages or projects fail are:

1. The client's requirements are not understood or not detailed enough.

2. The designer's requirements are not understood or not taken into consideration.

3. The designers end up doing their own thing.

4. The programme duration is vastly underestimated.

5. The budget is underestimated.

6. The procurement process is not understood.

7. The contractor is appointed too late.

8. The design brief is lacking detail and is flawed.

9. The contractor has too much of a free run with the final detailed sign.

10. The contractor is used to hide the designer's initial mistakes from the client.

11. New equipment is not tested within the marketplace and is introduced into the detailed design before it has been proven.

12. Risks are not identified and managed.

13. Too many client changes.

14. Change-control is not in place or not suitably managed.

15. A non-realistic design freeze date is put in place.

16. The package is not suitably cost-managed.

By applying the 12 rules set out at the top of the page, the more common reasons for package or project failures can be avoided.

See our briefing on understanding server technology at www. ajplus. co. uk/ICT

This series of articles and online briefings will cover various aspects of designing for ICT.

Forthcoming articles in the AJ will cover:

wireless working

health buildings

leisure buildings

case study on a major building

education buildings

office buildings

retail buildings

Briefings online will deal with:

servers

wireless technology

networks

VoIP and on-screen technology

IPTV

data storage

desktop technology

future technology

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