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How to Select a Raised Floor

For an architect, engineer, or contractor many factors must be weighed when selecting a raised floor: availability, compatibility, sizing, timing and of course, cost.

Determine Flooring Requirements

For an architect, engineer, or contractor each project presents different factors that ultimately decide the types of products used. Major factors include availability, compatibility, sizing, timing and of course, cost. Within each product, a myriad of sub-factors drive the product research and selection that teams encounter during the research process. 

Given the current popularity of the open plan and the resurgence of restoring and refurbishing older buildings, every architect, engineer, or contractor has likely come across a raised floor system in one project or another. 

Like any other building product, the Raised Floor may appear outwardly simple and functionally driven, but not all access floor systems are alike. Given the global availability (pandemic aside) of products, a simple internet search for Raised Floor Systems offers numerous options, as expected. In order to narrow these down to a product that fits the criteria of a project, the following set of steps (provided as a series of questions) can be taken to identify the best product. 

  1. What is a raised floor? 
  2. Where are typical applications? 
  3. What are the further considerations?
  4. Case-Study: Why choose a low-profile raised floor System?

What is a Raised Floor?

Also called raised flooring or access flooring, a raised floor is a product system that creates a void between a building’s original finished floor and a newly constructed elevated floor to house mechanical and electrical services. There are generally two types of raised floors. A traditional raised floor is typically a post and panel system, consisting of a square concrete panel on four steel posts about 24”-36” high. The concrete panel creates a sealed air space, also known as a plenum, used to run underfloor air. An alternative to a post and panel system is a low profile raised floor, which can come as low as 1.6” high, used for cable management. Selecting the best raised floor for your needs depends on several considerations, these include but are not limited to application type, cooling system and air distribution setup, and finally cabling and wiring needs

The Gridd System – A low profile raised floor

Traditional post and panel raised floor

Where are Typical Applications?

The selection of a raised floor is dependent on the project. However, there are certain buildings and uses that are optimized with a raised floor. Raised floors can facilitate airflow, cable management and mechanical infrastructure. The following is a condensed list, by no means exhaustive, and in no order, of a variety of raised floor applications and their unique requirements.

  • Training and Conference RoomsWhere modern conference rooms rely on technology that includes a collection of phone lines, chargers, and power cords, the raised floor system provides an opportunity for cables and power to run seamlessly below and retain a clean environment above the floor.

  • Universities/Schools/Classrooms/LibrariesWith an emphasis on a quiet and clutter-free environment, universities and schools (including libraries and classrooms) can incorporate access to modern technology in often older spaces while retaining the clutter-free environment originally intended. 

  • Laboratories/Hospitals/Medical Facilities – With wiring infrastructure for visual displays, patient monitoring, x-ray, and monitors constantly upgraded, the raised floor system eliminates power poles and the hazards of exposed wiring in a sterile environment. 

  • CourtroomsPower cords, microphones, projectors, video screens, and a/v equipment are all components of a modern courtroom that benefit from a raised floor system that provides a clutter-free space. 

  • MuseumsMuseum displays and exhibits involve lighting, electronics, data, and AV that are continuously being set up, taken down, and re-configured. The raised floor system neatly organizes cables and allows for quick and easy spatial configuration. 

  • Emergency Operations/911 Centers – In large, open spaces with numerous screens, A/V equipment, computers, processors, recorders, security checkpoints, and badge readers that all require power and data cabling that is frequently updated, a raised floor provides an optimal solution for cable and power management with the ability to be seamlessly upgraded and rearranged. 

  • Casinos – With open floor plans and gaming equipment and surveillance systems are regularly upgraded, both equipment and machines are frequently moved alongside power and data. The raised floor system retains the open space and provides easy access and reconfiguration. 

  • Warehouse conversions – A low-profile raised floor system provides the quickest, yet most sustainable and cost effective pathway to building out power and cabling infrastructure in any space including a warehouse conversion. 

  • Building conversionsRetain floor plan and structural integrity. Certain products, like the FreeAxez flagship product, the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® system, do not attach to subfloors or walls, thereby preserving historic buildings and structural integrity.

    Each application has a unique need. It is important to recognize the long range use of a flooring system. The use of a space can change as the associated requirements change. The list of application scenarios is truly endless, whether the building is new or being repurposed. While all raised floors have the potential to provide an infrastructure for things like mechanicals, power and low voltage, they do not all allow for the flexible change and evolving functionality required by the modern building. Power and cable must be easily accessible in order to support end users as workspace is reconfigured and technology upgraded to meet the evolving needs. 

    Knowing the application is just the first step. What else can help inform the decision when selecting a raised floor?

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    What are the Further Considerations?

    Having reviewed the use of the building or space and nature of the project, specific requirements guide the researcher into selecting the most appropriate product for the project. Below are further considerations that will ultimately lead to the ultimate goal, making a product selection:

    • Underfloor airflow requirements – Certain applications (such as a server room or even a commercial office that needs underfloor air conditioning and mechanicals) require more room and a higher-profile raised floor. In contrast, a space that requires only power and cable management can opt for a raised floor product that has a much lower profile. 

    • Height requirements – Often dictated by airflow requirements, the height of a raised floor System is also determined by factors such as the size and amount of cabling, as well as the vertical height of the existing space. A standard data center, for example, because of underfloor air requirements typically requires a 24” raised floor system, while Gridd, a low-profile office floor, is 1.6” to 2.75.” Both heights are ample room for the power and data distribution, if underfloor air is not required. 

    • LEED requirements (if applicable) – LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely known and accepted green building rating system in the world. As a worldwide leader in sustainability, a LEED certification can be attained by nearly any building type. By using different rating systems to reach pre-determined goals for the environment and the building inhabitants, a LEED certification considers the impact of each building product. 

    • Flexibility required by end-user – Considering whether the space will need to be reconfigured now or in the future, as well as how often, will inform the product selection. While this is potentially completed when researching the building or space use and application, the flexibility required by the end-user is ultimately project-specific. 

    • Power requirements – Also linked to the use of the building or space, the specific power requirements will dictate the product selection. Some raised floor systems simply provide a space through which to run conduit and/or cable. Other systems, like Gridd by FreeAxez, provide access to power anywhere on the open floor plan through an integrated modular power system. 

    • HPD and WELL Building requirements – HPD (Health Product Declaration) and WELL are further building standards that pertain to the health and well-being of the users through the selection and specification of responsible building products. 

    • Design support services – Depending upon the scope of the project team, this service can save weeks and much frustration. Working with a team of experts that know the product and can shave off logistical requirements ensures that projects stay on schedule and on budget.

    • Scheduling requirements – The current state of global shipping aside, the scheduling and availability of a building product is a major factor to consider during product selection. The ability for a provider to expedite aspects of a project when necessary can impact both the schedule and the project budget. Additionally, not all systems are alike when it comes to the actual installation. If scheduling in a space is tight, a system that can install very quickly (Gridd) and allows other trades to complete their work can potentially save weeks in the schedule.

    • Overall weight of system – There are some applications where the structural load of the building is limited and some access floor systems add too much weight. Also slab conditions – post tension slab, may limit the ability to use anchors. The building may not be able to accommodate the requirements of some systems. X-raying the floor may be necessary to make a determination. 

    • Cost – Last on this list but surely not least in importance, the specific cost of a product is often a factor that places it high on the list of important factors to consider. The up-front cost, however, is only one factor, and other considerations on this list (like scheduling, support services, LEED and WELL certifications) may produce a higher up-front cost, but have a bigger impact on the long-term costs of functionality, maintenance, repairs, and ultimate lifespan of the building product. 

    Having narrowed down the search by understanding the specific use of a building or space, as well as the intricacies of the project requirements, the final step is to select a product that meets these goals.

    agile workplace design

    Case Study: Why Choose a Low-Profile Raised Floor System?

    Within the realm of raised floors, there are numerous products to choose from. Best described through a case study, taking a closer look at a specific product helps to illuminate the notion that not all raised floor systems are equal. 

    The Beauty of Low-Profile

    With over 25 years of experience, FreeAxez is a leader and innovator in the realm of raised floor systems. Referred to as a low-profile cable infrastructure, the Gridd product has revolutionized cable management and access flooring with a system that smoothly integrates technology through a flexible design that is quick to assemble. 

    At a lower height than other raised access floors, Gridd is 1.6” (Gridd 40) or 2.75” (Gridd 70) isn’t an obtrusive or cumbersome product. It is also highly stable, while accommodating 50 Cat5 cables every 15 inches at 40% capacity (Gridd 40). Combined with Gridd 70, its partner (Gridd® Power) ensures the entire system of elevated floors above and modular power system below quickly connects devices, literally anywhere in an open floor plan.

    Support

    Design services can continue through every stage of a project to installation. Gridd design support is there to help with as little or as much assistance as a business needs. From how to install videos for hands-on operations to access to installation professionals, the design staff is ready to help facilitate the product installation. 

    In terms of flexibility, Gridd can accomplish nearly infinite layouts and can be adjusted by anyone, meaning that design of the space doesn’t have to end when the building is finished. Changes can be made at any time, to meet the end-user’s needs. 

    When combined with the AR Application (Gridd® Mobile), the ease of flexibility becomes apparent. Power and cabling infrastructure can be visualized beneath the floor without having to lift panels. This app can also store and maintain as-built drawings, how-to-videos, original site photos and product information in real-time. 

    Accolades and awards aside, the Gridd system fits the mold when it comes to selecting and specifying a product. It can be installed in every application mentioned above, with additional building types/uses on the way. Furthermore, the Gridd system is one that can be reused in practically any building, again and again, leaving behind the notion of a building material’s lifespan being tied to the life of the building or space (or even less in some cases). 

    Sustainability and Repurposing of Commercial Space

    Beyond being able to score some LEED points for responsibly made products, Gridd is among the forerunners of building products in the circular economy. The circular economy shifts focus from disposability to the idea of reuse. It designs out waste and pollution, keeps buildings and materials in use, and looks for ways to regenerate natural systems.

    Gridd is produced with locally sourced steel and recycled content. It also uses minimal energy for production and installation and eliminates waste during the life of the building. Reconfigurations and technology upgrades are easy.  Especially when using the Gridd Mobile app to locate underfloor cabling without lifting panels or flooring. 

    Gridd can be installed, picked up, and reused in another space, building, or campus. This takes the idea of a recyclable building product to another level, as the Gridd floor system is no longer tied to a specific building. The product and its lifespan, now expands beyond the current ownership and use in the initial space. For a building whose future contains unknown occupants, the Gridd system can adapt to any configuration or technology upgrade. 

    As the future of commercial space is being redefined, buildings with Gridd installations have superior flexibility and may be quickly reconfigured with the evolving needs of occupants. The Gridd system is a sustainable solution.

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    A Few Key Things to Know About Gridd

    While FreeAxez often refers to Gridd as “low profile raised flooring,” it is much more than that. Gridd is an Adaptive Cabling Distribution system designed specifically for cable management. Gridd allows businesses to integrate technology smoothly.

    Learn more about how Gridd can simplify commercial raised flooring projects. Speak with an advisor today.

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