Gabe’s Puts Public Safety Expertise To Work For Washu Expansion Project

Gabe’s has a longstanding history of providing numerous services that commercial real estate owners desire, such as wireless data collection, iDAS, and oDAS design and construction, small cell engineering and construction, system integration, commissioning & optimization, along with fiber engineering, construction, splicing, and maintenance. However, the company recently got an opportunity to put its public safety system expertise to work for Washington University in St. Louis.

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The university, which has an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students, was in the midst of a vast, six building expansion on its 346.5 acre campus. As required by code NFPA 1221 these new buildings required a public safety solution for first responders. These solutions are critical as they allow for first responders to be able to communicate with each other on their radio systems during emergencies. As nice as it may be for students and faculty to have a reliable wireless network on campus so they can study and work, respectively, that convenience pales in comparison to how important it is for first responders’ network to at all times. A fully functioning public safety system could literally be the difference between life and death in the event of a fire or any other incident that requires first responders’ presence.

WashU engaged an all-star group including an internal project manager, the general contractor on the expansion project, the firm installing the carrier distributed antenna system (DAS) and Gabe’s. This group was responsible for supporting the design, permitting, construction, commissioning, and testing of the public safety system. At the time this project began, Gabe’s was working with the university on benchmark testing across all campus locations in St. Louis, MO.

As with any project, one of the priorities is to understand the client’s expectations clearly. However, on a public safety project, it is also crucial to engage the local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ); on this project, it was the local fire marshal. With this information representatives from the university as well as Gabe’s met with the fire marshal to review the project and understand his expectations. For this particular project, the fire marshal’s expectations were ensuring his radio system worked in the areas where public safety system was installed. During his visit, the fire marshal tested those areas by walking around with a radio, making sure he could be heard clearly.

Another interesting challenge the WashU project presented from a public safety standpoint is that the system needed to operate on multiple frequencies—city and county, so the system Gabe’s engineered had to account for both. To do so, the company tested tower locations and set up separate donor antennas that point at each one. The adjustment displayed another thing building owners need to be aware of when installing a public safety system—whether or not their properties reside in multiple municipalities and thus will have to account for more than frequency.

“We went into this project with an open mind, knowing that every project is dynamic,” Gabe’s Vice President of Wireless Solutions Brad Baumann said. “This allowed us to understand our customers’ needs and learn the requirements with no preconceived expectations.”

“With exceptional data on the new buildings from the University, Gabe’s was able to turnaround a primary design in a short period of time,” Gabe’s Director of Wireless Solutions— Construction Jason Phillips said. “It was important to make sure the design was fully functional from a technical perspective, but also meet the architectural needs asked for by Washington University.”

To limit potential issues during the construction phase of the project, members of the University, General Contractor, Engineering Firm, Installation Contractor, and the Electrical Contractor walked the project following every iteration of the design. These site walks allowed all participants to understand the design and construction needs clearly. The walkthroughs were especially beneficial for Gabe’s, as the company had to make sure its work satisfied all parties involved from both an architectural and aesthetics standpoint. As important as it was that Gabe’s work meshed with the construction work while the project was going on, it also had to look good when the project was complete. That meant paying attention to details such as where the open ceiling areas were so wires weren’t visible.

Working under a tight deadline, Gabe’s partnered with a local engineering firm familiar with Washington University to help expedite the permitting process. “Our two companies work together closely to integrate the structural and power requirements into the proposed RF design,” Phillips said. “By utilizing a local engineering firm, the team was able to leverage their knowledge with the local building code, including identifying the need for seismic bracing for the cable pathway on this project. There was no sense of competition amongst any of the vendors—we all just worked to make sure the project was successful.”

“Upon completion of the installation, Gabe’s RF Engineers successfully commissioned the network and completed the acceptance testing of the system,” Gabe’s Director of Sales Bob Joslin said. “The results provided the Fire Marshall with the proof that the system performed according to the code.”

While Gabe’s demonstrated a number of different capabilities on this project—especially when it came to designing the public safety system, working with the multiple groups to achieve one common goal within the necessary deadline was the most rewarding part of the project. It can be challenging in its own right to design a public safety system on a blank canvas, but the company managed to do so within an already constructed infrastructure. The company contributed to the project in other ways besides the engineering perspective too—from working with the construction and civil engineering teams, the university and the general contractor.

“We had that flexibility to work with multiple companies and accomplish one common task, understand the ground rules and what their expectations were,” Phillips said. “If someone wondered why they should use Gabe’s on a project, I’d say because of our ability to come into a situation that existed and be fluid enough to work with all of the different parties involved, to help accomplish that one goal.”

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