With the growth of diverging computer technology comes a growing installation of raised floor systems. In the United States today, about 25% of all office buildings and about 90% of all data centers are built with raised floor systems. Access floors have many applications, including general offices, Telecom switch rooms and closets, casinos, call centers, data centers and Internet facilities. The concept behind them is fairly simple; on top of a concrete slab floor rests a network of steel pedestals which support a large grid of raised steel cross bars with removable modular panels.
In general, raised floor systems can support 1,250 pounds on any square inch, making them a strong and effective means of supporting both equipment and employees. While this is the typical load supported, many customers choose to install systems that support up to 2,000 square feet on any one square inch for data centers. They also offer a range of benefits in these widely diverse environments. The space between the slab and the finished raised floor tiles may be between 6 and 24 inches to hold electrical phone data and mechanical services, such as air conditioning and heating systems. Panels may be lifted quickly for near instant access to the services located beneath the system with unlimited flexibility for changes in technology, services and employees.
While understructure components vary by manufacturer, there are three basic elements: the panels, pedestals and stringers. The computer floor tiles, or panels, carry the load and distribute it to the pedestals underneath. Standard 2 foot by 2 foot computer floor tiles may consist of concrete filled, steel, aluminum or wood core construction. Galvanized steel stringers are then bolted or snapped on to lock together 4 pedestals for improved lateral stability and increased strength of the panel edges, while pedestals themselves may be adjusted vertically about 2″ up or down to ensure the raised floor system is level, even if the subfloor itself is irregular.
When manufactured, raised floor systems are bare with no surface covering. There are many surface options for computer floor tiles. One popular manufacturer, Tate, offers more than 30 finishes for raised floor tiles alone, from cork and vinyl to modular carpet and epoxy, with the most popular choice remaining High Pressure Laminate for computer rooms and server facilities. This option is easy to maintain and offers excellent static dissipative properties ideal for sensitive equipment. General offices usually opt for Anti-Static Carpeting, which is attractive, quiet and functional by managing static. Another option includes carpet panels with specially designed patented locator buttons to positively engage in a designated panel to snap into place.
When raised floor systems become damaged or dated, companies like Access Floor Systems can even refurbish them in a cost-effective manner to avoid costly replacement and help data centers and offices extend the life of their existing raised floor. This service includes matching existing panels for quick spot repairs or completely overhauling old, damaged computer floor tiles with new finishes.
In many applications, most notably data centers, raised floor systems are simply the most effective and cost-efficient solution to manage cables and cool equipment. While not free of downsides, access floors continue to perform better than alternative solutions like water cooling or overhead systems, adapting well to changes in technology and remaining flexible enough to reconfigure a site on a long-term basis.