Structured wiring sets the standard

Mark Redfern of Wieland Electric explains why structured wiring is now becoming firmly established as the standard for fast-track projects.

In the current climate time is of the essence because less time spent on site leads to greater savings and lower costs, which is why many new build and refurbishment projects are now taking advantage of the benefits of structured wiring solutions.

A structured wiring system allows you to achieve a complete installation for the distribution of lighting and power, from the distribution board through to the farthest point of the circuit by simply connecting a number of system components together.

This type of system has revolutionised the building services industry with many features and benefits which can achieve cost efficiencies both throughout the installation and the lifetime of the building. One of the most notable savings is in the installation because time savings of up to 70% are achievable as a result of the fact that the entire system is manufactured off site in a controlled environment. When it arrives on site it is in a format which simply requires plugging together which not only reduces the installation time but also significantly reduces the margin for error.

Flexibility is also another major benefit because once a structured wiring system is installed it essentially future proofs a building, allowing changes to be made to the configuration of the office space due to the simple plug and play technology.

If you compare this to the costly and labour intensive nature of a traditional installation which provides little in the way of flexibility then you can see why the industry has welcomed it with open arms.

Prevent wastage

Cost and flexibility are the main areas of concern in any installation, but another issue which is high on the agenda is delivery to site and the subsequent prevention of wastage because where budgets are tight this can have a major impact. This is another area where a structured wiring system can help to keep the project on track and was apparent in a recent installation at Cannon Place, a landmark commercial complex above the Cannon Street major transport interchange in the City of London.

This particular project is a new eight-storey development which has been constructed over and around Network Rail and London Underground lines, and incorporates upgraded facilities for both stations. It is already a familiar sight to the 27 million passengers who pass through Cannon Street Station every year and the overall scheme has been designed to achieve a BREEAM Very Good rating.

The mechanical and electrical services were specified by Foggo Associates and Wieland’s Metalynx structured wiring, was chosen by the installers, as it facilitated fast installation and connection of the lighting fittings, fan coil units, small power and cleaner sockets within the complex.

As I mentioned before, waste and delivery to site is becoming a big issue in commercial developments and any of you that have worked on projects in the City of London will be well aware of the issues surrounding the need to keep deliveries tight and to a minimum. For the project at Cannon Place, the installation of Metalynx, which was manufactured off site, provided additional benefits because the entire installation could be delivered together, cutting out the need for regular deliveries with forgotten items. In addition, because of its plug and play functionality, the installation could be carried out simply and easily, whilst keeping waste to the bare minimum.

Speed of installation

Time and again we are finding that the speed of installation is a major benefit in the specification of a structured wiring system and the advantages of the plug and play functionality in getting the job done quickly cannot be ignored.

This proved to be a deciding factor for the installation of Metalynx at Riverbank House, another City of London development which houses the new headquarters for the global alternative investment manager, Man Group plc.

With over 6,500 light fittings and 800 fan coil units to connect, the plug and play functionality of the Metalynx system proved invaluable. But there were additional reasons why structured wiring was specified for this particular project.

The majority of the office space is column free and open plan so the control of the lighting was very important due to the risk of energy being wasted when office space was not in use. Consequently the decision was taken to control all of the lighting through a DALI network and a considerable amount of time was saved on site by integrating the control cable into the Metalynx system when it was manufactured in the factory.

Safety first

The ability to reduce the installation time on any project is without doubt a top priority, but it is important to ensure that corners are not being cut in the process. Far too often we hear stories of projects which have gone badly wrong as a result of this type of practice or of cheaper products being substituted at the last minute due to budget constraints.

Sadly a number of people have learnt this lesson the hard way, but it is one which nevertheless continues to rear its head. The simple fact is that you cannot afford to be complacent about safety and with a structured wiring system you don’t need to.

Savings can be made as a result of the reduction in the installation time and because the system is manufactured off site in a factory controlled environment you can be assured that the product which you are getting has been rigorously tested and approved. But in addition to this, the product is made to withstand the environment into which it is installed, for example in our Metalynx system the armouring is provided by die-cast aluminium housings for the connectors and accessories, and flexible metal conduit for the cables. The cables are all low-smoke, zero-halogen insulated, with single cores compliant with BS 7211 and multi-cores constructed to BS 7211. The identification colours of the cores also comply with industry requirements.

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