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The Case of the Incredible Shrinking Conduit Space – Coordinating and Planning Technology Infrastructure Upgrades

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June 01, 2012
Legal Corner
Lawrence Bartelemucci - lbartelemucci@andersonkill.com

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During a recent negotiation a frustrated contractor said owners want more and more stuff crammed into their building, but they give less and less space to put it there. 

Unfortunately, the contractor’s frustration is mostly justified, particularly for renovation projects.  Space is valuable.  Space is also limited.  And when it comes to mechanical space, it is shrinking – both by design and as a function of use. It makes sense: the less space used for mechanical and support purposes, the more space available for occupants. At the same time, keeping pace with guests’ technology demands can place a burden on what is often an already overburdened infrastructure system. 

There is little doubt that cutting-edge technology is essential in the highly competitive hospitality industry – both to attract guests and to meet their more demanding-by-the-minute technology needs. Despite the obvious necessity and benefits of providing the newest and best technology, hotel owners and managers must be careful to avoid the pitfalls that can arise when planning or upgrading a building’s telecommunications infrastructure. 

Even Wireless Requires Wires 
While it is nearly impossible to predict the next technological advance, let alone the new service that guests will desire or demand, every project should recognize that one will be on its way. It is vital that the hotel account for future needs in its planning. Such planning starts with the initial design for both new construction and renovation projects. Proper coordination of trades and the development of “as-built” drawings are essential to ensure that there is enough space and information to complete future upgrades.

Be Heart Smart
A microcosm of where the competing demands of space allocation and technology upgrades meet is the frequently overlooked management and use of conduit space.  Conduit space is a building’s vascular system, and old, unused or poorly placed cables are the blockages limiting (or even preventing) the efficient use of that space. Technological upgrades will benefit no one if you can’t reach the user. 

Each company providing telecommunications services will require space for their operational equipment, as well as connections to individual rooms and points throughout the hotel. For such companies, mechanical riser space to situate the companies’ wire-holding conduits is essential, but also usually very limited. Particularly in older buildings, managers and owners must assess how much riser space is available, how quickly the space can and will be used up, and how much space will be required by a telecommunications company. These factors will play a role in prioritizing which services to install.

Out with the Old, In with the New
Along those same lines, telecommunications companies are always happy to accept an invitation to enter a building, but they are not so cooperative when it is time to leave. A surprisingly contentious issue that comes up in negotiations with service providers is what happens to cables that are no longer in service.  The service providers would love to (and often do) abandon those cables in place, which makes sense for them: removing cables can be a very costly non-recoupable cost.

But abandoning the cables can choke an infrastructure system, particularly in older buildings that have been retrofitted for the technology or have gone through several rounds of service providers.  To avoid this problem, service providers should be responsible for removing or paying for the removal of cables no longer in service. 

They Do Not Run Themselves, Yet
Invariably, equipment will need to be repaired or replaced, and infrastructure planning must account for this reality.  Too often I have seen installers struggle to fit a piece of equipment in a limited space only to realize later that a valve or filter is inaccessible. Whether a piece of equipment or service can be shut down without affecting another service is also something that should be considered when designing infrastructure space and use. 

Managing these concerns also means controlling where a service provider’s equipment will be situated and how it will be installed. This requires pre-approval of the service provider’s construction plans to enable a hotel owner or manager to coordinate future construction. Such approval is essential when licensing to multiple telecommunications companies.

Flexibility Is Key
Circumstances may arise during the course of unrelated renovation or ordinary repairs by the hotel that require interference with areas occupied by telecommunications equipment. To avoid any problems or disputes that may arise in such a case, it is important that the hotel reserve the right to require the telecommunications company to temporarily suspend its services, or even permanently relocate such equipment, if necessary, so that renovations and repairs can be made with minimal disruption.

Space to Plan
Infrastructural planning is one of those arenas where the constraints of the past meet the unknown needs of the future. To cope with such contingencies, hotel owners and managers must negotiate contracts that allow them maximum flexibility – to add, subtract, move and plan infrastructure as the market demands.

Lawrence Bartelemucci is a shareholder in the New York office of Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C. Bartelemucci’s practice concentrates in the area of construction law, where he has drafted and negotiated numerous manuscripts and AIA form owner-builder, construction management, architect, design-build, and development agreements. For more information, please call (212) 278-1883 or lbartelemucci@andersonkill.com.

©2012 Hospitality Upgrade
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