When NECA added “Integrated Building Systems” to the name of its successful voice/data/video conference this year, it should have been an indication of the news that would be announced at the show. Ed Hill, international president of IBEW unveiled to the more than 2,000 contractors, apprentices, and others who attended the fourth annual VDV Expo & Conference from March 10 – 12 at the Las Vegas Hilton an agreement in which the installers of low-voltage systems will receive 75% of journeyman wiremen’s pay, along with other union benefits.

Before the attendees moved on to the seminars and product showcase available at the show, Hill also noted that the agreement includes a portability clause that allows low-voltage installers from locals outside a particular jurisdiction to work on projects without any interference. A similar program for residential installations is also in place. The intent is to allow the IBEW members and NECA contractors to be competitive in the marketplace for installing “intelligent” buildings and “smart” homes. Hill called the agreement, “the right tool for the right job at the right time.”

The conference’s name change was intended to recognize and promote the advantages presented to electrical contractors who provide the communications and control cabling system in buildings and facilities, along with the electric power installation. Along those lines, the conference offered nearly 30 basic and advanced level courses that covered network design and cabling, access control, security, audio/video, protocols, standards, power quality, estimation, and project management. Additionally, six seminars covered home networking technology. Three suppliers offered specific product training in pre- and post-conference tutorials.

Among the presenters were:

  • David Bo Conrad, president, Crossbow Communications, San Jose, Calif., explained fiber optic cable design and the testing requirements for Gigabit Ethernet, which has reduced headroom for power losses. Concentrating on LAN Ethernet fiber, interoperability, topologies, and design options like collapse backbone and fiber to the desk, he emphasized the importance of matching the electronic hardware with the proper cabling and connector options. He also highlighted the need for proper terminating, inspecting, and testing to standards.
  • Greg Weldon, AMP NetConnect, Harrisburg, Pa., discussed the logical convergence of building automation systems and the ability to use a single network to serve various in-building services, such as access control, security, digital camera arrays, and wireless Internet access. He noted that the new ANSI/TIA/EIA-862, “Building Automation Cabling Standard for Commercial Buildings,” makes it easier to place a structured network system for BAS applications in both new and renovated facilities, with a high degree of consistency.
    He went on to point out that building automation functions involve information processing, so the ability to communicate with these functions using Internet protocol addresses creates an important commonality.
  • Bob Jensen, consultant, Fluke Networks, and John Struhar, Fotec, Everett, Wash., described the evolution of backbone cabling and the recently developed laser-optimized 50-micron multimode optical fiber. They also covered optical cable testing procedures and the advantage of using the proposed two-tier method involving insertion loss measurement, OTDR trace analysis, and grading of the connector endface. They went on to describe testing procedures for Cat. 6 unshielded, twisted-pair copper cabling and the patch cord’s effect on channel performance.

A panel of industry leaders presented a new certification program for measuring the competence of low-voltage system installers who also provide software integration services, called Certified Systems Technician, Accredited and Registered, or C-STAR. A non-profit organization to direct this accreditation effort was formally created at the meeting.

Discussing the C-STAR accreditation program, which is intended for both union and non-union workers, were: A.J. Pearson, executive director, Jim Boyd, senior director of Curriculum Development and Training, and Terry Coleman, director of Telecommunications Curriculum Development and Training, NJATC, Knoxville, Tenn.; Jim Thurman, past president, Independent Electrical Contractors, Houston, Texas; and Greg Weldon, AMP NetConnect, Harrisburg, Pa.

Jim Hayes, president, VDV Works, Fallbrook, CA., then reviewed 35 new products and services available from manufacturers displaying at the show.