Spaghetti, knitting, dog’s breakfast, call it what you will, but that’s what office cable installations can look like after a couple of years unless a competent, flexible and durable cable management system has been used.
There are several options for installing and operating an efficient cable management system. They range from traditional drop-down and perimeter systems – which can still provide a workable solution in some applications – through trunking and cableways, to several modular raised flooring options designed specifically for the accommodation and easy use of cabling.
Traditionally, cabling systems consisted of fixed outlets, connections and long cable runs, changes to which usually involved contracting outside labour, causing considerable disruption within the workplace.
Contemporary systems are much more user-friendly. The latest trend is towards ‘modular cabling’ where all the telecommunications functions – power, data and audio/video – are contained within a single wiring infrastructure.
Vertical wiring runs from the main equipment room to satellite rooms or closets serving each floor/zone, and horizontal cabling handles transmissions between these closets and each individual workstation.
Modular cabling, particularly when installed within a raised floor system, is popular for offering improvements in building operations efficiency, meeting tenants’ needs for advanced cabling and owners’ interests in reasonable costs (together with the possibility of charging higher rentals for the offices).
All telecommunications services are run within a modular cable unit and each outlet offers the option of access to any combination of power, data and audio/video.
In terms of efficiency and low-cost operation/maintenance, matters are greatly simplified when modular cabling is installed as part of a raised floor system because in-house personnel using simple tools and standardised connector pieces can easily carry out reconfiguration.
The process of removing/replacing carpet tiles and floor panels is a relatively ‘dry construction’ requiring no repair paintwork or plastering and can be carried out by in-house personnel, avoiding the need to hire professional labour.
In addition, day-to-day business suffers minimum interruption as the process can be carried out quickly and cleanly, enabling users to make modifications without changing the entire floor plan.
The easy-to-install raised flooring systems are modular, designed to save the user a great deal of time and labour cost, while simplifying any future additions or modifications to the work environment.
Patented trunking or cableways appear in some systems; others offer a complete containment system; and they all provide easy access to the cabling, which means that making any alterations can be handled by a competent maintenance person or department, without the need for outside professional help.
With some systems, pre-carpeted panels are available in 50cm x 50cm tiles ideal for installation in all types of application, whether the system is needed for a small data centre or a large office with multiple power and data solutions. This seems to be favoured in North American applications.
Local raised floor cable management systems are generally of low profile, with a plenum of up to 150mm, and can comply with SABS 0400. Mostly these are freestanding on adjustable, self-levelling, moulded pedestals and provided with a suitable floor finish. This means that should the user move to new premises it is possible to remove the system and reinstall in the new location.
The common floor height of these types of systems is up to 150mm, which means that they can be used in refurbishment projects without impinging on the regulation 2,4-metre minimum floor-to-ceiling height for an office.
In comparison with conventional loose cabling, the first costs of raised floors – in terms of cable management only – are likely to be higher. However, in the face of today’s high churn rates where the ability to rapidly upgrade technology and re-route cable networks is both necessary and expensive, investing in a higher-cost system which offers maximum flexibility and minimises the frequency of required system upgrades can be the most cost-effective option in the long term.
As can be seen from the companies that have provided information in this feature, South Africa is not short of workable and efficient cable management systems, giving designers and end-users plenty of options to obtain the layout and service they require.