Cabling Installers: Future-Proofing Office Space for Ethernet Installation

December 3, 2019 | Cabling

One of the biggest challenges a company has these days is handling and preparing for the rapid change in technology. These changes require more flexibility—and that includes the actual installation of the cabling and wiring that supply power, voice, and data to an office.

Ethernet cables may look the same as they did a decade ago, but there have been significant changes. No longer does a business need just a cat6 installer; cat6e has become the new standard. Cat6a and fiber optic cabling is now poised to jump into the first spot in the future. And with new office trends like coworking and flex spaces, building cable configuration and management need to be as easy and painless as possible.

Current Workplace Trends

Today’s technology and workplace philosophies demand more flexibility. In fact, buildings are being built or extensively redesigned with flexibility in mind.

According to industry CRE reports published this year, there are an estimated 35,000 flexible workspaces in the world today, putting the global market value at an estimated $26 billion.

Here are some common features found in a flexible workplace:

Collaborative workspaces

In an office, most people want their own personal space for ‘head down’ projects, but they also need to collaborate with their teammates in a convenient and comfortable setting.

Many offices these days have open spaces and furniture on wheels that allow employees to move furniture around to create collaboration spaces when needed.

Going beyond the cubicle

Cubicles have their place; however, many companies are choosing cubbies that are smaller, have lower walls and are movable.

Versatile space

Not all offices have thousands of square feet of raw space. They need to use the room they have creatively. That may mean the kitchen double as a large meeting area if needed.

These flexible workspaces have a wide range of benefits, the most important of which is the increase in overall employee comfort, which leads to greater productivity.

These spaces also require the most creative and adaptable form of cable installation possible.

Common Techniques for Cabling Installation

There’s a perception that power, communication, and data needs are being met by using wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi). But the truth is that the cable wiring industry is actually still growing.

As of now, power remains steadfastly wired.

In terms of communication and data, many organizations ban wireless transmissions of critical data—especially in the government, military, financial, and high-tech arenas. Small and medium businesses also recognize that while wired communications may be less flexible, they offer far greater security.

There are four basic ways of managing cable in the workplace. Each way presents pros and cons. Remember, as we look at these methods, we’ll be focusing on future-proofing an office to meet its need for flexibility.

Concrete Trenching

Concrete trenching involves channels built into the concrete subfloor of an office and is most often used in a single-story building.

In new buildings, sometimes the trenches are already formed during the initial concrete pour—but oftentimes, this isn’t the case. If the trenches aren’t an integral feature in the building, they’ll need to be cut into the subfloor.

Once the trenches are in place, the cable and conduit are run through them, and floor boxes can be installed at desired locations. Then, to finish it off, concrete is often poured to fill in the trench.

Pros:

  • Traditional method (well understood)
  • Uses no additional ceiling height space within the building

Cons:

  • Fixed layout with no flexibility
  • Shuts down the whole building to install
  • Relatively expensive (especially because of the downtime involved)
  • Loud, dirty and labor-intensive
  • May have structural integrity problems
  • Property management firm must sign off this type of structural change

Things to consider when using this type of cable management:

  • Structural engineering work must be done to ensure the floor has the proper strength after the huge sections of concrete have been removed to create the trenches. This is especially important with multi-story buildings.
  • All existing holes in the concrete must be patched up before the new trenches are cut into the subfloor.

Floor Decking

This method of cable installation is used for multi-story buildings; consider this method trenching’s little brother.

The electrical conduit is run through the ceiling beneath the floor by which it’s utilized. For example, the third floor’s wiring will actually be run through the second floor’s ceiling.

While there’s less concrete cutting involved, this cabling installation method still calls for concrete saws and core drilling.

The biggest hassle with floor decking cable installation is that any time you need to add, remove, or reroute cables, the process will involve the office on the floor below you, in addition to the floor in which the decking is installed. Both floors will experience business interruptions, dust, noise, and vibration.

Pros:

  • Traditional method (well understood)
  • Uses no additional ceiling height space within the building
  • Less concrete cutting than the trenching method

Cons:

  • Not flexible at all
  • Huge business interruptions to make any changes
  • Time-consuming during the construction stage

Ceiling Cable Drops

Ceiling cable installation is a bit more flexible than those methods mentioned above and is used in both single-story and multi-story buildings.

This cabling installation method uses the overhead space (either exposed ceiling or dropped ceiling) to suspend conduit and cables from the ceiling, dropping them down into the work area. Cable drops typically use poles or are run through the walls to conceal and route the cable.

With ceiling cable management, there will be no concrete cutting. However, the installation, as well as any changes that will need to be done later, are still labor-intensive. This involves climbing up and down ladders that will need to be repositioned every few feet as a cable installer moves down the cable line.

Pros:

  • No concrete cutting or trenching
  • Utilizes unused space

Cons:

  • Cumbersome cable changes or rerouting
  • Unsightly cable drops
  • Not recommended for applications where aesthetics are important

Under Floor Cable Management

Underfloor cable management uses raised access flooring as a method of routing and concealing cables. Raised access flooring comes in many varieties and heights. The cables are routed under the floor—or, in the case of low profile access flooring, within the floor itself.

With a low profile cable management system installation, no concrete cutting is necessary. No labor-intensive ladders are required. No unsightly cable drop with poles or wires would run through the walls.

The floor is simply and quickly connected over the top of the existing subfloor—sort of like Legos. Low profile flooring isn’t attached to the building in any way. It’s held together by gravity. No glues. No screws. No fasteners. And no tools are needed to access the cables under the floor.

The wires and cables are tucked safely under the floor and can be routed up into furniture, fixtures, and workspaces without being seen. Rerouting and other changes are quick and easy and provide the maximum amount of flexibility in the workplace.

A low-profile access flooring cable management system is the most expensive option mentioned in this article. However, when you count how quickly this system can be installed; factor in the fact that the installation can be done in phases that allow a business to remain open and running; as well as the fact that the business owns the flooring and can take it with them if they move, it may turn out to be the most cost-effective option available on the market today.

Pros:

  • Extremely flexible
  • No concrete cutting or trenching
  • No ceiling work
  • No posts. No punching holes in the walls
  • Low-profile (takes up minimal height of 1.5” to 3”)
  • Almost infinite cable layout designs
  • Fastest installation process

Cons:

  • Takes up some floor to ceiling space

What This Means

Low-profile cable management systems are a relatively new and an increasingly popular way of cabling installation that is less labor-intensive and provides the flexibility that today’s modern office requires.

Professionals must ask themselves these questions:

Do I see this new technology as a threat or something that could make my job easier?

Can including flooring installation in the bid process for commercial projects uplevel my business?

Just how am I innovating with the times?

The answers to these questions will lead cable installers to the right method for their projects.

See what Gridd can do for you.

Get Sample Kit