CIOs and facilities managers need to be BFFs with green IT practices

I live in a relatively modest 1,500-square-foot bungalow. It was built shortly after World War II by the first owner, a man who wanted his house to withstand possible mortar attacks from a resurgent Axis Alliance. Embedded within its very walls is a steel mesh that is great for stability but turns simple home improvements into a nightmare. It also means that we live in a form of a Faraday cage.

Our smartphones go from five bars to maybe two the minute we step inside the door. We also need to have two Wi-Fi hubs. They’re maybe 40 feet apart, but the signal just can’t make it through — literally — three walls of steel. Of course, old buildings being quirky is nothing new: A friend works in a rehabbed warehouse space, and deals with the constant issues caused by his overworked HVAC system not being able to chill the servers due to lousy insulation on the outer walls.

So, you move your operations to a new structure and problem solved? Maybe! Or maybe your problems are just beginning.

Modern builders employing green building methods tend to wrap the building frame — from floor to rafters — in insulated membranes like Protect TF200 Thermo or gold foil TyVek wrap. It’s a reflective surface, which is great if you want to prevent lost heat and cooling, but it might not be so awesome if you rely on wireless connectivity. And the worst part is that it’s already in the walls when you sign the lease on your new space, and you’ll never realize that you’re in a Faraday cage until your team logs onto their iPads and BlackBerrys.

Features Writer Laura Smith wrote last month, “IT may own the blueprint of the future, but facilities owns the blueprint of the building, and that usually determines where pipes and cables are laid, as well as where vents and access control points are located. IT’s involvement at the beginning of a data center consolidation and virtualization project helps eliminate the need for expensive retrofitting later.” You can’t really do anything after a building has been wrapped in environmentally friendly construction materials, but this is the kind of information that the facilities manager might not realize will impact the CIO’s bottom line. Sure, another AirPort Extreme isn’t going to kill anyone’s budget, but an unexpected 1,000 extra AirPorts and a need to change a telecom strategy most definitely will have an impact.

You never really know what you don’t know, especially when it’s bricked up inside the walls. Great CIOs have always been able to roll with surprises, whether it’s an unexpected system outage or a lost radio signal; but this is just one more reason why a CIO needs to establish a great relationship with her facilities manager.

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