ADO Architects

 

National Network Operations Centre | Centurion

 

Overview

 

Client : Telkom
Project name : National Network Operations Centre (NNOC) and Information Technology Services (ITS)
Project value : NNOC = R90 million, ITS = R63 million, total -= R153 million
Professional Team : Infracom (Now ADO Architects)
Project Management Team : Infracom (Johan de Villiers) assisted by Louis Stapelberg (time management)
Main Contractor : Stocks & Stocks Building (Gauteng)
Architects (assisting in : MV3 Architects (Documentation)
Structural Engineers : Pierre Badenhorst Engineers, Johan van Wyk
Structural Steel Engineers : Turner Townsend
Landscaping : Landmark Studio
Implementation period : January 1998 – May 1999

Telkom's new National Network Operations Centre (NNOC) and Information Technology Services (ITS) was built to enable the telecommunications provider to monitor and manage the core Telkom network and provide internal technical support functions. The new complex was of great international interest, as it was one of only five comparable centres in the world at timer of completion.

The NNOC building is 5 800m2 in size and houses 760 full-time staff members. The ITS building is 4 200m2. It has two components: the basement data centre where all IT equipment is located and the operations centre where the status of the IT network for the entire country is monitored on a 24-hour basis. It can accommodate 250 staff members. It incorporates a new primary data centre, as well as a combined infrastructure management centre and a call centre.

A significant feature of the NNOC is the huge video wall, showing real-time operational activities on the network from the different Telkom regions. It also provides facts and statistics needed for effective management decisions to minimize network downtime. The design of the complex lends itself to maintain and promote the natural environment, with large green field areas between the two buildings.

Challenges

The project was very sensitive to a secure and stable environment. It was equally sensitive to a relocation programme that had to beat and be operational prior to the year 2000 deadline, as the entire Telkom data network runs through the facility.

The main problem associated with this building was the relocation of the ITS centre from the old building. This was the largest ever multi-environment data centre relocation exercise in SA. These buildings house communications technology that is so specialized and complex that the architectural forms were to a large extent dictated by the technology to be housed. The two mirrored semi-circular shapes of the buildings were dictated by their internal functions. The video wall determined the curvature of the buildings. The networks, by nature of their functioning, would ideally require close interfacing to be most effective.

However, in the past they had been monitored from six management centres in different locations throughout the country. These highly sensitive operations were housed in traditional office environments that did not take the stressful and specialized nature of the work into consideration – particularly as the networks are monitored on a 24/7 basis.

The complex presented the project managers, architects, and engineers with exciting and challenging design opportunities. The technical brief was complex, stipulating a comfortable, user-friendly ambience in a high-tech environment for operating world-standard telecommunications systems. This was a formidable task, as a high-security environment does not traditionally encourage user-friendliness.

The buildings had to be aesthetically pleasing and of international standard. They also had to allow for easy expansion and offer excellent working conditions with efficient ergonomics. Specific technical requirements included no single point of failure, a centralized managed environment, hot maintenance and survival for four days in standalone mode.

Modus Operandi

Design began in December 1997 and construction started in May 1998. The complex was completed a year later, making it one of the quickest fast-track projects undertaken in SA. This is despite the fact that the curvature of the building and post-tensioning techniques prevented traditional fast-track methods from being employed. A high degree of pre-fabrication and a tight 

construction schedule helped to achieve this deadline. At peak, some 27 sub-contractors and up to 1 000 construction workers were on site.

Telkom’s facilities management approach has been divided into technical and non-technical functions. Technical functions comprise the management of the:
*Electrical network: UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply for the computers) and EPS (Emergency Power Supply for the airconditioning system, lighting and access control) *Airconditioning system *Lifts *Fire protection and detection systems *Plumbing and general work.

Non-technical functions included the management of cleaning services, space planning, shop fitting, the installation and maintenance of office furniture, and the maintenance of the grounds and gardens.

Each building has its own separate staff restaurant that opens out onto extensively landscaped gardens. Technical systems are evaluated for reliability, availability and maintainability. The computerized maintenance management system determines planned corrective maintenance procedures, to reduce reaction time and cost, while improving service levels, as well as preventative or emergency maintenance process. Non-technical functions are outsourced via a tendering process, resulting in cost savings and improved service. The project was completed within time and within the project budget.

Benefits

Besides being functional, the complex has a light, futuristic quality without impacting on security requirements – instead of a bunker-type design to hide the company's valuable equipment and systems. Telkom now has the ability to manage and co-ordinate its core international and national telephone network from one centralised control point. Incidents can be rectified with greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Research ensured that the information flow for all divisions in the two buildings and the interaction between the various divisions was optimized.

Huge savings in energy costs have been achieved at this facility and others, through account verification – electricity bills are scrutinized to ensure the correct rates and taxes have been charged, meter readings are monitored and better rates are negotiated. Equipment and systems are closely monitored to ensure they operate economically and at the most energy-efficient power consumption.

The video wall visually integrates individual network management activities, allowing personnel to speed up the turnaround time of management data, and reduce time on deciphering network alerts. Facts and statistics are provided for personnel to make effective management decisions and minimize network downtime. The UPS and EPS ensure the buildings can survive for four days on standalone mode.

The simple, low-maintenance landscaping includes water features, which double as a backup for the fire sprinkler system. Future growth and ever changing IT requirements are catered for. The complex was designed to expand to twice its size without impacting on the service rendered.

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