In this blog post, I hope to start some discussion on designing networks for buildings, or alternatively the building for networks. Structured network infrastructures have become an accepted way of dealing with the proliferation of interlinked electronic devices; very few building developers today would dream of specifying a new office without adequate vertical ducts, generous floor to ceiling heights, or access floors; simpler design strategies for rehabilitating difficult older buildings are becoming routine.
Office furniture manufacturers comprehend how important their products are for making networks work. Ways are being found to achieve simpler and cheaper - and less volume consuming - architectural solutions to manifold problems associated with accommodating the network.
Best of all, it is now commonplace for user clients, networking specialists, facilities managers, and all the many and varied members of building design teams, to communicate with each other, using the same language and the same concepts, during the design of even the most complex office buildings.
In fact, some people, especially architects who tend to be blessed with a volatile mixture of optimism, amnesia and hindsight, which helps to make the practice of their otherwise impossibly difficult profession tolerable, are asking what all the fuss was about. Was introducing the network into buildings no more than a troubled dream? Can design teams now relax and get back to old and often lazy ways? Can old designs and specifications be dusted off?
The answer, for three very important reasons, is quite simply, 'No'.
First, the process of the diffusion of networks throughout all office organizations is still not or ever will be complete. Wherever, whenever and however the network arrives, there will always be trouble and change.
Second, organizations that use networks become increasingly dependent on them - addicted one might say - and quite literally, cannot live without them. The correct infrastructure is essential for organizational survival. The relationship between the network and building design is simply far too important to the survival of too many organizations ever to be forgotten or ignored.
Third, networks, important as they are as technical phenomena, are much, much more important as the solvent of traditional social and organizational conventions that have held businesses and cities together for well over a century. After networking, nothing about office work - neither location, nor commuting, nor the mix and type of staff, nor the conventional shape and specification of office buildings, nor building services, nor the choice of furniture, nor the unique ownership of individual workstations, nor the importance (or unimportance) of meetings, nor the design of equipment, nor the greatest and most limiting conventions of all, the nine-to-five working day - can ever be taken for granted again.
Modern organizations have become dependent on the use of networks. Networking has fundamentally changed the way in which basic office work, such as production, distribution and storage of documents, is carried out. Yet, organizations sometimes are not able to take full advantage of the opportunities that the network offers since their buildings cannot support the new technologies. All parties involved in the design and development of office complexes have to accommodate network requirements, and my next series of blog posts will aim to highlight some of the areas that need to be considered.
As always your views and experiences are always welcome. There is not always one way that is the right way.