Does a Zone Structured Cabling Design vs a Traditional Design Save on Cost?

Written by Bill Roberts, President, Network Services, Datatrend Technologies, Inc.

At a high level: a Zone structured cabling design installs more cables to more locations than a Traditional design. So how could that save costs?

We will look at the up-front, capital expenditure (CAPEX), and then the continuing operating expenditure (OPEX) of a Zone cabling solution. Future move, adds, and change work required on a cable plant is really where the OPEX savings of a Zone design provides greater overall Return on Investment (ROI).

To make it interesting we will take a look at this question in a Modern Building Systems environment:

In many Modern Buildings today, IT networking infrastructure and building automation systems (BAS) are converging together on the same structured cabling system. Combining IP network with BAS onto the same physical network has many benefits, efficiency gains, and cost savings.

Voice and Data, Security, Audio/Video, and Building Automation are no longer in silos and are becoming more efficient working together on the same structured cable plant:

  • Voice & Data: LAN, Internet, VoIP, Wireless, Phones, PBX
  • Audio Video: LCD Display screens, CATV, IPTV, In-house Video, Intercom, Paging
  • Security: CCTV, IP Cameras, Motion Detectors, Scan and sensor devices
  • Building Automation: Lighting, Fire Alarm systems, Access Control, HVAC, EMS

Office buildings are becoming more social and dynamic – employee workstations and multiple types of networked devices continue to be relocated or added at a moment’s notice throughout the structure. Rapid floor space reconfigurations require a dynamic, scalable structured cabling plant to support them – a zone design.

A traditional direct cabling architecture involves a cable run from a patch panel directly to an outlet. In contrast, a zoned structured cabling design consists of a horizontal cable run from the floor distributor in the telecommunications room (TR) to a zone distribution box known as a consolidation point (CP). A CP may be located in a raised floor, mounted on a wall or in the ceiling. From the CP, the final run will be to an outlet or to a device. Multiple CP’s may be located throughout each floor and can be configured to service certain work areas or device types. CP’s should be limited to serving 12 work areas or equipment outlets.

This approach provides flexibility and scalability in the cabling network design. It also optimizes space, provides floor level control and enables easier location, management and maintenance of the cabling network and building automation systems.

The question is still out there – How could running more cables to more locations provide overall cost savings?

Siemon,, ran the numbers and their study found that, yes, your upfront CAPEX will be higher with a zone design compared to a traditional design, but the real overall savings are with your future, continual OPEX savings a zone design provides.

Move, adds, and changes (MACs) are less expensive in a Zone architecture because the additional cable runs will be shorter and there will be more available port capacity closer to the IP devices. As facility managers are directed to add or relocate more and more IP devices – voice and data, access points, BAS devices, security cameras, digital signage, AV devices – the overall ROI becomes more apparent with a zone design.

Depending on how dynamic a Modern Building System is, the ownership can realize higher ROI installing a zone cable plant within 2 to 5 years.

Datatrend Technologies knows that a lower front end CAPEX maybe an easier decision to make, but we also recommend taking a look at the overall concept of the long-term savings of OPEX that a zone design provides. A traditional design may still be the best option, but just know the zone design is out there.

For more information on zone and traditional structured cabling design and installations from Datatrend, click here or contact Bill Roberts at You can also consult with a Datatrend representative by calling 800-367-7472.