University of Georgia

New housing and equipment protect hi-tech controls, improve appearance of school’s Main Library, Student Learning Center

When disaster struck the University of Georgia’s Main Library, the foundation of a trusting relationship helped expedite the rebuilding of the library’s network infrastructure as well as portions of the destroyed facility.  Fire caused an estimated $6 million in damage to the second floor of the multi-story building. Thankfully, the loss of materials and books was minimal, but the library’s collection of 2.2 million volumes faced pervasive smoke damage. Just as daunting was the damage to the library’s telecommunications system, also located on the second floor.


While the building was closed for repairs, library officials decided to use the opportunity to improve the library network infrastructure and create six telecommunications rooms. Based on the school’s previous experience just months earlier, officials turned to Hoffman for advice and guidance on how to safely house and install the telecom controls.


Hoffman’s relationship with the University of Georgia began months earlier when it worked with the school’s Telecommunications, Electronics and Computer (TEC) Services Department on plans to build a state-of-the-art, $44 million Student Learning Center. TEC Services, within the Office of Research Services, provides professional cabling installation, electronics equipment maintenance and related peripherals repair.


“We had to quickly recable the library building and pull fiber links to the small closets,” said Scott Frary, Manager, Telecommunications Cabling Installation, Office of Research Services. “Based on our experience using Hoffman products in the Student Learning Center and the limited library floor space, we decided on Hoffman’s 19-inch wall-mount racks.”


With the immediate availability of the wall-mount racks, the library was able to reopen on time, even after the fire.


“The silver lining to the library fire is the newly improved infrastructure,” said Frary, “That’s what I call making the most out of a bad situation.”


Early Enclosure Considerations are Key for Student Learning Center Project

As TEC Services performed the backbone network installation in the Student Learning Center, Hoffman was called in to incorporate proper control housing and protection. Considering enclosure needs early in the process proved critical to the Student Learning Center’s on-time opening.


With 276,000 square feet of floor space, the Student Learning Center would become the largest building on the campus of the leading research institution. It now features 26 general classrooms with 2,200 seats; 96 group study rooms; more than 500 computer workstations loaded with a full range of software; more than 2,000 laptop connection drops; and wireless Internet access throughout the building.


Creating Strong Protection, Uniform Appearance

The first challenge and huge concern for TEC Services was finding a manufacturer of high-quality open-frame racks and other communication infrastructure products that were compatible with equipment from a variety of manufacturers. The University wanted enclosures that would protect telecom, electronic and network equipment from the effects of heat and humidity, which can wreak havoc. Appearance also mattered, as a uniform look was desired for the Student Learning Center, and Hoffman had the answer.


Aside from ensuring the racks were compatible with the equipment, a second challenge involved a tight construction schedule that made product availability crucial. Hoffman and its local distributor, Communications Supply Corporation, were helpful in spending significant time providing TEC Services with the products they needed to meet the project’s schedule.


“This was the first time we’ve done a major project like this,” said Scott Frary, Manager, Telecommunications Cabling Installation, Office of Research Services. “When working with the University architects, we took the outside plant backbone connectivity to the building and between floors to the 11 telecommunications rooms that we built.”


The telecommunications rooms are vital components of the Student Learning Center containing phone, cable TV and data cables, plus network switching, patch panels and cable TV equipment.


The Hoffman Advantage

After Communications Supply Corporation recommended Hoffman products, Frary took a close look and liked what he saw. TEC Services purchased approximately 600 feet of Hoffman ladder rack and 50 two-post open-frame racks, plus wall angle brackets, splices for ladders and mounting plates.


“Hoffman’s pricing was competitive; they had good availability and were easy to work with,” said Frary. “They spent a lot of time getting us exactly what we needed.”


The Student Learning Center is a very significant building on the campus, and its appearance, both inside and out, is important. While a variety of manufacturer network equipment, patch panels and other products were installed on Hoffman racks without modifications, the finished installation was thoroughly integrated and looked as though all the equipment came from one manufacturer.


In addition to the appearance of Hoffman products, Frary was also impressed with the quality and value for the price. As a result of the successful installation, TEC Services converted its inventory to Hoffman products after previously using competitors’ products.


“They’re really well-made, high-quality products,” said Frary. “The price is excellent, and the representation is really good. Communications Supply Corporation was very knowledgeable about Hoffman products, which shows the care Hoffman takes in building relationships with its suppliers,” he added.


With Hoffman’s help, the vital controls and communications supporting the rich academic environment in the University of Georgia’s Student Learning Center and Main Library will make the grade for many more semesters.