Top 10 IT Tips For University Office Remodeling or Additions

(This article was originally published on Optimal Partners’ blog. Special thanks to Chris Frias, a project manager from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, for assistance on this piece.)

The construction of new offices and the remodeling of older ones is a large part of the yearly upkeep of Higher Ed IT. Spaces need to be redesigned around new technological requirements, and new construction needs to fit in comfortably with already established infrastructure. There’s a lot to consider on a project of this scale: not only do you need to focus on your organization’s needs, but also on what’s already installed in the surrounding space, and how your implementation will be future-proofed to avoid extra costs to your institution down the line. Luckily, there are a few key things to consider when constructing office space in a Higher Ed IT environment that will help ensure the success of your project and the longevity of your spaces.

10. Retain a Balance Between Private & Public Office Space

Not every priority in a Higher Ed IT project is necessarily technological; sometimes the psychological benefits of your product are as important as its functional benefits. This is especially true when constructing office space, where university staff and administration spend a majority of their time. If your offices primarily serve to promote privacy, then you may stifle collaboration and social behavior, but if you mostly provide public workspace, you make it difficult for the office workers to focus on their own tasks. Higher Ed is very collaborative in nature, especially when compared to some corporate environments, so it’s important to strike a balance between public and private office space to ensure the happiness and effectiveness of your institution’s staff.

9. Guarantee You Have Enough Electrical Capacity For Your Project

It may seem like a no-brainer to ensure that your institution has the electrical capacity for your new installations or remodeling plans, but it can be easy to overlook. More electrical capacity is required to compensate for an ever-increasing reliance on electronics, the discovery of more optimal storage procedures, which lead to more devices stored in smaller spaces, and the creation of new technological devices for Higher Ed IT. Before you can worry about power conditioning or grounding, you need to ensure that your institution and any electrical generators it relies on are outfitted to deal with the increased electrical requirements your project will bring.

8. Identify All Use Cases for Connectivity Before Beginning Construction

While most Higher Ed office workers will use a specific type of connectivity in their day-to-day work, it’s important to identify the range of connectivity that your project will require before starting your implementation. Your offices will need wired and wireless access to the internet. You may also need dedicated network connections from data centers or cloud-service providers. Covering all of your bases in terms of connectivity will help you create a project plan to meet those requirements, which is much easier than having to change your project as new requirements arise.

7. Set Up A Wireless Access Point For Every 30 People

A good rule of thumb is to install a wireless access point for every thirty people working in a dense office environment.

Although wired internet connections are much more reliable for desktop computers, wireless access should still be considered for your project, especially if your offices are housed on campus. One wireless access point alone will not suffice to serve an entire office, however. A good rule of thumb is to install a wireless access point for every thirty people working in a dense office environment. If your office building is near a place where students, faculty or staff congregate, consider installing wireless access points outside of your building, so they can service the immediate surrounding area as well.

6. Install Dedicated Circuits & UPS Units for Specific Devices

Dedicated circuits and UPS units serve to guarantee that reliable power is supplied to specific devices in your office while also protecting them from any potentially damaging complications due to shared circuits or sudden power surges. Not every piece of technology will require these precautions, but it is worth investing the time and money to protect your office’s computers, servers, and other expensive devices that may hold valuable data. Planning for these specific precautions ahead of time helps you to avoid going back and installing them after your equipment is in place.

5. Secure As-builts to Help with Future Projects & Troubleshooting

As-builts are a series of documents that record any changes and revisions to your facility by contractors who worked on previous projects. It’s important to secure as-builts that relate to your project, especially from your low-voltage installer, to ensure that any future moves or installations are based on up-to-date specifications. As-builts also help when troubleshooting any issues that arise during your project, by helping you figure out whether a problem is due to prior changes or related to your project. You wouldn’t expect a doctor to operate on someone without knowing their medical history, and similarly, you shouldn’t be expected to remodel an office without knowing what changes others have made to it in the past.

4. A Wireless Lighting Control System Can Save Money & Add Flexibility

Wired connections are often favored over wireless for their improved reliability, but wireless technology is advancing to a point where it can be very useful in specific contexts. For example, your lighting control system can benefit greatly from being wireless, as it’s often less expensive to install than a wired system. Once the system is installed, wireless lighting can be easier to work with. Depending on your specific system, it may also allow for remote monitoring and centralized control. Some systems even let you monitor individual fixtures, so you can keep tabs on which units need replacing, rather than waiting for something to go wrong. The added flexibility that a wireless system affords you during and after the installation process can greatly benefit your product’s longevity and the overall cost of your project.

3. Choose Your Flooring Carefully

Vinyl composition tile, wood, or rubber flooring can work well as alternatives to carpet.

Although it will help the overall aesthetic quality of the rooms you’re working on, the type of flooring you decide to install is very important for the technology you install in them, as well. Your choice of flooring will depend on the specific type of room you’re building or remodeling. Vinyl composition tile (VCT), wood, or rubber flooring can work well as alternatives to carpet where static electricity is a big issue. If no other options are viable, you can even consider anti-static carpeting to avoid damage to your electronic equipment. In cases where static electricity isn’t a problem, however, carpet can help create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for your office.

2. Establish What Can Be Saved

Sometimes when remodeling an office, your first instinct is to rip everything out and start fresh. This may work in some cases, but can be very costly to your institution and can possibly cause problems with how those changes interact with the rest of the office’s IT infrastructure. It’s important to start off by establishing what features can stay and which need changing. Sometimes old assets will need to be replaced to make room for newer features, even if they’re functionally sound. It’s important to keep in mind that every new addition brings with it a new set of possible issues that need troubleshooting. Finding a balance between what needs updating and what can be saved will help reduce the cost and potential negative impact your project has on the rest of the facility.

1. Choose Different Colored Cables

Cabling can be very visually confusing, with masses of cables running through your facility, all going to different devices and supporting different systems. Do yourself a favor and choose different colors for your cables during installation. The specific colors don’t matter as much as having them be universal across your facility so that people can know what cables serve what purpose at a glance and can avoid unplugging the wrong device. This will help throughout your implementation, as well as for any future work on the cabling you install.

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