Fundamental Components of In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems

Cellular Decking

The system’s major component is cellular steel decking which serve two functions: as cable distribution conduits (raceways), and the structural base for a poured concrete floor. Cellular decking is manufactured by welding flat sheet steel to the underside of structural steel deck panels to create a series of cabling raceways. From the trench header, cables are fed into individual raceways through factory pre-punched openings. Concrete covers all cellular decking except within the trench header and at activated outlet boxes.

Trench Duct

Installed atop the cellular decking, the trench header routes cables from service panels and servers to the cellular raceway while isolating power cables from data and telecom cables. Unlike raceways, the trench header is not covered in concrete. Rather, its removable steel cover plates, allow for easy lay-in of cables and provide a solid walking surface.

Preset Outlet Boxes

Prior to pouring the concrete floor, steel preset outlet boxes are installed at all locations where there will be an immediate or a future need for power, data, or telecom service. Preset outlet boxes snap into factory pre-punched openings in the cellular raceways – allowing cables to exit three individual raceways into each outlet box. Within the preset outlet box, power, data, and devices outlets are installed and cables are connected. Non-activated preset outlet boxes remain covered by a thin layer of concrete that is easily removed for future activation.

Flush Activation Covers

Installed after the floor covering, flush activation covers are installed above activated preset outlet boxes and designed to sit flush with the floor to eliminate trip hazards and provide a clean, integrated aesthetic with the floor. Users simply open the cover to reach outlets and plug in devices.

 

 

A Brief History of Cabling Distribution in Buildings
To fully understand today’s modern Cordeck In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems, one should explore the history of cabling in commercial buildings.

The Dawn of Electrified Buildings

Throughout the 1920s and 30s, new commercial buildings being constructed in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia would be the among the first in the world to be electrified. Architects and engineers were challenged to devise effective and safe methods for doing so.

The solution they chose was to embed a network of steel conduits within poured concrete floors and to locate various access points to these conduits across the floor’s expanse. Power and telephone cables were then fished through the conduits and terminated at each access point with appropriate receptacles.

This “In Floor” strategy became the standard method of electrification. Power and telecom cabling was located precisely were it was needed, without creating tripping hazards, and safely housed within steel and concrete, where, in the event of a fire, occupant safety was greatly enhanced.

Advancements to In Floor

As decades passed, manufacturers developed increasingly more sophisticated In Floor cabling systems. These provided increased capacity, easier wire-ups, and an ability to add or remove access points as reconfigurations were needed. Clever engineers realized that if a bottom plate were added to corrugated steel floor deck, not only would the deck serve as the structural base for the poured concrete floor, but would also create hundreds of enclosed steel “raceways”, through which power and telecom cabling could be safely located.

From the 1940s through the 1970s, In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems remained the definitive standard for commercial building cabling distribution and management.

Challenges Presented by the Computer Age

From the late 70s through the 80s, electric typewriters gave way to networked computer terminals and then desktop computers, necessitating the installation of large volumes of data cabling. These early data cables were large in diameter compared to today’s ethernet cables, and in some instances, the volume of data cables required in a given space exceeded the capacity of existing In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems.

Finding Work Arounds

One common solution to this capacity problem was to locate data cables on a metal tray hanging within the ceiling air plenum. Using this strategy, data cables were brought to workstations in one of two ways – either downward or upward. Cables were fed downward through ceiling-to-floor conduits; or upward to the floor directly above the ceiling by core drilling through the floor slab.

Another even more radical and costly solution was to create a second “raised floor” made of panels and pedestals atop the existing floor. The space between the original and false floor could then be used to run cables.

For these reasons, In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems – the safest, easiest, most practical, flexible, organized, and economical means of cabling distribution – lost exposure within their target market. Within a single generation, cabling in the ceiling plenum, power/data poles, and raised access floors became the new normal, with power, data, and telecom now each being distributed in this manner.

New Health and Safety Concerns

Where highly flammable cabling, containing toxins such as lead and cadmium, were once safely contained and well-organized within the floor slab, surrounded by concrete and steel and with almost no exposure to air; it was now piled in mass atop metal trays above drop ceilings and sprinkler systems, where building’s air is transported and delivered. Recognizing new health and fire safety issues created by ceiling plenum cabling, officials scrambled to enact codes to limit the quantity of cables permitted as well as the flammability of cables. In turn, a new less flammable and more expensive form of cabling was soon introduced - plenum-rated cabling.

Another safety concern identified related to drilling holes in the floor slab. Not only was the process messy and disruptive, but required the removal of essential fireproofing materials on the underside of the floor. Also, it was discovered that most brands of “poke-through devices” only effectively sealed the floor via an intumescent material when fire was located in close proximity to the device, thereby allowing cold smoke to freely penetrate upper floors. 

Today, for buildings that use these cabling distribution methods, these health and safety issues persist.

Technology Advances, In Floor is Re-discovered

By the mid-90s, slim ethernet cables had replaced their large-diameter forerunners, and by 2010, Wi-Fi was solidly entrenched in the American workplace and gaining ground. At this time, owners and facility managers of older buildings with In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems began, once again, utilizing these systems for their full potential. Raised access floors, that significantly reduced floor-to-ceiling height and required ramps, were removed. And unattractive floor-to-ceiling power/data poles, that once obstructed an open office design, were taken down. Now, their In Floor systems could easily accommodate the thin fiber-optic and next-generation ethernet cabling their buildings require.

 

Cordeck In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems

Many of today’s architects, building owners, engineers, contractors, and facility managers are discovering In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems for the very first time, as if it were an entirely new method. When they examine In Floor’s unique capabilities and benefits, and learn how affordable In Floor Systems are compared to all other methods (especially raised access floor), In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems are the obvious best solution in cabling distribution and management.

Today’s Cordeck In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems are more advanced than ever before, offering In Floor data, telecom, and power distribution.

Cordeck is committed to continuing innovation for In Floor Cellular Raceway Systems to meet the needs of tomorrow’s commercial buildings. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those innovative architects and engineers from the 1920s and 30s who had the good sense to put cables inside steel, within the floor. Thank you.


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