This article wraps up EC&M's yearlong coverage of how cabling contractors can generate new business through customer-owned outside plant design work.

In this final installment of EC&M's 12-part series on outside plant (OSP) design, we'll walk through the various stages of a typical OSP project as seen through the eyes of a project designer. We'll also cover many of the issues outlined in the series, which is based on BICSI's Second Edition of the Customer-Owned Outside Plant Design Manual.


Get the job. We begin the journey with the proverbial telephone call for new business. Our project designer answers the phone and learns of a new project lead. A large computer company, which owns all the buildings on a business campus, wants to install additional copper and fiber optic cabling throughout the grounds. Some routes will connect new buildings and other routes will constitute upgrades to existing facilities. Our designer must first try to get on the bidder's short list, so his firm can be considered for the design project. Since the computer company is putting out a request for services (RFS), the designer contacts the company and completes the necessary paperwork. Several weeks will go by before he finds out whether his firm has won the bid for the project.

Getting started.

If his firm is selected, the project designer needs to set up a meeting with the client to review the project goals. In this meeting, the parties review minimal specifications, required material types, and project deadlines. The client also furnishes the designer with records in the form of CAD drawings that note the locations of all the campus' existing cabling and structures. During the meeting they outline which sections will require new or replacement cabling. At the end of the meeting, the designer should understand the general requirements of the project. His next step is to use the CAD drawings to develop a route study and project schedule.

Back at the office, the designer meets with his team of field technicians, CAD specialists, and design assistants to review the project goals. Next, he must secure the client's permission to access the campus and inform its security team which days his field technicians will be on site to begin their work. He then schedules his field technicians to begin the site survey (see “Prepare Your Bidders With an Accurate Scope of Work” in the October issue of EC&M).

Get out in the field.

The field technicians begin their survey and secure new pathway proposals for the new buildings. Prior to visiting the site, the technician must request that most or all existing underground cables and other utilities be located, since the CAD drawings don't sufficiently note cable locations. Several days later the field technicians begin their work by surveying potential pathway choices. Suppose one new building sits next to an existing power pole line. Although some poles would need to be changed out to accommodate the new cabling, the technicians still feel it's a good option to attach the new cabling to it. They find another route that has an existing conduit system with several vacant conduits, and they make plans to use it. A third direct-buried route offers limited space to open a trench and install new cable. For this route they propose using directional boring techniques for the installation. With the pathway choices secured and noted, the field technicians return to the office and meet with the project designer to update him on their findings and recommendations.

Getting it down on paper.

The project designer and his assistant designers now take the determined pathway choices and begin laying out the details of the project on schematic drawings. These drawings will include sufficient information for the client to approve on the final route selections. The project designer must also submit paperwork to the pole-line owner to secure the necessary approvals to attach to their facilities. This paperwork includes the approximate lengths, placement methods, cable sizes, and other pertinent installation details.

With everything now down on paper, the designer schedules a return meeting with the owner. At this meeting, the designer presents the final design plan to the owner and answers any questions as to the proposed pathways, permitting, connectivity, and sizing assumptions in the overall project plan. After the owner approves the plan, the project designer prepares for the next stage of the project.

Getting back in the field.

The project designer now directs the field technicians to perform a final field survey. During this activity, the technicians identify the actual lengths of cable and the supporting hardware necessary to complete the installation by considering such factors as burial depth, mounting height, offset, clearance, and required separation. The technicians also identify all splice locations, guying requirements, bore pit locations, and other fine details of the construction process. Their detailed field notes are then added to the project documentation file and turned over to the project designer and his design assistants.

Getting the specs nailed down.

It's now up to the design assistants to finalize the specifications, which are used to produce the project's final work prints. These final specifications include material lists, cable counts and descriptions, cable cut lengths, pole sizes, guy sizes and lengths, splice closure sizes, and miscellaneous materials required to build the job. They also note final elevation details, coordination or sequencing requirements, placement specifications, and any deviations from standard construction practices. Once the design assistants complete the work print mark-up process, they turn the paperwork back over to the designer so he can perform a final check of the project. When the designer feels comfortable with the final design documentation he turns it over to the CAD team for final drafting.

Getting the RFP together.

With a completed CAD drawing package and material list in hand, the project designer is now ready to compile a detailed request for proposal (RFP) package. Within this package the designer identifies the construction practices and performance requirements. He also includes material specification sheets for all products and provides proof of insurance and bonding. Quality control measures and penalties are also outlined in the package. As a final step, the designer uses all of the data to build a project management plan. This plan outlines the sequencing and timing of the entire project to meet the owner's deadlines and budget stipulations.

Getting the owners approval and awarding the contract.

Now it's time to turn the package over to the owner for a final review. Once the owner is satisfied with the design package and approves the final design, the project designer is ready to send out bid packages to the prospective contract firms. Once the quotes are received and the owner signs off on the final selection, the construction contract is awarded and the job is ready to roll.

Get it built.

At this stage of the game, the contractor is responsible for delivering the project requirements. The project designer moves into a quality control role, keeping a close eye on the project's progress and recording any deviation from the original plan. He must also make himself available to the contractor for decisions on changes that may occur during the construction phase of the project.

When the job is complete and the project designer is satisfied with the system installation, he completes a final review of the work and generates a summarization of materials and costs for the entire project. Typically, this takes place during a meeting with all parties present. That way, everyone is involved in making final adjustments and payment of services rendered.

Get the best.

Many things can and do go wrong on a project. However, chances are if a project designer is involved from the start, the job can run rather smoothly. It's the talent and expertise of these professionals that truly make it a success. A professional OSP project designer is your best overall resource in delivering a successful project. Pick them wisely.

Hite is special projects engineer-OSP for CT Communications, Inc., Concord, N.C.

The material for this article was excerpted with permission from BICSI's Customer-Owned Outside Plant Design Manual, Second Edition.