It turns out that Ottawa is rife with Heritage Buildings (No surprise, being the Nation’s Capital). FCi is frequently called upon to design, install, upgrade or troubleshoot Wireless networks in these difficult locations.
There are multiple concerns when building a WLAN in a heritage building;
- Limited pathways for Cabling
- Limited Access to AC power
- Restrictions on drilling or nailing when mounting access points, antennas or other hardware
- Serious Aesthetic concerns (White plastic Access Points against heritage stone or wood? Yikes!)
- RF propagation limited by heavy construction materials (Stone, Thick wood, multiple layers of plaster, etc.)
The first thing to complete in this case is a thorough site survey to determine construction materials and verify/create accurate floor plans. This is critical in understanding the propagation model for the structure. An active survey with APs placed to measure attenuation of walls and floors is very useful, as standard models don’t usually apply. Careful propagation analysis allows the designer to understand the consequence of various AP placements – which usually changes as the interior design staff have their input. Also, a good understanding of where coverage is actually required may ease the design as some areas could be eliminated from the scope of work by simply understanding the requirements.
Careful choice of hardware is helpful as well. Most vendors have several styles of AP that can be useful; an example is the Aruba Networks AP-205H, a high-performance 802.011ac Access Point designed to be mounted on a wall jack instead of the ceiling. Some APs or antennas are paintable, making them much easier to integrate into the existing decor. In some cases, Mesh Networking technologies can be used when there is absolutely no route for an Ethernet cable (though this still requires AC power at the AP location.)
Most Heritage sites have interior design staff who work closely with operations and building maintenance personnel to resolve these challenges. Cable pathways are restricted, but careful and creative effort will usually result in a workable solution.
With careful design and close cooperation with conservators, a high-performance wireless network and excellent user experience can be achieved at heritage sites.