Tech Talk: Cabling Labeling

Get it right the first time to prevent future confusion.

Years ago, a wise person said, "Do it right the first time, because practice makes permanent." One detail often given short shrift during any cabling installation is the labeling placed on each wire, indicating its origination and termination locations.

When commissioning infrastructure, a total overhaul of the building-wide labeling scheme often is required. Although this procedure is not expensive, many vendors ignore this common-sense task and make it nearly impossible for school IT personnel to later figure out where wires are routed. Over the life of a building, cables are installed to accommodate additions, moves and changes, and often the numbering system for labeling cables has no rhyme or reason, if they are even labeled at all.

Although technology cabling has been simplified and standardized over the years for installation, the industry never has formally adopted standards so IT personnel can track the routing when changes occur.

This might happen for several reasons. First, when a building is designed, the architect assigns a room numbering scheme to be used on plans during construction. Building prints end up with an alphabetical and numerical system often depicting the phase of construction or a building wing. For example: A101 is a room in Phase A of construction on the first floor; these prints are given to trades who label cables, pipes and HVAC equipment for their use during construction, using the only numbering system available at that time. But when the building opens and the vendors are long gone, the system by which those cables are routed from origination point to termination point is gone with them. The building occupants renumber the rooms according to their own system, and A101 now may be known as room 1207.

Another common circumstance is when a vendor pulls, for example, four additional cables through a building at a later time and numbers them "1, 2, 3 and 4." The owner is left looking at a data jack with no way to know where the cables are terminated in the building.

The solution to this problem is simple. A naming convention for technology cabling, either building or districtwide, will simplify the cabling scheme and enable schools to easily understand how their cabling system works. The most common naming convention for technology cabling is first numbering the main and intermediate wiring closets (MDF/IDF closets) as the origination point; next, identify the room number assigned by the building occupants; and then identify the individual cable termination point in that room. So in the case of room 1207, the first data wire number would be A1207-1; (A) = IDF A, (1207) the room number in the building and (-1) the number 1 cable in the room. This makes it simple to immediately identify technology cable routing.

C. William Day is senior analyst at KBD Planning Group, Young Harris, Ga., a firm specialized in education facilities and technology planning. He can be reached at [email protected].

TAGS: Construction
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