Avoid Costly Change Orders By Planning Your New Office Electrical and Data Outlets

Architectural floor plans are just as important for the commercial tenant to review and approve as it is for the trades to build the space from.

One page often overlooked by tenants but is of critical importance is the Power and Communications plan.  If not coordinated early with the furniture vendor, the IT team, architect, general contractor and electrician, it can be the single source of pain, frustration and costly change orders that will have rippling effects on your fit out, purchases and schedule.

The design team will consult with the tenant to get a general idea of power and data needs for each location.  Architects then identify the locations of these receptacles by placing symbols on the plan that represent the general location, type of receptacle, power amperage and data needs as indicated in the legend.

However, these are placeholders, and it is up to the tenant to verify the exact final location in the field during construction.

Furniture Placement is of Critical Importance
Placement of new or relocated furniture is often an unknown factor early in the project. In a perfect world, the furniture would be picked well in advance of construction so outlets can be placed exactly to the furniture specifications ensuring they are at the correct heights and not blocked by casegoods, modesty panels, file cabinets, table legs, etc.

In the real world, however, construction often begins well in advance of the tenant first stepping foot in a furniture showroom.  Tenants are not aware at the outset, or don’t want to hear, that furniture lead times can be as little as six weeks from the time the order is placed. Furniture vendors will complain, and rightfully so, that tenants delay furniture purchases causing pressure by the tenant to expedite the delivery to meet the turnover of the space by the landlord.  Then, surprise, the furniture rep calls that the furniture arrived but that outlets have to be moved because they are either misaligned or blocked. And nothing is more aggravating than having office furniture installed, only to find the power and data is on the opposite side of the room, per plan.

The ripple effect caused by delayed or poor furniture planning can include rewiring, wall and sheetrock repairs and repainting. If wallpaper is used, the entire wall will likely have to be rehung.  Often, data and electrical cable lengths may not be long enough to be relocated since the were lengths were cut to fit, thus adding additional cable runs or electrical junctions added in the ceiling. All this adds up to to costly changes and delays that could have been avoided with proper planning early in the process.

Inventory Your Power Needs
Copy machines – Power requirements can vary so confirm the unit is either 110v or 220v.  Also, check if there is a finisher and cost accounting unit plugged in which will require additional 110 power receptacles.
Offices – Inventory your desk equipment power needs.  Code enforcement in many municipalities do not allow extension cords so appropriate receptacles are required.
Cubicles – Ensure your furniture vendors specifies enough power receptacles. Also, many slim-line furniture systems have receptacles hidden behind door flaps. However, the wall depths may not be deep enough to accommodate power supplies for computers, speakers, calculators.  Check with your rep.

Run at least 3 Ethernet wires per location
We recommend at least a triple run of ethernet wire per location; one for a computer, one for a phone and one for a peripheral. Many Phone/IT vendors will advise, though, that an IP phone can accept a physical computer connection and the third wire, therefore, is unnecessary.  However, if the phone fails, the computer connection in the phone can fail too.  It’s cheap to run wire during construction and the third, or fourth wire is inexpensive.

1 Comment on Avoid Costly Change Orders By Planning Your New Office Electrical and Data Outlets

  1. Tony Bilello // February 2, 2012 at 8:07 pm // Reply

    Liked your article, had a similar experiance early on – one thing I found helpful is – since electricians go for a convienent stud if outlet is not dimensioned – to specify a “window” on the wall that cannot interfere with furniture peds, etc and secify that all electrical and data outlets must fall in that window

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