Integration innovation

Wembley Stadium showcases the benefits of implementing the right technology systems during design. Becca Wilson reports.

Wembley Stadium has 90,000 covered seats.
Wembley Stadium has 90,000 covered seats.

Wembley Stadium. A multi-purpose venue in London, built to host many different events. From conferences to corporate hospitality days, rock concerts to rugby tournaments. The flexibility of the venue allows it to act as an open revenue stream that relies heavily on technological innovation to meet audience/customer demands.

Building the venue from scratch meant Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL), the company formed to develop Wembley Stadium, was able to integrate all the technical services onto a single network.

It's arguably the most technically advanced stadium in the world.

Although calling for careful design work from the outset, by integrating a single network approach, WNSL has created a safe, flexible and efficient stadium.

Integrated services include: building, security and life safety management, along with data, voice and video communication.

"It's arguably the most technically advanced stadium in the world. The benefit from that comes operationally. In the way it was designed, it cost a little bit more, but the pay back is in the operation of the stadium," says Peter Orr, business development director, Network Services, Honeywell Building Solutions.

Core automation includes: heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, lifts and escalators, telephones, fire alarm, public address/voice announcement (PA/VA), closed circuit television (CCTV), access control - including the turnstiles - and people/asset management.

Network solutions

The network infrastructure started in 2004. Honeywell Network Services designed and installed an IT network platform that supports all applications, creating an intelligent building management solution.


90,000 covered seats
Size: 4 million cubic metres
1km circumference
Cost: £757 million (US $1.5bn), £21m infrastructure, £93m fitting out
2,618 toilets
Arch span: 315m - it is wide enough for the channel tunnel train to travel through
The arch takes 45 minutes to close
198 security cameras

In order for this to run effectively, 1,617km of cabling was required. This comprised 753km of fibre backbone, 234km of broadcast cabling and 630km of horizontal-structured and fire-rated cabling. The cabling support makes sure the IP communication has the necessary bandwidth when operational.

It also links 72 communication rooms and facilitates a stadium link between its parent organisation (WNSL), the internet, a second control room, the London Metropolitan Police and emergency services.

The security and voice systems are the most demanding on the network.

The network also gives WNSL a commercial advantage. "With many PDAs having wireless access, there is a reason for WNSL to give visitors to the stadium internet connectivity at half time, or when they need it. This is another driver behind making a building wireless and integrated," explains Orr.

Systems integration

All technical systems work on one operating platform that has been created by using the Honeywell Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI), a system designed, installed and commissioned by Honeywell Building Solutions.

It is accessed through networked workstations in three key areas: the event, security and police control rooms.

EBI comprises 192 building management systems (BMS) that monitor 6,000 heating, lighting, ventilation and air conditioning devices, while the security system manages digital video images from 190 CCTV cameras (these include cameras from outside the stadium owned and operated by the police).

The system also monitors and controls access through all doors and turnstiles, as well as lifts and escalators.

"The network is very resilient. Even if there are major functional problems, like power cuts or if a communication room gets knocked out for whatever reason, it will still function," says Orr.

Wembley details

Owner: Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL), subsidiary of The Football Association (The FA)
Architect: Foster and Partners
Developer: The FA formed WNSL as owner/occupier
When the development started: 2003
When it was completed: Practical completion 9 March 2007
Total number of WNSL staff employed: 400 approx (non-event days)
Does the stadium have a facilities manager: Yes
How many events a year will it play host to: Approx 30 Bowl events, many other conferences, banquets and box-based events
How many people can it hold: 90,000 plus support staff up to 5,000

In order for this to happen, critical functions are mirrored. "There's a main and secondary communications room. They mirror each other. So if one goes off, the other can carry on running. They are un-manned," Orr added.

The two most demanding systems on the network are the security and voice systems. Wembley has a total of 198 cameras, increasing the need for a sophisticated system to manage and monitor them. "If there's 198 cameras you don't want to employ 198 security people looking at 198 screens. So in this sense, the system is very demanding on the network in terms of how much activity there is," explains Orr.

The voice system incorporates the fire voice system, stewards phone system and the standard business phone system. Orr describes this as the second critical system in terms of continuity and availability.

In case of a fire emergency, the fire alarm system will secure communication throughout the stadium, including 80 steward's phones linked via a dedicated fire rated cable network.

"The last thing you want to do in the event of a fire is make a general notice to 90,000 people, 'everybody out', because they'll get crushed. So, there is a very sophisticated PA system here. Totally digital and run on the same network," he explains.

The system has a detailed set of instructions in place in case of an emergency. There are 500 monitors around the stadium that can stop showing match highlights or advertisements and move to a digital signage mode, so people know how to get out of the stadium. It is capable of being programmed to react to certain events automatically.

Honeywell has engineers on site permanently to provide maintenance and technical support. Two days prior to an event, additional engineers will be deployed to assist Wembley's own staff prepare and check all stadium technical services. The extra engineers will not leave until the event has finished.

Although the network and integrated systems are now fully operational, due to delays in the practical completion date compressing the time available between occupation and the first event, the pressure on Orr and his team to finalise operations was intense. Instead of having the original agreed two month period, Honeywell had one week due to pressures WNSL was under to open the stadium as soon as possible. The building management system software at Wembley will need to evolve with customer changing requirements.

Integrating in the Middle East

If the region is to attract international events, business and tourism and sustain its 'wow' factor, the way its buildings are operated must be considered with the end user in mind.

The set-up at Wembley Stadium is impressive and one developers in the Middle East can look to adapt to their needs.

"What we're finding now, particularly in the City of London and also elsewhere, is that in order to charge as much as they (the building owners) can per square metre, the letting agents are now having a say in the features that are around and the technology that enables those features," says Orr.

"So the developers are now realising that if they want to get a certain amount per square metre/foot, they need to invest initially," says Orr.

One particular system that can bring enormous benefits to the Middle East's construction boom is a BMS. As you would expect from an emerging city, there are constraints currently affecting the way the BMS market is seen.

Research conducted into the BMS sector has found the shortage of skilled man power, low awareness, lack of the life-cycle costing approach and lack of specialised consultants were the main constraints.

Orr thinks the biggest constraint comes from the contractors. "They (the contractors) couldn't care less about operation cost savings. What they do care about, is getting the job done earlier then planned and for less money than planned. The last thing they are going to do is start taking on extra risks.

"They are a very conservative and important entity that is resisting some changes. It helps a lot if the developer or land owner is opinionated about the technical side of things," he explains.

But the benefits of implementing a BMS are vast. Orr says the return on investment over the life span of the building is a measurable reason to have that initial investment.

"At its simplest, a well operated building translates to a well maintained building and lower running costs. Given that operating costs make up 75% of the total cost of a facility over its life span, decisions made at initial concept and design have an exponential impact on ROI.

"Added to that, the inherent flexibility of an intelligent building makes it easier to re-use for a different business purpose. Other measurable benefits include reduced energy consumption, less manpower required to operate the building, cost savings on installation - including leveraging the use of cabling infrastructure - and floor changes. These solutions also make it easier to validate for regulatory compliance," he explains.

The non-economic benefits include greater comfort, flexible operation and less downtime. Owner-occupiers stand to gain the most but commercial developments also enjoy premium rental rates, improved retention and higher occupancy rates.

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