DAS & IN BUILDING LEED with DAS: Ensuring Connectivity in LEED-Certified Buildings

May 15, 2016 12:41 PM By Andrew Maier | WIN

Indoor distributed antenna systems (DAS) and LEED certification represent two of today’s biggest building trends. Everyone is relying more on their mobile devices, boosting the need for DAS solutions, and everyone wants to be green. And the momentum is only starting to build. The market value expected by 2020 is $16.71 billion for in-building wireless1 and a staggering $254 billion for green construction.2
Often the two trends go hand-in-hand. DAS solutions and LEED certification are both becoming more common among Class A buildings, a situation the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International describes as the “most prestigious buildings competing for premier office users with rents above average for the area.” DAS solutions and LEED certification align with these buildings’ high standards.
Plus, LEED-certified buildings often feature low-emissivity (low-e) glass windows, which block the transmission of both heat and cell signals. In these instances, DAS solutions are not just an amenity but a necessity in order for tenants to use their mobile devices inside the building.

In most cases today, a building first completes LEED certification and then installs a DAS solution — either to compensate for low-e glass or to overcome unrelated cellular connectivity issues. So chances are, if you design, integrate, install or maintain DAS systems, your projects will probably include more LEED-certified buildings in the coming years. Let’s take a look at the advantages and challenges of these installations, as well as a recent case study.

Advantages of Installing a DAS in a LEED-Certified Building
First and foremost, installing a DAS in a LEED-certified building with low-e glass is much easier than in a building with conventional glass. That’s because the insulating properties of the low-e glass block all exterior cell signals that might compete with the interior network created with the DAS. You essentially have a blank canvas when working on these jobs. You can install the best solution for the building without needing to account for interference. For this same reason, DAS installations in buildings with low-e glass are generally less expensive as well.

Challenges of Installing a DAS in a LEED-Certified Building
The only real downside of DAS installation in a LEED-certified building is the potential for slowdowns due to high-finish requirements. As mentioned above, many LEED-certified buildings with DAS solutions are categorized as Class A buildings, meaning they have higher standards for everything — including aesthetics. So while you might initially be able to expedite the installation in a building that features low-e glass, you might spend extra time adjusting antenna placement later so the equipment doesn’t detract from sightlines throughout the building. But of course, every installation is different — some Class A building managers won’t have any issues with the placement of DAS antennas, which are designed to be low-profile anyway.

Case Study: 1KFulton, Chicago

Last year the historic cold-storage warehouse at 1000 West Fulton Market completed its transformation into one of Chicago’s most prestigious office and retail buildings — complete with a top-of-the-line DAS solution and LEED Gold certification. Now known simply as 1KFulton, the 550,000-square-foot Class A building houses Google’s Midwest headquarters, along with several other creative and tech companies. The renovation has helped spur renewal across the entire neighborhood, turning an aging meatpacking district into one of Chicago’s trendiest places to work and live. All of us at WIN were proud to provide the DAS for this significant building.

The Decision to Install a DAS
Chicago-based development firm Sterling Bay brought us into the renovation project fairly early on. They knew they needed a DAS because they’d decided to keep the building’s existing structure, which contains steel supports and rebar that interfered with cell signals. Interestingly, the building’s low-e glass didn’t factor into the decision to install a DAS — the glass was just a feature that helped the finished building become LEED-certified.

Sterling Bay also wanted the DAS because they knew the renovation would transform the entire neighborhood, bringing in more business, residents and data traffic. Macro networks might not be able to keep up with demand for coverage and capacity, but a DAS solution inside the building would. And tenants like Google wouldn’t settle for anything less than 100 percent coverage.

The Initial Benchmark of Connectivity
The WIN team, led by Project Manager Keith Lewitzke and Senior RF Engineer Chukwuma Agba, performed the initial benchmark analysis in August 2014. By this point, the shell of the building was in place and the low-e glass windows had been installed on every floor except the first. The team accounted for the missing glass in their analysis.

The Advantage of an Unoccupied Building
Because Sterling Bay knew upfront that they needed a DAS, we were able to install the system during the renovation as an integral part of the infrastructure. This timing allowed our team to work in the building at any time of day without disrupting tenants with noise or dust. Our team was also able to collaborate closely with the construction crews to optimize the placement of antennas.

The Challenge of Balancing Antennas and Aesthetics
Aesthetics were a major concern during the renovation because of Sterling Bay’s high standards for its tenants and high profile in the real estate community. The building has received a lot of attention among architects because the structure melds a historic 10-story building with a new six-story annex and offers sweeping skyline views. The interior features the popular loft aesthetic, lots of exposed concrete and mechanicals, allowing each tenant to finish the space according to their preferences.

We worked closely with the architectural firm, Hartshorne Plunkard Architects (HPA), and each tenant to install the DAS during the build-out, making adjustments to accommodate details such as light fixtures, dropped ceilings and overall appearance of the space. Lewitzke sometimes described it as a game of checkers — we’d shift an antenna out of the sightline of a corridor, and then shift another to compensate for the first.

For example, Google was sensitive about the visibility of antennas in the 6th floor lobby between the elevator and the multimedia room where important client presentations are held. Understandably, Google didn’t want antennas to detract from the beauty of the building or the view outside, as high-profile clients pass through the space.

Change orders requested during architectural review added to the cost of the installation (funded by Verizon), but we were still able to complete the entire project in just 100 days.

The Final Benchmark of Connectivity
Sterling Bay and Verizon have heard only positive feedback regarding the DAS installation at 1KFulton. And as in most cases, positive feedback about a DAS primarily means no feedback; many tenants aren’t even aware of the system. They just know they can use their mobile devices at full capacity with reliable connectivity. From a technical standpoint, the DAS solution increased signal strength by 24 percent and signal quality by 62 percent.

Going Green and Wireless into the Future
As the number of DAS installations and LEED certifications increases, it will become more important for building owners, architects and engineers to think about the two in conjunction. Whenever possible, the DAS solution should be installed during renovation or new construction. As in the case of 1KFulton, installing a DAS during construction allows for critical collaboration regarding the placement of antennas. It can also streamline the entire installation process — reducing costs and allowing tenants to begin experiencing the benefits of the DAS as quickly as possible.


“In-Building Wireless Market worth $16.71 Billion in 2020.” MarketsandMarkets, https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/in-building-wireless.asp
“Green Building Materials Will Reach $254 Billion in Annual Market Value by 2020.” Navigant Research, https://www.navigantresearch.com/newsroom/green-building-materials-will-reach-254-billion-in-annual-market-value-by-2020

About the Author
Andrew Maier is vice president of emerging technologies at WIN, a leader in distributed antenna system (DAS) solution development for high-rises. He focuses on applications and technologies that use Internet access to improve building-wide communication and efficiency.

*Reprinted with permission

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