From the rubble

Oklahoma City's new federal building is 'probably the safest building we have,' GSA's Timothy Thury says.

Public Building Service

New Oklahoma City federal building has future-proof comm

Oklahoma City's new federal building has a structured wiring system for tenants' future data needs, a voice over IP-ready telecommunications switch and a wireless phone system with full deskset functionality.

'They are getting state of the art, no doubt about it,' said Paul Thuman, director of strategic programs for comm integrator NextiraOne Federal of Herndon, Va., a division of NextiraOne LLC.

The building, which began receiving government tenants last month, replaces the Alfred P. Murrah Building that was destroyed by a fertilizer truck bomb in 1995. Its history influenced the design and construction of the new $31 million, 180,000-square-foot facility.

NextiraOne was one of eight bidders on the communications contract.

'The bidding was intense,' Thuman said. 'Because of the visibility of the building and the desire of vendors to participate, GSA is getting a very feature-rich system.'

'We wanted to make sure that whatever we put in would have the scalability to migrate to new technologies,' said Sylvia Hernandez, director of network services for the General Services Administration's Greater Southwest Region.

Hernandez has been involved in the project ever since the Murrah building was bombed. She was at the site within four hours, helping to place surviving federal workers in temporary offices throughout the Oklahoma City area.

'We were taking telephone switches off the assembly line' to set up the new offices, she said.

Safety first

GSA's Public Buildings Service broke ground for the new building in December 2001 on a two-block site at 301 N.W. 6th St., about a block north of the old building's memorial site. A one-block plaza stretches between 7th and 8th streets.

The building has no official name. It takes an act of Congress to name a federal building, and so far that has not happened, said Timothy Thury, the Public Buildings Service's program manager.
'It is probably the safest building we have in the country,' he said.

Nearby parking is limited. The building is set back at least 50 feet with bollards to restrict vehicle access. Blast engineering was incorporated into the construction and the glazing.

'But we wanted to design a building that did not look like a fortress,' Thury said. Visitors can walk through a grand atrium from 6th to 7th streets without being hindered by security. 'You don't go through a checkpoint until you want to go into one of the agencies,' Thury said.

Work on the comm plan began in early 2002. GSA's Federal Technology Service and the Public Buildings Service met with the tenant agencies.

'From that, we were able to form a concept of what we wanted to put into the building,' Hernandez said. 'The agencies in Oklahoma City are not now using any kind of broadband applications, but that doesn't mean they won't.'

Cox Communications Inc. of Atlanta provides fiber connectivity to a Meridian 1 Option 61C private branch exchange switch from Nortel Networks Ltd. GSA will manage the PBX and provide dial tone for the building's tenants.

NextiraOne is installing the structured wiring system, which consists of multiple fiber-optic and Category 5 copper cables incorporated into a single bundle and terminated together at a socket. It's easier to handle moves and increase bandwidth needs with that setup, Thuman said.

Although the PBX is ready for voice over IP, it won't be added right away. Unified messaging, however, will give users access to voice mail on their PCs. They can take or place calls with their PCs via a Meridian 1 CallPilot server from Nortel, which connects to the LAN through a hub port. Client software lets users manage their voice mail on PCs.

Mobile phones

Workers who want more flexibility can take their phones with them around the building, through a Link Wireless Telephone System from Spectralink Corp. of Boulder, Colo.

The wireless phone system works like a cross between home cordless phones and an IEEE 802.11b WiFi LAN. Wireless base stations throughout the building are wired to a master control unit that links to the PBX.

The only feature not available for the 6-ounce wireless handsets is a speakerphone, said Michelle Greene, Spectralink's corporate communications manager. The wireless connectivity works in the unlicensed 900-MHz spectrum using frequency-hopping-spread-spectrum technology. The battery-powered handsets last for up to four hours of talk or 80 hours of standby, Greene said.

One controller can handle 1,000 base stations, 3,200 wireless phones and 1,600 simultaneous calls. So far, four of the 14 agencies that will occupy the building have bought a total of about 30 mobile handsets.

There are 400 workers overall, and if it ever became necessary, Hernandez said, the hybrid network could scale up to as many as 10,000 users

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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