Going For Gold

23 Feb Going For Gold

London 2012 Olympics construction projects crossed the finish line after the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was completed last year. Laurence Doe reports on how communications formed the bricks and mortar of the transformation

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Stadiums and arenas, including the velodrome and aquatic centre, were dismantled after the Paralympics finished in 2012, to make way for new or redesigned access routes, cycle ways, footpaths, roads and bridges. This was all part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) project which involved 80,000 workers. The redesign relied heavily on connectivity for contractors and other parties to communicate over the 55-acre park – a space designed for large numbers of visitors, providing temporary and permanent sporting venues, a multi-use urban parkland and commercial space for offices and public attractions. The South Plaza area was identified as ideal for the development due to features such as the ArcelorMittal Orbit, now a tourist-attracting icon of the QEOP, retained sporting facilities, local amenities and transport links.

Starting blocks
TrellisWorks, a specialist in wireless connectivity, provided a network for construction and engineering firm BAM Nuttall, the main contractor for the legacy project. Its IP-CCTV infrastructure ensured security for the site over the two-year period while BAM Nuttall collaborated with TrellisWorks to turn the Olympic Park from a dedicated sports and events area into a residential park.

TrellisWorks’ involvement in the Olympics began when it secured a contract from the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) for services at the main Stratford site in preparation for the 2012 event. Work began to design and deploy a high-speed and largecapacity wireless network to connect all the major work sites within the park in March 2007, before any demolition work began.

The QEOP used 5 GHz Ofcom lighttouch licenced point-to-point (P2P) and point to multi-point carrier class radio sets. These linked remote office sites to main office sites, with over 35 links deployed. These had varying speeds of 10Mbps to 100Mbps, using equipment from three or four different manufacturers, depending on the requirement.

“We would have to move sectors and base stations as buildings were constructed. That’s where we worked well with BAM [Nuttall]. As they moved across the park we would come in and make changes, as buildings could become an obstruction,” explains Jim Kernahan, director of TrellisWorks.

Rob Youster, head of ICT at BAM Nuttall, collaborated with TrellisWorks and says the mobility element of the project was not an issue. “When we started the Queen Elizabeth Park there was a lot of demobilisation of infrastructure, and that meant a lot of cranes had to be erected, especially around the basketball stadium and also the aquatics centre. We had to put in some mobile network generators.

“The BAM Nuttall project team had to refill the generators to keep the connection and we created a brand new mesh network. But we knew the point-to-point was going to be moved continuously, and that gave us the flexibility to move around the project as the contractors were demobilising these big infrastructures.”

Race against time
BAM Nuttall had to move off the Olympic site for the duration of the Games. However, it had to jump back in to start the QEOP, a hurdle that it cleared explains Kernahan. “We provided a link to the offices in Stratford, which had to be done quite quickly, and when they moved into the portable cabins we had to re-establish those links and do it within a short period of time.”

“We had about a week-and-a-half to move from one location to another,” adds Grant Holman, a project manager at TrellisWorks who led the engineering team. “The physical downtime to re-establishment was several hours.”

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Not only was the start of the Games a problem, so was the evolving construction landscape of the Park. “Before you know it, they are removing a structure and in that space they could erect a crane or any other high-level equipment,” says Youster. “There’s a lot of established, mature trees there you wouldn’t think would get in the way, but the portable cabins were at tree-level, so as we’ve progressed we’ve had to move [the cabins] and as the project progressed we were able to move the mobile devices. We were also able to use the ArcelorMittal Orbit as a means of connection.”

Kernahan explains that Trellisworks supported data requirements for BAM Nuttall’s team of 150 to 200 people, all stationed in portable cabins. “The largest of these were P2P radios that used the 13 GHz Ofcom licenced band, delivering carrier class connectivity at a speed of 127Mbps, each full duplex. There were two of these deployed between 10 key parts of the Olympic Park site with our main base station network on the roof of Guys Hospital [located approximately 14 km away from the Stratford site].”

At the beginning of the project (mid-2007) the ODA established a central site at Quartermile Lane called the Core Team Offices (CTO) on what was to become the Hockey site. An initial 100Mbps fibre feed was put in to these offices. “What BAM Nuttall needed was a resilient, high-speed internet connection,” says Kernahan. “We implemented the ‘last mile’ connection radio, the circuit and bandwidth to the internet and the radios. They then had access to the MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching) service or direct internet without having to dig holes in the ground.”

“That enabled them to have standard networking devices – everything they required from an IT perspective to deliver the solution to the park,” adds Holman.

“We did the IP-CCTV as well,” points out Kernahan. “Creating a wireless network over 5 GHz radio so they could have the CCTV on turnstiles for contractors and workmen to scan themselves through the security and fences. That all changed and moved on as the park got re-developed.”

Holman explains the security of the situation further, adding that fences had to be established to keep the public areas separate from development areas. “This had to be guarded, so there were points of entry but also they wanted to make sure people weren’t hopping over the fences and the site was secure. We put in a centralised video recorder, and a number of cameras that were static and pan-tilt-zoom.”

Around 30 cameras were needed, wirelessly connected back to a main hub and supported by the high-bandwidth solution, with the main offices storing footage for playback.

“We’re quite fortunate to have strong relations with Ofcom for licensing, with established points of presence in and around London,” says Kernahan.“For example, BT would say at least six to eight weeks for delivery of a 100Mbps circuit… whereas we could say as long as you have line-of-sight we could provide you a turnkey solution within seven days.”

From the word go
In Youster’s opinion, mobile communications in construction are really starting to take off . “I’ve seen a shift in the way that IT is going, especially with users’ expectations of immediate and reliable connections at all times,” he explains. “One thing you can guarantee is that IT connections will be needed from day one or two.

“It is becoming a standard to have mobile network connectivity within four to five days, which wasn’t the case in 2012 when we took on the project. Faster broadband is great, but people expect to use more and more, and on the Olympic Park we used a lot of AutoCAD drawings that were hungry for data capacity.

That is no different to our standard jobs now – data needs to be managed and TrellisWorks is helping us look at ways of giving priority to different software.”

BAM Nuttall’s workers were allowed to use the Olympic site network but were prohibited from using too much data – not gaining access in certain circumstances. However, some work involved capturing data on-site using smart devices with cloud solutions, allowing it to be quickly passed up the business chain into applications.

“It’s quite a challenge for the business, as safety is paramount,” says Youster. “Yet they recognise that mobile data capturing is important, and using our wireless technology and data capturing from source is a winner on all counts – from a health and safety view, recording and footage. The business is aware that it could be a distraction if used incorrectly, so we’re reviewing it as a strategy.”

BAM Nuttall’s ‘one team vision’ aims for the whole workforce to be connected, from project managers to those on site. “Although we didn’t implement BIM (business information modelling) too much, we are moving towards iPads and smart devices, and the Olympic legacy work was a stepping stone towards this mobile network requirement,” Youster concludes.

Images. Main: Britain’s largest sculpture uses 2,000 tonnes of steel, equivalent to 265 double-decker buses. Bottom: The QEOP project established 525 bird boxes, 4,000 trees and 300,000 wetland plants

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