AIA Enclosure Consultants Make Sure Tenants Get the Signal

Reprinted from AIA | DC News, March April 2022


Building enclosure consultants must consider a long checklist of guidelines and details when choosing components and materials for their high-performance designs. One detail, a utility that is essential for almost every person in the building, is often overlooked: cell service and emergency radio signals.


Why does a building enclosure consultant need to know about cell signal?

When there’s poor cell service inside a building, most people assume their carrier is to blame. But it’s not Verizon or AT&T’s fault – the building itself is just too well-made. Many of the building materials chosen by enclosure specialists, things like low-e glass, can block cell phone signal (voice, data, text, IoT) and public safety DAS signal (radio frequencies for fire, ambulance, police radios). In fact, as a building's LEED certification rating increases, the cell/radio signal inside actually decreases! If you’ve designed a high-performance building, you’ve probably also designed a fortress that most cell and RF signals cannot permeate. And with the long-waited rollout of 5G finally happening, the impact of those design choices is only magnified.


How building design effects cell signal and Public Safety Radio

Here’s a quick analogy: Think of a time when you were sitting at a traffic light and heard the subwoofer booming from a nearby car. Notice that you didn’t hear the high-end frequencies like voice or instruments, just that low bass and drums reverberating in your chest. That’s because low frequencies make a large, slow wave that travels easily through your car’s steel and glass windows and beyond. The higher frequencies are small waves that can't penetrate as well or travel as far so they don’t make it through the car.


Cell and radio signals – especially 5G – are like the high frequencies. That’s why 5G poles have to be placed so close together and why the signal is less able to penetrate a building. When you couple that with the fact that low-e glass manufacturers are now designing windows to be even more efficient, signal is impacted to a greater extent.


What to do about blocked cell signal

Obviously, enclosure consultants can’t change material choices to accommodate cell signal, but there is a solution: a cellular repeater or public Safety DAS system provided by America's premier in-building integrator, Illuminati Labs.


Illuminati Labs designs systems that capture and bring in cell and public safety radio signals. Based in Colorado and serving the entire US and parts of UK, Illuminati Labs uses a customized approach that saves clients money while significantly improving the communication services that they demand and deserve.


Naturally, it is far less expensive to install a cell repeater or DAS system while the building is being constructed rather than after the fact. By bringing Illuminati Labs in at the design stage, building enclosure consultants will save their clients from having to retrofit a system after they’ve opened — when their finished building will have to be “Swiss-cheesed” to add cables.


Enclosure consultants tailor materials to their building’s needs, and Illuminati Labs does the same; determining and delivering exactly the system that each unique project needs. Together, we can ensure that cell and public safety communications are not forgotten and every building gets these vital services.