Flexible thinking

The recession has hit commercial property owners and developers hard, with the plethora of ‘To Let’ signs adorning office buildings the length and breadth of the country attesting to that fact.

At present the commercial property market is awash with vacant and available premises, meaning developers and owners need to be able to offer something extra in order to grab the attention of would-be tenants.

Flexibility of office space is the something extra many are turning to – the reason being that simply offering a set floorplan, which very much dictates the use of the space, is no longer viewed as sufficient.

Today’s business wants more. They want space they can then use in their own way and, if needed, turn around, re-plan and re-structure to accommodate business changes, expansion etc. On the flip side, many businesses now operate on a short-term lease basis, and so forward thinking property owners view it as imperative that they can return their property to its original state as easily as possible in order to let to new clients as quickly as possible.

Mirroring these changing requirements has been the growing emphasis placed on sustainability. Today more and more businesses are keen to demonstrate their green credentials by working out of sustainable offices. What this means for the electrical manufacturer is that when it comes to product development the pressure is on to deliver solutions that use environmentally friendly materials, have longer projected life spans and can be safely disposed of when no longer needed.

As a result, the electrical industry has found itself at something of a crossroads. And from a cable management manufacturer’s point of view the choice is as straightforward as they come – develop and deliver products and systems that meet these changing and greener demands, while still remaining competitive, or lose market share.

Making space work

Historically, office space would have had a central spine of flush floor trunking and maybe a perimeter system. Unfortunately this kind of distribution solution is now straining at the seams due to the demands put on it by today’s power and data infrastructures. Therefore, renovation of these systems has become a necessity, but the problem is that it has also become one of the biggest challenges facing the industry.

For example, if you want to increase capacity what choice do you have? Chase out more floor and install more trunking runs? As you can imagine, this is not a simple task and the restrictions posed by fixed floor outlet positions is a major stumbling block in successfully completing such a job.

What this means is that the cable management industry has had to go back to the drawing board in order to rethink and redevelop the products and systems it manufactures and sells for use in commercial properties. In fact, it’s fair to say that the electrical backbone of a commercial property installation is undergoing a process of reinvention.

One of the key developments to date has been the introduction of ultra low raised cable management floor systems that have delivered a degree of flexibility that would never previously have been deemed possible.

A simple concept

As with many of the finest developments, the concept is simple – the creation of an easy to install raised floor system that allows cables, connectors and power points to be run under it and configured and reconfigured where and when they are needed. Add to that the fact these systems do away with the need for nuts, bolts and other fixtures and fittings, and can be manufactured entirely from recyclable materials, and it’s fair to say the cable management industry already has a development on its hands that answers all the new demands, both in terms of flexibility and sustainability.

Already the benefits of this type of system have been demonstrated in the commercial arena, with our Soluflex range being used to solve a major headache for BAE Systems at its armoured vehicle manufacturing plant in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The global defence and aerospace company wanted to double the capacity of a 2,000 sq m open plan office, but was restricted by an ageing flush floor system and the inability to re-house half of its 300 staff during the work.

The initial plan had been to update the existing system, but that was quickly ruled out due to the disruption the work would have caused staff and the fact that the updated system wouldn’t have provided the kind of flexibility required. Instead the Soluflex raised floor system was specified and was simply laid over the concrete floor at a height of 90mm in order to allow for dual circuit Power Track underneath and bespoke RCD floorboxes to be fitted within it – all of which was done quickly, efficiently and only metres away from occupied workstations.

Educate the market

So what does all this mean? Well, with so much delivered in such a short space of time, you’d think the cable management industry would take the chance to sit back and rest on its laurels. But this isn’t the case. The job now is to ensure such systems become commonplace and in order to do this it’s a question of educating the market that the new kit on the block is the way forward.

Yes, some of the older products can be cheaper. Yes, they are familiar with everyone and are therefore seen as easier to stock, sell and specify. And yes, the bottom line on buying and installing such products may well appear better. But, the whole life cost of a system now needs to be considered.

In the long run the benefits of embracing new systems are there for all to see. From the company that is able to expand its capacity without the problems caused by updating out-dated systems to the contractor who can knock hours off, and therefore save hundreds of pounds on installation, and on to the wholesaler who can stand out from the crowd by stocking and promoting innovative solutions that will deliver that something extra the commercial property sector is desperately seeking.

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