Skip to main content

Access Flooring: The Flexible and Adaptable Technology Solution for the Classroom

Access flooring can provide the data flexibility and adaptability classrooms need to stay on top of changing student technology needs today and in the future.

Schools are essential for educating future generations of students, but most campus designs have not evolved to match today’s tech-centric students. In fact, classroom design has changed very little since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965. This act emphasized equal educational access to minimize education gaps between students by providing federal funds to support schools. What has dramatically changed over the last sixty years are the educational materials, technologies, and devices used in the classroom, due to widespread internet accessibility. Despite the limitations of their existing cabling infrastructure, many schools now realize the importance of keeping pace with these newer technologies as they become available..

Before the widespread availability of the Internet, teachers and educators instructed their pupils primarily using chalkboards, books, and other printed materials. Today, classrooms are more connected than ever. Many classrooms have internet access and rely on digital devices for student instruction and testing including: 

  • AV systems that use projection systems/displays 
  • File sharing and editing tools for computers/laptops/tablets
  • Digital eBooks and reference materials to save space and reduce printing costs
  • Smart screens and interactive displays for working with large groups of students
  • Video conferencing for remote learning and tutoring services (colleges, universities, trade schools)

Looking to the future, most classrooms will continue to utilize digital technology to create and share documents, images, videos, and audio files. Additionally, due to the massive amounts of data used, newer technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), AR (Augmented Reality), and ML (Machine Learning) will further increase the demand for data cabling systems. Lastly, access control and security systems will also require additional cabling and data bandwidth.

Number of US Schools and Students

What Is The Circular Economy

According to Education Week1, there are currently 128,961 public and private K-12 schools and another 3,931 colleges and universities. Full- and part-time student enrollment reached a staggering 68 million in 2023. Due to the continual growth in the number of students nationwide, hundreds of new and existing campuses must be built or remodeled to accommodate these students and their technological needs.

New Classroom Technology Guidelines

What Is The Circular Economy

Most classroom technology infrastructure systems were stretched to their limits during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders and the rapid migration to remote learning options. As a result, both the Office of Educational Technology2, and the Institute of Educational Sciences3, two guiding organizations in education, support five new technology infrastructure guidelines for public schools, colleges, and universities.

  1. Digital infrastructure should be adequate and future-proof. Connections, speeds, and devices should be designed to meet the changing technology needs of modern education. This infrastructure should also be scalable to newer technologies and future expansion.
  2. Digital infrastructure should be defensible and resilient. Cybersecurity measures are essential to ensure the safety of people, data, and systems from ransomware, as well as other evolving cyber threats.
  3. Digital infrastructure should be privacy-enhancing, interoperable, and useful. These systems should prioritize privacy and data protection measures. Embracing interoperability standards can enable the seamless exchange of data between systems.
  4. Digital infrastructure should be accessible to individuals with disabilities and multilingual learners. Schools must provide equal access to individuals with disabilities by addressing accessibility at all stages of the technology lifecycle – procurement, implementation, training, and support.
  5. Digital infrastructure should enhance student digital health, safety, and citizenship skills. Digital infrastructure should be designed to protect and improve the digital health, safety, and citizenship skills of the people within that system, including the privacy of their data. 

Both reports recommend a whole-community approach to identifying and addressing each school’s unique challenges based on location, student needs, potential risks, local resources, and available funding mechanisms. They also suggest designing classrooms with an adaptable AV/IT (Audio Visual/Internet Technology) infrastructure, such as a raised access flooring system, that can quickly change to meet changing class sizes and needs while keeping pace with new technologies and their implementation.

What is Access Flooring?

What Is The Circular Economy

While some schools still have no existing data cabling network in place, for those that do, the data cabling is typically hidden above the ceilings or within walls in most schools and buildings. As a result, most changes or upgrades require selective demolition to create the necessary access. With the new cabling in place, the affected walls and ceilings must be patched or repaired to their previous state.

An alternative to traditional cabling solutions, The Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® System relocates the data cabling to a much more accessible location beneath the floor; the 1.6” or 2.75” high space created between the existing concrete slab and the new access flooring system. Gridd is ideal for temporary and permanent installations since it requires no fasteners or special tools. 

The modular configuration and assembly result in less down time to accommodate the original installation and can be reconfigured infinitely as newer technologies become available. When the cabling can be accessed quickly by removing the modular floor covering, maintenance and updates can be done without the need for disruptive construction.

Gridd is made from 100% US Steel, which meets flame spread requirements for public buildings. Steel is one of the most recycled materials on the planet and can also improve a building’s LEED score. Any accessibility issues can be solved with ADA-compliant ramps that range from 19” in length, making small space renovations more viable.

Gridd is designed with future needs in mind, so that no Gridd component will ever become obsolete. New Gridd components introduced today are compatible with all components going back to its inception. To address future flexibility and adaptability concerns, two additional options are available that work seamlessly with the Gridd adaptive cabling system:

Gridd® Power provides power management flexibility through an integrated 50-amp modular bus system designed to work seamlessly within the Gridd Raised Flooring System. Connections can be field-wired to the main or central panel or made via a modular branch circuit for increased flexibility.

Gridd® Mobile is an augmented reality (AR) technology app that allows contractors and facility managers to see a virtual map of the cable pathways beneath the floor on a smartphone or mobile device. With this option, in-house teams know exactly where the cables and connection points are located, which simplifies and shortens the time needed to perform maintenance and upgrades. The interface also provides easy access to project details like site photos, as-built drawings, and product cut sheets.

Classroom Technology Barriers

What Is The Circular Economy

Incorporating technology into a new primary, secondary, or higher education building has historically been more straightforward than updating an existing school campus for the following reasons.

Publicly funded project—Because the school is owned by the city, county, state, or federal government, the project is subject to the Davis-Bacon Act. This law requires that project workers receive the prevailing local wage, often in line with local union pay scales. Labor costs can easily double or triple compared to a standard commercial construction project.

The Build America, Buy American Act (BABAA) now requires all federal agencies, including FEMA, to ensure by May 14, 2022, that no federal financial assistance for “infrastructure” projects is provided “unless all the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States.

School is in session – many buildings can’t close to accommodate the necessary construction work. As a result, contractors must work during limited school breaks, off-hours, or overnight to minimize noise, dust, and potential class disruptions. Tools and equipment are shuffled in and out daily, which cuts into daily production.

Material deliveries are typically problematic, as most suppliers don’t offer off-hours deliveries. On-site material storage is limited, as the building is open to the public during the day.

Historical buildings—Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, little thought was given to future upgrades like electricity, running water, and telephone service. Without utility chases or connection points in place, modernizing these buildings for today’s technology while maintaining the historical heritage can quickly become cost-prohibitive.

Building code compliance—In many jurisdictions, once the retrofit work reaches a specific size or dollar amount, the entire building must be brought up to the current code. Depending on the building’s age, this can involve updating windows and doors, stairwells and elevators, and fire suppression systems. Correcting grandfathered code requirements can quickly turn a cabling retrofit into a complete renovation project. 

Outdated building materials—stories about lead pipes continue to dominate the news, but other hazards are potentially hiding in older school buildings.

Electrical contractors used aluminum wiring4 for residential and commercial buildings from 1965 to 1980. While the formula was changed in 1972 to address safety concerns, aluminum wiring is 55 times more likely to start a fire than copper or copper-clad aluminum wiring options.

These existing conditions will result in higher construction costs and longer project timelines for technology upgrades to an existing classroom or campus. 

As we train and educate future generations of students, it is imperative that schools implement and maintain the latest technology to serve the next generation. The common link across existing and new educational technologies is the need for more and more data, which requires a robust, flexible, and scalable network. As a result, effective cable management has quickly become a keystone component for all educational settings to improve the learning process for all students, in accordance with the new classroom technology guidelines. Access flooring systems provide the flexibility and adaptability needed to effectively manage, maintain, or upgrade educational infrastructure systems. Simple access to the data cables and cords provides the critical support, reliability, and agility needed to sustain and grow future educational capabilities.

Call Now

Need support for your project?
Call to speak to an advisor.

See what can do for you.
Why Gridd