In the Trenches with Sandy Jacolow, CIO, Silverstein Properties

I spoke with Sandy Jacolow, CIO at Silverstein Properties over the holidays from his 48th floor apartment in the NoMad (NOrth of MADison Park) section of Manhattan. After reflecting on the benefits of down time when one works in the 24/7 world of technology, the high cost of living in the Northeast and the uber high cost of a night out in New York on New Year’s Eve, our conversation turned to his work as CIO of Silverstein Properties, and the opening last month of 4 World Trade Center.

Chris Saah: So, tell us about the opening of WTC tower 4. It’s obviously a very exciting time, not just for Silverstein Properties, but for New York City, and for that matter, the country.
Sandy Jacolow: I was just up on the roof of the building last week and it is amazing. You can nearly touch tower 1 and you are so high up you get a vantage point of that building you can’t get anywhere else. And of course the view of the Manhattan skyline is absolutely spectacular. (Side note: I had to take an OSHA certification course online just so I could get unescorted access to the construction site and buildings in development. That’s 20 hours of my life I won’t get back!)
Chris Saah: So the construction is 100% completed on tower 4?
Sandy Jacolow: World Trade Center Tower 4 is open. We received our temporary Certificate of Occupancy in November and had our ribbon cutting in mid-November. The Port Authority and New York City government are our first major tenants and are taking up about half of the building. They are doing their interior construction now and should be open summer of 2014. All the construction fences are gone from around the site and we are open and ready for business. I don’t know how much you know about the building, but Architect Fumihko Maki brought together art, architecture, and real estate in an unbelievable way. For example, the black marble wall in the lobby (which is 30 feet high) reflects the 9/11 memorial, which the building faces. Also, at the back of each of the three major elevator banks, you see these amazing video walls using LED technology, each with distinct images of many of the elements used in the memorial. From the outside of the building you can see these videos clips of the sky, the earth, and the water on these 30 foot high walls; a dramatic impact and really amazing to see. To show you how far these technologies have come, in the past with a system like this you would have been married to consultants after installation, to operate it. With this system, marketing and IT could work together creating a video for a special event, render it in the proper format in no time at all and you actually upload it using a flash card like you or I would use in our cameras.
Chris Saah: Tell us a little about some of the systems you’ve deployed in the building.
Sandy Jacolow: Tower is LEED certified and very sustainable, but also has some interesting aspects that create technology challenges. It is a column free building that’s almost a thousand feet tall. The building core was designed to allow for very dense occupancy, which is great for our tenants. As part of the infrastructure, we had to deploy three different wireless networks in the building: a first responders system in case of emergency, a DAS system, and WiFi. Because of the thickness of the core we had to deploy a larger number of access points strategically placed because the signal simply could not penetrate the core, which was obviously constructed to withstand practically anything. It’s an interesting case study in how construction affects technology. We also had to account for extending the Wi-Fi beyond the building to a campus Wi-Fi network that will blanket the World Trade Center area from Fulton Street to the West End. Once complete, and in conjunction with the Downtown Alliance, Tribeca’s public Wi-Fi access could be a model for many cities.
Chris Saah: For those who are not familiar with the term, DAS stands for Distributed Antenna System.
Sandy Jacolow: Correct. It is basically a combination of micro cells and antennas. It’s a neutral host system, so all of the cellular carriers can come in, pay a fee, and integrate with the infrastructure system so whether you are in the lobby, your space on the floor, in an elevator, or stairwells, you will be able to make a call. The ability to call from the stairwells is not only a convenience, but as we have learned from history, a necessity in times of disaster.
Chris Saah: Well, you must have had some great business partnerships to get that done.
Sandy Jacolow: We did. We’ve been working very closely with Cisco and they did a great job. We’ve designed this system to support technology well into the future; when the gigabit barrier is broken on the device side, we have all of the back end infrastructure in place to support it. And this is not only important for our tenants but also for our engineers. We have people down in the basement, up on the roof, and our plan is that wherever they are they will have WiFi and cellular service. Additionally, we outfitted several of our engineers with Microsoft Surface devices, and are in the process of tagging building mechanical equipment with QR codes and linking those back to a technical documents library on our SharePoint Intranet site. Hence, when our engineers are working on a specific piece of equipment they can scan the QR code and bring up the current owner’s manual, see the maintenance schedule, when the last inspection was done, or view floor plans and CAD drawings. We believe this will make our engineering staff much more efficient and ensure that everyone is looking at the same document.
Chris Saah: Thanks Sandy, for this virtual tour of the technology of World Trade Center Tower 4. We’ve run out of space today, but there is so much more that Silverstein does that we haven’t touched. I’d like to continue our discussion and talk about some of your other projects and how you and marketing work together on social networking in our next column.
Sandy Jacolow: Great, Chris. I’d love to.