I remember when I was young and went with my dad to the local university book store to buy his first calculator. The device, which was something I'd never seen before, was about the size of a paperback book, had red-lined readout, could do the basic arithmetic functions and cost almost $70.
Now when you go to a conference or trade show some vendors give you a credit card sized calculator. Just as the calculator has changed in size and cost there are many interesting advances in the technology fields that could greatly enhance your camp's infrastructure now and in the future.
There is one problem, though... Much of the equipment might be out of your price range, for now. Here are some steps that you can take now so that when the prices come down your camp will be ready...
Preparing for the Plan
The first step is creating a master plan. This is critical in making an infrastructure work now and in the future. If you know that in five to ten years you will be moving from your small office building to a new or different building then you can make plans for your infrastructure while different projects are being completed before the move.
This planning will help to control cost by not having to do re-work when it is time to construct the new office, like realizing that you need to put a sewer line under a section of sidewalk that was poured just last year (been there and done that).
Another, and what I consider the most important step to take in preparing for future technologies, is to lay extra pipe whenever a trench is dug.
If you are digging a trench to lay electric line to a new cabin group lay in a line or two of extra 2" PVC pipe. That way, if you ever want to connect that cabin group with a phone line or fiber optic line you do not have to dig a whole new trench right next to a hot electric line.
Another place that is good to lay a piece of PVC pipe is under a sidewalk before it gets poured (I wonder when I learned that one). A 4" section of pipe across ever 20' of sidewalk covers just about anything that might have to go under in the future. Review your master plan in order to be sure enough extra pipe in installed.
If you have never laid pipe or have never left empty pipe in a trench let me give you some lessons learned:
• Always put a cap on both ends of the pipe. Even if you are leaving to go to lunch, cap the ends. You want to keep the pipe as dirt free as possible. I have left for lunch but was not able to get back until the next day after it rained and the water run off filled the pipe. Cap the ends.
• Before you bury the pipe put pull string through the pipe. You can talk to any electrician about the best way to do this but having pull string in the pipe before you close the trench saves time and hassle later when pulling cables through.
• Put a labeled tracing wire on the pipe. A tracing wire is that wire the gas company hooked onto to find where the gas line was before you started trenching. (You did call to have your utilities marked right?) 14ga solid green wire is what I use in order to have a signal sent through the wire and the plastic pipe located.
• Lay yellow caution tape about 6" below grade. Any tape will do but this alerts people that there is something under the tape and that the area needs to be hand dug.
• Put a 12" piece of rebar or scrap metal at the capped ends. This will allow you to locate the ends of the pipes with a metal detector and not have to search around a general area hoping to find it.
Another step in making preparations for future technology is to lay fiber optic cable in the ground. This is almost the same as laying pipe but if your master plan shows that you are going to want to connect two main buildings (an office and a dining hall) with computers then it might be good to lay fiber optic cable in a trench that is near those two building.
Ensure that you have enough extra fiber cable at the ends to get into a building; fiber is very expensive to splice. Rule of thumb: I would rather have to cut 20' off than be 1' short.
Why Fiber Optics?
The reason I am suggesting fiber is because of the versatility of the product. I would strongly recommend that everyone talk to a network company, security company and an HVAC control company to see for themselves the benefits of fiber optics.
The time it takes for a computer signal to go from our server to the furthest computer on our property -- almost a mile of cable and back -- is almost instantaneous.
Because of fiber optic cabling, in the future our camp will have the ability to control access to our building with magnetic badge cards.
When someone swipes the card it will unlock the door only if it is the right person on the right day at the right time or the system will also have the ability to unlock all the doors at 8 a.m. and lock them all at 8 p.m., therefore no more unlocked buildings in the middle of the night.
We will also be able to monitor our fire alarm system and control the temperature systems of a building all from one location. Eliminating thermostats left at 70 degrees with no one in the buildings.
Are these future systems expensive? Yes, for now, but I just keep thinking back to how much that calculator cost may dad. Will you be ready when it is in your price range?
Jeff Perry has been a Project Coordinator for the Capitol Development team at SpringHill Camps in Evart, Mich. for the past five years, working with that team on many new and remodel construction projects and infrastructure improvements.