Power to the People! – errr – Cubicle

powerDid you know that in NYC and many smaller municipalities like Garden City, LI, power strips are illegal in commercial offices?  You are not permitted to extend the number of receptacles beyond what is hardwired. If you need four outlets in one location, then you must install two duplex or a quad electrical outlet.

Now, walk around your office cubicle areas and take note of how many people abide by the no power strip rule.  Probably nobody. In fact, unless your facility or office manager does a visual inspection and confiscates them, power strips are used in abundance, and you’re the one who probably ordered them for your staff.

I recently performed inventory of a client who will be relocating. Their existing panel system has only two duplex receptacles per cubicle and here’s what I came up with:
(1) PC
(2) Monitors
(1) Printer
(1) Scanner
(1) Pencil Sharpener
(1) Label Maker
(1) Radio
(1) Fan
(1) Cell Phone
(1) Tablet or Laptop

That’s (11) devices for four receptacles. 

So what do you do? Well, it’s a Catch-22. Many cubicle systems may be pre-wired with only two (2) duplex outlets or four (4) receptacles.  The corrective action for existing systems furniture is to add cubicle power harnesses, which may require additional branch circuits to the electrical panels. But rather than pay for the hardware and an electrician, companies find it more cost-effective to take their chances with illegal power strips. They pin their hopes that the building inspector or fire department will neither visit their offices during their ten year lease, or if they do, that the officials will turn a blind eye.

Of course this can be easily rectified during relocation and many question what is considered “standard” these days? Some will advocate for three (3) duplex outlets; other’s will say four (4) duplex receptacles. It really depends on your needs. The key is taking a detailed inventory, consolidating devices like printers and scanners into central locations, and being creative.

It’s no secret that panel system electrical technology lags behind what is available for everything else. For instance, my inquiry about quad receptacles revealed it is not available as common hardware of the four manufacturers my client is considering. Furthermore, an outlet with dual USB charging ports would remove two power supplies which is now common for standard wall outlets.  But the manufacturer’s reps glaze over at the mention of it for panel systems.

Three things we are considering:
♦ Wiring harness with two (2) duplex outlets at baseline and two (2) duplex at beltline for a total of eight (8) receptacles.
♦ 2-port after-market USB charging/single outlet station for the cell phone and tablet. Beware, you’ll likely engage in finger pointing as to who is responsible for installing them, the furniture installer or the IT folks.
♦ Power and USB receptacle’s in the monitor arm (which seems to me to be an extension cord, but shhhhh)

Whatever configuration you choose, make sure your MEP (Mechanical Electrical Plumbing) Engineer is fully cognizant of your plans early because this will impact the electrical design and circuit panels.

Richard Neuman is an Owner’s Rep and Move Consultant with NY based Relocation Management Solutions, Inc. www.relocationmanagement.com

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2 Comments on Power to the People! – errr – Cubicle

  1. Excellent points all around. Technology is moving faster than codes can keep up!!

  2. As an IT professional I am far more focused on the Surge Protection aspects of those power strips than I am with the outlet expansion aspects. Even in situations where there are more than enough outlets for the installed equipment I prefer to see that equipment connected to a surge protector to mitigate the effects of electrical spikes on electronic equipment. These surge protectors, with built in circuit breakers, also allow one user with a space heater to overload and pop their own breaker without affecting the whole cubicle line on that circuit.

    I understand that laws must be complied with, but this shows an example where the laws have not kept up with the reality of office life.

    David G. Hoch
    DGH Technologies, Inc.

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