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September 08

LEED-Certified Construction Can Make Reliable Cellular Connectivity a Challenge

Developing highly energy-efficient commercial buildings can be great for the global environment and for the bottom line of the building’s owner. But it also can wreak havoc with cellular connectivity inside buildings and pose a significant problem for tenants and workers.

LEED-certified buildings are designed to reduce the amount of power and water consumed, to use fewer resources and minimize waste, to save energy and to cut overall costs. And green buildings are great at keeping what’s outside outside. They typically use low-emissivity (Low-E) glass, which includes a thin, transparent coating that reduces the transmission of heat, keeping the building warm in cold weather, cool in the summer months and boosting the overall energy efficiency.

Unfortunately, Low-E glass also is efficient at keeping outside cellular signals from getting into the building. At a time when the global workforce is becoming more mobile and increasingly relying on such devices as smartphones and tablets to do business, poor indoor cellular connectivity can be a huge problem. That, in turn, can mean significant headaches for the building’s owner. With the construction of new green buildings and the retrofitting of existing ones expected to grow in the coming years, property owners will have to find a solution to the challenge or face the wrath of angry and frustrated tenants. A distributed antenna system (DAS) is that solution.

A DAS solution provides a network of small antennas located throughout a building to improve cellular connectivity. That connectivity is crucial to companies that are seeing workers increasingly using their cell phones to reach customers, vendors and colleagues, to access data and applications on the internet and to use such communications tools as text messaging, chat and social media. The reliance on mobile devices promises to only increase as younger people who have grown up in an always-online, constantly connected world move into the workforce. For companies, reliable in-building connectivity is a way to both improve productivity and to hire and keep talented employees. For property owners, it’s a way of ensuring that existing tenants continue to lease space in their buildings, that prospective tenants are not turned off by a lack of cellular connectivity, and that the value of their buildings increases over time.

Embracing a DAS solution and ensuring reliable connectivity is important because the trend in green construction isn’t expected to slow anytime soon. According to Statista Inc., spending on LEED construction in the United States will increase from $49.79 billion in 2014 to $78.63 billion by 2018. That growth shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which oversees LEED standards and certifications, LEED-certified buildings can deliver 20 percent lower maintenance costs over typical commercial buildings, while retrofitting an existing building can decrease operational costs by almost 10 percent in the first year. They have 34 percent lower carbon emissions, consume 25 percent less energy and use 11 percent less water. Upfront investment in green construction increases the value of a building by 4 percent, while lower maintenance and energy costs mean that retrofit projects can pay for themselves in seven years, according to the USGBC.

There are advantages to implementing a DAS inside a LEED-certified building. Not only does the antenna system bring reliable cellular connectivity to tenants, but because the Low-E glass used in such a building effectively blocks the transmission of external signals into the building, there is a much lower chance of those outside signals interfering with the DAS network inside.

Provide in-building cellular connectivity required by today’s employees

So, if you’re developing a LEED-certified building or bringing your current one up to LEED standards, you’re going to need to ensure that the people inside the building can reliably call out. Modern workers are increasingly going to their cell phones to communicate with other people—whether that’s via voice or text or video or some other method—to access the internet and get data and applications from the cloud. According to a recent Zinwave survey, cell phones are now only behind email as the preferred tool for communicating with others inside and outside of the office, and they are also the second fastest-growing tool in terms of use. For employees, their mobile devices are keys to being productive, and they are requiring reliable indoor connectivity.

Property owners also will want to keep in mind that when cellular connectivity is spotty—when they are having issues with dropped calls or texts not getting through—tenants are no longer pointing a finger at carriers. According to another Zinwave survey from earlier this year, workers are increasingly putting the blame on their employers or the companies that own the buildings. That’s particularly true of Millennials, who are expected to account for as much as 75 percent of the workforce in the next 10 to 15 years and who, according to the survey, were 58 percent more likely than older employees to blame businesses or building owners for poor cellular signals.

The trend toward green building construction is growing rapidly. Building owners can see reduced costs around power and water by embracing environmentally-friendly designs, and having LEED certification will only drive up the value of their buildings. But they also must understand that adopting LEED standards means that outside cellular signals will also have a difficult time getting into the building, and they will have to find ways to ensure that their tenants have strong, reliable wireless connectivity.

When it comes to total cost of ownership, not all DAS solutions are the same. Three things need to be considered when determining the TCO of a DAS solution. Learn more about them in our ebook.

 

 

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