Open to change: access floors’ many advantages

by FM Media
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Initially configured to merely accommodate layout changes, these days, access floor systems do so much more, ANGELA PIPER from ASP Access Floors informs Facility Management.

Freedom is essential, particularly in the workplace. We live and work in an era where technology evolves daily, and with this transition, businesses require the freedom to advance alongside it. Access floor systems provide businesses all over the world with this freedom.
The introduction of access floors in the workplace is rapidly gaining popularity among the construction industry and its clients. Their specifically designed flexibility and capacity to change has made access floors the perfect solution for many owners, developers, designers and facility managers. Although the initial concept of an access floor was merely to provide a controlled cavity between the slab and access floor panel, where all data and power services could be distributed, this has changed over the years.
The original concept, which has been around since the 1970s, was that the modular design of an access floor would provide the flexibility to regularly alter a building’s service layout to accommodate technological and space driven operations. Access floors have since taken another direction, however. The controlled cavity can now be used as an underfloor air plenum to distribute cooling and heating. This concept eliminates a great portion of the insulated ductwork associated with HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems in the traditional suspended ceiling system.

The costs of change and maintenance in traditional building scenarios are high, with many upgrades put on hold because the costs outweigh the benefits of an upgrade. Aside from the financial costs, the constraints and interruptions imposed on an organisation during the time of refurbishment also contribute to the deference of any changes. An access floor system alleviates these traditional interruptions and restraints. An access floor provides businesses, developers and facility managers with the perfect balance between optimum design and functionality. Key benefits include:

  • ease of reconfiguration
  • decreased cost – with access floors it is approximately 40 percent cheaper to install and maintain services compared to a traditional suspended ceiling system
  • ease of maintenance – services can be maintained regularly and without lengthy time delays, as particular zones are able to be isolated as required, minimising interruptions
  • increased user comfort – with the HVAC system installed in the floor, employees are able to individually control the air pressure and temperature through their office floor diffusers, and
  • reduced project timeline – installing services in the floor cavity dramatically reduces the installation time.

Access flooring is suitable for use in a wide range of applications, including, but not limited to, general office environments, libraries, learning institutions, casinos, defence or government applications, control or switch and communications rooms and data centres.
In order to select an appropriate system for a specific application, it is important to address the following questions:

  • What will the floor cavity be used for; for example data, power and/or air plenum?
  • What is the environment and purpose of the building?
  • What equipment will be placed or rolled across the floor; for example, racks, safes, compactus units and/or trolleys?

The answers to these questions will determine the system type and loading level of the access floor to be implemented. Access floor companies such as ASP Access Floors offer a complete service from assisting with specification, estimating and quoting the project, supply and installation of the access floor and its accessories, to assisting with the testing of air leakage in cases where the access floor cavity is being used as an air plenum.
Access floor systems have revolutionised the building industry, offering a sustainable solution to easily install and maintain building services. They enable facility managers to easily manage the installation and maintenance of all communication, electrical and mechanical services. In any configuration, an access floor system remains flexible, instantly adapting to changing technologies and building layouts. Through the installation of an access floor system, facility managers and developers can ensure that they deliver an optimal, safe and effective solution for building users and occupants.

Under floor air-conditioning is becoming a more commonly specified service in new buildings, as it allows a sustainable solution that produces a comfortable environment for the occupant, resulting in a workplace with increased productivity.
The six-star Green Star accredited ANZ head office project at 833 Collins Street in Melbourne, which was developed by Bovis Lend Lease in 2009, implemented an ASP Access Floors system over its entire 83,550-square metre commercial floor area.
The specifications for the project were stringent and called for an airtight underfloor air distribution system. Following completion, each zone was tested to ensure that it complied with the required tight air leakage rates. Our Air Tight System, complete with its clip-on airtight stringer and accessories, such as baffling and bridging stringers, enabled these air leakage rates to be achieved and even exceeded.

Angela Piper oversees the sales and marketing of ASP Access Floors.

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