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Power and Cable Distribution

How to Improve the Effectiveness of Power and Cable Management in Commercial Building and Office Settings

Best Practices for Power and Cable Distribution

The world of commercial real estate is complex. Businesses can remove some of these complexities through an effective power and cable distribution strategy, while creating a built environment that can serve both owners and tenants immediately and long term.

Naturally, the focus needs to be on efficiency when it comes to cost, time invested, and flexibility with tenants looking to minimize complications in both traditional settings and increasingly common subletting environments.

Effective power and cable distribution management can affect a building’s performance in several ways:

  • Smarter planning protects the integrity of data streams, creating more reliable performance.
  • With the right strategy, a building’s power and cable management become more flexible, allowing for short-term changes and adjustments as needed.
  • Troubleshooting processes become simpler and fixing issues easier thereby benefiting the wider system.
  • An effective cable management solution simplifies servicing by third parties who can modify the system more efficiently.
  • Prepare buildings for the future, including the possibility of smart buildings and advanced functionalities.

Power and cable distribution management is a comprehensive win for any commercial building owner looking to increase the long-term reliability and performance of their spaces. The improved day-to-day performance combines with long-term sustainability, enhancing the present and safeguarding the future of the built environment.

For clarity, it is essential to focus on power and cable distribution best practices before detailing a comprehensive approach to build or update the cable management strategy.

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5 Considerations for Optimizing Power Distribution

The National Electrical Code has outlined very specific guidelines for servicing electrical loads and the number of receptacles required within commercial building meeting rooms. From these guidelines, a few general best practices are worth keeping in mind in planning a building’s power distribution system:

  1. There is no such thing as the best distribution system. Instead, the best systems and materials depend on each situation, building type, construction age, and more.
  2. Conduit tends to work well in permanent installations where future anticipated changes are low. Changes are still possible but require the installation of new raceways (conduits) and circuit alterations.
  3. Conduits are preferred in environments subject to physical damage, including in dry, damp, or wet locations requiring maximum power protection. PVC is a common raceway material due to its low cost and high availability. Still, it cannot be used in certain health care environments or within a return air plenum common in Type I and II buildings. 
  4. Compared to raceways, manufactured cable assemblies are less costly and typically faster to install, but they are also less flexible. Once installed, electricians will not be able to change the circuit configurations.
  5. Conduits, cables, and manufactured wiring assemblies are the most common types of wiring in commercial buildings, but other options do exist. Decisions on the right system should always be made primarily on efficiency and safety, not speed or cost of installation. 

Best Practices to Optimize Cable Distribution

Beyond power wiring, a building will likely require various telecom and data (low voltage) cables to maintain robust operations. These cables tend to require more flexibility, making best practices vital to ensure future effectiveness and efficiency.  

The better organized the low-voltage cables are, the easier maintenance and troubleshooting becomes. Some critical best practices to optimize cabling distribution include:

  1. Use high-quality cables. While the initial installation cost of going with higher-rated cables may concern decision-makers, that cost will be more than offset by lower repair and replacement costs (or increased capacity using the same cables) In the future.
  2. Use high-quality cable terminations. The best cables mean little if their connection to hardware is subpar. High-quality terminations lead to lower maintenance troubleshooting costs.
  3. Label every cable. Especially in larger buildings and office spaces, a lack of labels can lead to confusion and potential problems down the line. IT professionals and facility managers alike can more easily isolate problem areas and fix them as needed with the proper labeling.
  4. Color code cables. Choosing different colors for different cables makes comprehensive maintenance in the future easier when working on updating or replacing low-voltage cables.
  5. Create a cable map and glossary. Especially for a large building, this step can help electricians and IT personnel know exactly what to look for. Include labeling, color-coding, and mapping conventions to increase ease of use.
  6. Don’t overload cable trays. Too many cables in one tray can lead to cable damage at best and potentially serious electrical hazards for building occupants at worst. Refer to a cable management system’s maximum capacity for trays and adhere to all code requirements to ensure sufficient space and airflow.
  7. Optimize cable length for efficiency. Each cable needs enough slack to make installation easy and straightforward, but not so much that the loose cable gets in the way or complicates wire management.

Creating or Updating Your Cable Management Strategy

With these best practices in mind, it’s time to consider the strategic aspect of cable management. Here, documentation is key; as cable infrastructure continues to evolve, having a physical record of exactly how cabling runs in walls, floors, and ceilings can help a business continue to adjust in future years without complication.

That documentation can include the map mentioned above, diagrams, and technical specifications such as the exact cables used, their routing, and more. Also included would be the equipment used, and the pathways cables will take in any expansion areas, and more.

Once an operations or facilities team has a basic cable strategy in mind, it is time to future-proof the plan for current and upcoming trends.

Cable distribution systems have come a long way in the past few years. Innovative infrastructure approaches have appeared as a result of updated equipment, changing workforce needs, and other challenges. Cabling and power distribution have to conform to the “new normal” of working both remotely and in person.

To get there, keep three things in mind as your business builds or updates its cable management strategy: 

  1. The capacity for flexibility and quick changes
  2. The evolving needs of group collaboration spaces
  3. Current or future enhancements related to the Internet of Things
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Building a Cable Management Strategy for Adaptability

The quick evolution of both technology and workforce needs is not about to stop. If anything, it will continue to accelerate, and the costs of not evolving cable infrastructure alongside that growth can be significant. The slower adoption of new technologies can lead to a lot of competitive disadvantages. Outage risks increase, and higher costs of maintaining optimal solutions become the norm. Compliance and network security become more difficult as hardware becomes outdated, while access to vital business data becomes more difficult over time. 

That is what makes built-in flexibility so vital. Optimum flexibility integrates into a better cabling infrastructure strategy in a number of ways:

  • Focus on hardware and equipment, including wiring solutions that can be easily accessed and quickly changed as needed.
  • Create clear documentation for all cabling, including the future-facing part of an infrastructure strategy that anticipates maintenance and updates. Create clear, designated lines of authority that can make decisions on updates, maintenance, and more. 
  • Connect this cable management strategy with the larger business strategy, especially when focusing on areas of digital transformation and IoT.

Optimizing A Cable Strategy for Both Private and Group Collaboration Spaces

As part of the workplace evolution, we’re increasingly seeing organizations share collaboration space in open office environments and even share office space with other organizations while moving to remote and hybrid ways of working. The best cable management strategy needs to account for these trends to accommodate current and future tenants.

Getting there is relatively straightforward. Two variables matter above all: capacity and security.

Capacity must be more flexible than ever. In hybrid environments, even buildings with an average occupancy rate of 40% may still exceed 90% of capacity on days when many employees come into the office.  

Security matters, especially in shared spaces where members of multiple organizations may need to securely access sensitive company data. At the same time, security must extend to remote workers who must access those same files without increasing security risks.

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Preparing A Cable Strategy for Current and Future IoT Enhancements

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that the Internet of Things is no longer just a far-off hypothetical. It’s already here, with an increasing number of organizations leveraging it for their building access, security systems, climate control, and more. This reality relates to a cable management strategy in a few ways. Touchless access points still must be wired securely. In addition, any sensor-driven communication and displays must be supported by sufficient data and power capacity to keep working, including backups.  

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4 Variables to Consider When Installing and Managing Power and Cable Infrastructure

As the power and cable distribution strategy is put into action, strategic planning can help ensure a successful implementation that maximizes opportunities. Safety must be a top priority. Both during the installation and during day-to-day use, all power and data cables must be organized in a way that protects everyone. 

  1. Power. The delivery of power into the built environment must be streamlined. One product that integrates power and cabling is Gridd® Power, which uses bus bars as the backbone of a maximally flexible system specifically designed to distribute power efficiently.
  2. Security. While top-notch cybersecurity must include software elements like virtual firewalls, the hardware matters as well. Data cables should be safely installed within the infrastructure (like beneath the floor), making them less prone to damage and unauthorized access.
  3. Cable. What happens when a cable goes bad or facilities teams need to add wiring? By planning for flexibility early, the benefit will show up later. Tools like Gridd® Mobile, which can show the cables that are hidden within the building elements in an AR view. Gridd Mobile allows teams to easily pinpoint areas within the cabling structure without having to lift panels or carpet tile.
  4. Planning. Effective infrastructure planning can minimize future disruption. Keeping pace with continuous technological advancements requires a strategy that can adapt quickly to minimize disruption down the road.
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Making the Case for Power and Cable Management “Infrastructure” Upgrades

Used on its own, “future-ready” is nothing more than a buzzword. But in context, it has real-world, urgent implications related to built environment management.

As the Cabling Installation & Maintenance publication notes,

Cabling infrastructure that is not future-ready will require replacement or augmentation to accommodate the inevitable changes to the attached active electronics over the cabling’s 20-year useful life. (We need to) consider a backbone and communications infrastructure that is independent of anything that a tenant will build for their own business operations. Adequate growth capacity will be an important dimension of future-ready cabling.

In this environment, building owners cannot rely on tenants to provide their own cabling for IoT, added capacity, and more. The increased frequency of movement and increased security concerns require building owners to take the lead on effective power and cable management instead. 

Building an effective distribution strategy also prevents future disruption as buildings evolve and become smarter. That includes both vertical cable infrastructure across the floor and horizontal components within each floor, delivering high-speed power and data lines to every possible area now and into the future. For each zone, Cabling Installation & Maintenance recommends planning enough capacity for a 48% compound annual growth rate of network traffic and more than 10x the amount of currently attached devices.

The time to plan for the future of a building’s cable infrastructure is now. One way to get started is to employ technology and systems specifically designed for future flexibility, creating a strong infrastructure that can easily adapt for future tenant needs and smart building integration.

That is where the Gridd® Adaptive Cabling Distribution® System comes in. This revolutionary solution by FreeAxez is designed specifically for cable management. Adaptive cabling distribution eliminates the need to pull wires through ceilings, down power poles, and eliminates core drilling. Gridd supports high-performance power and data delivery, with ease. Gridd  Power, a fully integrated companion product to Gridd Raised Floor, offers fast, flexible access to power and eliminates traditional methods of hardwiring equipment. Together, these systems enhance the ability to evolve with the needs of tenants.

Ready to learn more about this award-winning, low-profile raised floor and cable management system? Request a quote today.

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