San Francisco In-Building System Deployments Offer Lessons Learned
By Josh Helling
Tuesday, November 16, 2021 | Comments
The deployment and installation process for an emergency responder radio communications systems (ERRCS) in a luxury apartment in San Francisco highlights some of the challenges and obstacles with in-building communications.

L SEVEN is a community of luxury apartments in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood in San Francisco. LEAF Communications handled the full build and implementation process for eight buildings covering more than one million square feet of residential space — soup to nuts — ultimately supplying reliable cellular connectivity to every resident.

The San Francisco Fire Department’s (SFFD) site inspector recommended LEAF to tackle the outfitting of L SEVEN. LEAF had previously performed a full strategic design build for ERRCS implementation including permitting, design and deployment of the system for some of the more complex authorities having jurisdictions (AHJ) in the country.

The L SEVEN complex was brand new at the time. It was not prepared for ERRCS code pathway survivability requirements enforced by the SFFD due to a lack of any existing structure to retrofit. Upon negotiation on behalf of L SEVEN, LEAF was able to register the pathway at level one in the type five residential category to eliminate the two hours needed to suit the building condition. In doing so, the horizontal riser requirement was limited to only the garage type one (concrete) construction.

As stated in the SFFD fire alarm submittals, all ERRCS wires and cables must comply with the required pathway survivability level based on the building’s type of construction. In all buildings, portions/areas having two-hour construction, such as Type IA or IB construction and two-hour rated vertical enclosures such as stairways or shafts in Type III and V buildings or portions of buildings, pathway survivability level two or three was required. In all buildings, areas having less than two-hour construction, such as Type III or V construction, pathway survivability level one was permitted.

Additionally, per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1221-2016 standard, pathway survivability was compliant with Section 5.10. Where a pathway survivability level two or three was required, a soffit had to be built to meet the two-hour rating in the building’s garage’s Type I construction because a distributed antenna system (DAS) did not yet exist there. These items had to be provided on the ERRCS (fire only) permit plans submittal to be reviewed and approved by the SFFD plan-review section inspector during the ERRCS permit review process.

San Francisco’s fire department enforces stringent code requirements based on in-depth knowledge of equipment and installations that will best meet its high standards. The SFFD was and continues to be on the forefront of enforcing ERRCS code in the region. Many integrators in the area are not equipped with the carrier background to design a multifunctional distributed antenna system (DAS)/ERRCS in such a diverse environment due to the absence of stringent code requirements. It is essential in such an occurrence to build and maintain relationships with the key plan checkers in project locations to ensure utilization of resources and knowledge of DAS and OEMs in the region.

Upon integration, the code cycle to L SEVEN was locked in alliance with the site permit issue date. It consisted of California Fire Code (CFC) 510, NFPA 72 2010 edition, 2009 NFPA 5000 annex G, 2010 San Francisco Fire Code (SFFC) 510, and 2009 International Fire Code (IFC) 510, along with 2010 International Building Code (IBC)/San Francisco Building Code (SFBC)/and the California Building Code (CBC). Though established in years prior, they had not yet been heavily enforced for ERRCS due to a lack of understanding of modernized systems.

Even with strict requirements, the project received all approvals on the first round and ended under budget before the certificate of occupancy was issued. The company achieved these goals by developing a tactical and creative design system customized to suit the building conditions and infrastructure. This was made possible through clear communication with the general contractor and other teammates, ensuring no detail was overlooked.

The L SEVEN communications system was built using a JMA/TEKO power distribution unit (PDU) centralized DC power system with an information communications technology (ICT) battery backup to ensure all public-safety remotes could maintain functionality in the event of power loss in an emergency situation. Having a battery backup system was essential for a project of such depth.

The system consisted of 24 deep-cycle 12 VDC batteries in an 84-inch by 32-inch by 32-inch National Electrical Manufacturers (NEMA) 3R enclosure with AC output from ICT gear. This, in collaboration with the PDU, used DC power over 18-2 wire to each remote, ensuring reliability. By centralizing the battery backup (BBU) in the head end, the team was able to drastically reduce the footprint of the ERRCS and avoid individual BBU at each of the five remote locations. The approach alleviated the need to add cooling systems at every remote location to offset the broadband termination unit (BTU) output of each BBU. In addition, such a strategy removed outlet alarming points and reduced those items to mitigate cost for the client.

The site was built to support major carriers and public-safety frequencies in the area. This was done through use of a centralized BBU to minimize equipment footprint and reduce material and labor cost. Maintaining open dialogue throughout the project was top priority to ensure success because many contractors at the time were only recently introduced to code requirements.

In total, the project took 17 months to complete. Final touches were made in 2016. LEAF has since continued to maintain the system and execute technology updates to the latest software and AHJ frequencies to meet new code standards.

Developers and building owners don’t typically care about ERRCS until it’s time to go for acceptance to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) and certificate of occupancy (CO). Time is money when it comes to occupancy for developers. ERRC systems do not serve the client or their tenants; they serve first responders. Using a design build firm that offers service programs ensures system functionality when it’s needed the most for emergency teams.

Communication of first responders is vital to keep both the first responders and tenants safe. ERRC systems are extremely robust and require servicing at regular intervals to keep all system components at optimum functionality. They are systems that most people are unaware of until they don’t work. But, it’s absolutely vital that they do. It’s important to use a company that provides system maintenance for the long term when looking to hire a team for your ERRCS project.

Would you like to comment on this story? Find our comments system below.

Josh Helling, executive senior vice president and general manager of LEAF Communications has 25 years of tower and communications experience. Beginning with a grassroots start, he has since established expertise at every level of the industry, providing him with the unique advantage of professionalism from project management to operational and business standpoints. Helling oversees the operations of LEAF Communications on a national level for distributed antenna system (DAS) (enterprise/carrier and public safety), as well as the small cell and civil construction departments. He manages company relations with fire marshals and enables clients to integrate systems into their structures efficiently and effectively. Helling is proficient in the emergency responder radio communications system (ERRCS) code and understands the ins and outs of all associated codes for each year cycle. An industry innovator with several patents, he also manages carrier relationships and development.

Post a comment
Name: *
Email: *
Title: *
Comment: *

On 12/18/21, stephen whitaker said:
Mr. Helling
Thanks for the detailed article.
However I would need a rewrite version understandable by the city officials and firemen here in Vermont. We are today wrestling with these issues in dense granite buildings where retrofits are required.

How might that simple English version come about

I don t have enough details or understanding of the technical details included I your piece to offer to do the rewrite.

Any ideas Danny

Stephen Whitaker


September 2022

27 - 27
WEBINAR: How to Keep Communities Safer with Connected Mobile Solutions

November 2022

8 - 10
Communications Marketing Conference (CMC)
Albuquerque, New Mexico

15 - 16
Wireless Leadership Summit (WLS)
Tucson, Arizona

March 2023

27 - 30
International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) 2023
Las Vegas

More Events >

Site Navigation