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Entopia building

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership has moved from their old offices that were spread around the city into the recently refurbished Entopia Building. The move puts all the Cambridge-based CISL staff and partners under one roof for the first time in the institute’s history. The Entopia Building is also home to the Canopy, which provides over 80 workspaces for sustainability focused startups, entrepreneurs and SMEs. 

Right at the beginning of the move UIS’s network project team helped in analysing, designing and implementing the data networking for the new building to meet the needs of both CISL staff and Canopy members. 

The building work was a complex project that had to adhere to PassivHaus/EnerPhit standards. This was a key consideration for the sustainability-focused department. The building was constructed in the 1930s and originally housed the city’s GPO telecommunications offices, and then more recently was home to Cambridge Assessment. 

The building was stripped back to its ‘brick-and-block' skeleton, with as much of the old Cambridge Assessment furniture, comms racks, and power distribution reused, as part of the sustainability aspirations of the build. 

Before the move to the new headquarters, UIS provided the standard UDN internet connection for the institute, and the rest of the required services were run by the dedicated but small IT team. CISL IT staff approached UIS to explore putting all their managed infrastructure services for their new building into one place, leaving them to concentrate on resourcing desktop support, remote-working (including CISL staff and partners based abroad) and managing cloud-based services.

For historical reasons, the building was never directly on the UDN nor connected to the GBN, so the first challenge was to extend the underground duct and fibre from Parker’s Piece to the new building, which happens to be next to a new college court for its neighbours, Emmanuel College; costs for the network extension have therefore been shared between GBN, Estate Management, and the college.

The duct work had to be laid at night, due to the traffic-sensitive nature of Park Terrace. The Passiv Haus aspirations required cabling and UIS-supplied active equipment to be closely designed to minimise impact on the overall power consumption and HVAC demands on the building. The building’s managed network service had to provide for various building management and HVAC controlling systems; audio-visual networking; Canopy-user 'non-Janet' wired and wireless internet; staff laptop connections over wifi and CAT6a media.

UIS’s Michael Warren and Alban Milroy were instrumental in designing a secure, managed network that would satisfy both the new headquarters' IT requirements, whilst also minimizing its power and heat impact.

The new building was expected to provide both wired LAN and full wifi coverage for staff, visiting academics and non-University related users. This presented challenges in the physical wireless coverage (due to the solid construction and new insulative measures of the building, and the presence of the exposed internal air-handling conduits and lighting systems) and by the wireless building control systems which could not interfere with the UIS wifi.

UIS’s Rob Howard, Gary Arber and Sam Ludford were the project’s liaison staff who combined their experience and knowledge to deliver the various elements of the building’s IT needs. This was all while dealing with a changing IT landscape, the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and by key contractors unfortunately going out of business during a critical time in the refurbishment works.

Rob Howard from the project team praised the work of his colleagues: "With the various challenges presented in delivering UIS services to a building with no history of direct University network connectivity, coupled with the environmental aspirations, I am very pleased with how the project has been delivered. My thanks go to Mike, Gary, Alban and Sam for their expertise and commitment. I’d also like to thank CISL’s Director of Technology, Andy Taylor; Ellis Karim and Chris Burgin (CISL’s IT team), and the lead project manager from ISG, Shaun Farrow, who all helped us to design and implement the IT requirements."

CISL’s Technology Director, Andy Taylor, said of the project: "Moving to Entopia provided CISL with the opportunity to simplify its footprint with a move to cloud-only services for all of our business activities. Selecting the UIS managed network compliments that model and provides high speed access across the building to all of our users.  In turn, this allows us to focus our IT operations on optimising the user experience and delivering business critical services."

If you have any queries or are interested in a networking project of this kind contact the UIS Service Desk who will be able to put you in contact with the team. 

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