Sharing the numerous benefits of access flooring and cable management and how industry professionals view this unique sector.

Access flooring and cable management play a critical role as a below-the-surface system, servicing numerous institutions such as high-tech computer centres and office spaces that have very specific requirements. Due to the very nature of this unique floor type, it has to perform to stringent criteria in order to result in successful installations.

FLOORS in Africa turned to industry experts and asked them to communicate their invaluable input, while also explaining how their knowledge and extensive experience resulted in creating an industry standard of excellence.

Charl Kinghorn, Country Manager at Bergvik Flooring
Access Flooring:
1.    How does access flooring respond to the very specific needs of call centres, high-tech computer centres and office spaces?
A raised access floor by its very nature provides a hidden void for the passage of mechanical and electrical services. These services are in most cases typical for call centres, high-tech computer centres and office space infrastructure projects.

In high-tech computer centres it is also a common way to cool data areas using the raised floor as a plenum chamber to distribute conditioned air to exact locations where it is required. When the underfloor space is also used as an air plenum, it can become crowded with cables, making it difficult for the cold air to move freely.

This is largely due to the close 600 mm spacing between the standard access floor and pedestal supports, forcing the cable bundles to be stacked on top of each other, rather than being spread out.

2.    What factors contribute to a successful installation?
To achieve a successful installation, there needs to be a strong management team on the project with a reasonable project schedule, regular interaction and feedback communicated to subcontractors. Efficient coordination of all the services and trades that need to be installed should also be properly communicated.

According to Charl, Bergvik identify an installation as successful when they have supplied a tailor-made solution to the client, which assists them in obtaining their organisational goals, by means of their solution offerings and effective teamwork.

3.    How should the flooring sector respond to meet the demands of the fast-moving IT industry?
Companies should offer innovative design solutions that provide the IT industry with a dynamic raised floor design, allowing for multi-size floor panels, a self-supporting modular grid that enables greater flexibility in server rack placement, and pitch distance (which translates to more equipment racks on the same footprint to improve customers’ return on investment). Additional resources for more local production should also be encouraged, to ensure that it is closer to where the growth is taking place.

To achieve this, more streamlined accessories need to be developed that work in conjunction with flooring products, to provide clients with an optimal solution to their ever-increasing demands for lowering running costs.

4.    What are the benefits/advantages of access flooring?
Over and above the benefit of serving as a hidden floor void for routing all kinds of services and cooling of critical equipment, data space is expensive and companies need to make the most of every square metre and most of all safeguard their assets.

5.    Are there specific challenges with regard to installing this floor type? How are these responded to?
The installation on larger projects can become challenging due to the number of services within the floor void. For this very situation, a floor system will be installed in a two-deployment manner. This eases the coordination of services that are concurrently installed. The setup of the substructure and all the steel work is typically completed with deployment one, creating the opportunity for other services to be coordinated and installed correctly the first time. The second deployment will complete the floor panel and plenum installation.

Clint Hastings, Director at Peter Bates Flooring
Access Flooring:
1.    How does access flooring respond to the very specific needs of call centres, high-tech computer centres and office spaces and what are the benefits and advantages of using access flooring?
•    Access flooring enables quick and easy access for maintenance, rerouting or upgrading with little disruption to the work processes.
•    Its floor plenum can be used as a large duct for HVAC systems resulting in higher operating efficiencies as conditioned air can be supplied closer to office occupants via floor grilles. Access floor perforated airflow panels or grilles can furthermore be fitted with an adjustable opposite blade damper that is used to balance the airflow and thus control the localised temperature of equipment in Data Centres.
•    Access flooring is used to mount electrical docking points for plugs required for office cleaning equipment, photocopiers, etc.
•    It caters for office churn, by allowing easy redirection of services to accommodate changes to new office layouts, changing requirements by new technology, new personnel or new tenants.
•    This type of floor also decreases the overall lifecycle costs of multi-storey buildings due to the reduced heights required between floor levels.
•    Access floors are used to provide a level floor where the building design requires structural beams or has graded substrates, or where buildings with existing fixed services need to be converted to a more flexible solution.
•    Floor heights are generally available from 50 mm to 1 800 mm, which is why different rooms on the same floor can be installed at different heights. For example, in call centres, where the supervisor needs to be located in an elevated position. Multi-level applications of access floorings have furthermore been successfully applied to the construction of lightweight auditoriums.
•    No wires are visible, which increases safety and enhances aesthetic quality.
•    Steel access floors are fully recyclable and costs can be recovered at the end of the building life by recycling or re-using the system in a new building.
•    The 600 x 600mm steel panel and pedestal support systems are still preferred by the majority of our local and international customers mainly due to the following:
o    Lower system costs
o    Speed of installations
o    Steel panels cannot warp when exposed to moisture or flooding
o    These systems are fully interchangeable and can therefore be upgraded with heavier duty panels or reinforced pedestals to carry heavier loads in isolated sections of an installation as opposed to a more expensive heavy duty floor throughout the installation.

2.    What factors contribute to a successful installation?
When the correct product is suited to the application, little or no maintenance or upgrades will be required. In addition, if the access floor system used is flexible enough, it will accommodate any oversight in the building design. Lastly, a successful installation is clearly defined as being a project that is completed within budget and on time.

3.    How should the flooring sector respond to meet the demands of the fast-moving IT industry?
The flexibility of an access floor already accommodates most changes in the IT industry. As such, access floor manufacturers need to address these demands with conductivity ratings of the systems and finishes for electrical grounding/earthing to protect the equipment on the floors.

The access floor component corrosion protection coatings must not only protect the product throughout its lifespan, but also against rust contamination or zinc whiskers that could damage electronic equipment.

4.    Are there specific challenges with regard to installing this floor type? How are these resolved?
Due to the weight of access flooring, loading material into multi-storey building requires the use of heavy-duty cranes or hoisting facilities. Coordinating with other trades when installing the first fix beneath the floor is always a challenge. This can be resolved by marking out the access floor pedestals positions on the substrate prior to installation so that the electrical data trays with wiring and AC ducts can be installed before the floors are installed.

Alternatively, the access floors can be installed first and then rows of panels can be opened afterwards for the installation of under floor services. According to Clint, this method is fast becoming more popular. This is because the floor can be closed immediately and under-floor services can be protected until handover.

Luk Ivens, General Manager at Legrand
Access Flooring & Cable Management:
1.    How does access flooring and cable management respond to the very specific needs of call centres, high-tech computer centres and office spaces?
A cable floor system should offer both designer and user the utmost freedom – freedom in design because the possibilities are endless – with the end result being a smart floor and an interior that is free from exposed cables and extensions. Managers of office buildings or data centres can achieve considerable cost savings when companies relocate to buildings that offer these systems. Modifications to workplaces can easily be carried out by the end users themselves, during working hours.

2.    What factors contribute to a successful installation?
A properly finished screed always contributes to the success of an installation, ensuring the installation maintains its aesthetic value and performance throughout the lifespan of the office.

3.    What are the benefits/advantages of access flooring?
Shaun answers this question by discussing a specific product offering from Legrand, which identifies the benefits and advantages of quality access flooring products.

According to Luk, this floor type needs to offer an integrated solution for work stations and other professional spaces. For example, polypropylene offers support while lightweight, pre-galvanised steel floor tiles create a containment system to eliminate the need for trunking. With the incorporation of floor boxes, power poles and grommets, one can create a well-organised and highly functional office. Time and money are saved during installation as well as with any future reconfiguration, as there is no need for skilled labour or special equipment.

Cable Management:
1.    What does cable management entail?
It involves the neat containment of cables and guarantees power and data access directly to the user. The aim is to offer users speed of installation of functional, ergonomic and comfortable products/services for various office building areas. Pop-up boxes, power and data desk grommets integrate harmoniously in all types of furniture for meeting rooms, individual or open-space offices.

2.    What are some of the latest trends in cable management?
There is a noticeable trend towards organised connectivity to the working space and a demand for innovative products with a better design.