Raised Access Floor: Repair, Resurface, Re-use and Write-it-off, Right Now !

June 10, 2014


1.0 Access Floor Accounting :

Removable in nature and not a part of the building structure classifies raised access flooring as “Office Furniture, Fixtures, & Equip.” asset class 00.11 (derived from Revenue Procedure 87-56 1987-2 CB 674) and therefore depreciable over a period of 7 to 10 years vs capital improvements and a protracted 39 year event. Good right ? Yes, unless you are replacing an existing panel with an entirely new panel. A new panels value will depreciate in 7 to 10 years but, repairing the panel can be taken as an operating expense in the same tax year.  What most Facility Managers don’t realize is that a data center grade access floor panel is a marriage of two components, the panel and the finish. Generally speaking only the finishes on the raised floor panel tend to fail.

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Greening the (other) IT Grid

September 28, 2012

This past weeks Sunday New York Times featured an article; Power, Pollution and the Internet an expose that reveals the dirty side of todays data centers with power consumption in excess of;“30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants” the “cloud” where our data lives is rich in greenhouse gas. Exacerbating the situation ; “To guard against a power failure, they further rely on banks of generators that emit diesel exhaust. The pollution from data centers has increasingly been cited by the authorities for violating clean air regulations, documents show.”

Clearly the carbon footprint we now require to Google others, Tweet our thoughts and Facebook the world is deep. Offsetting all the greenhouse gas produced by our data centers is a daunting if not impossible task, however, a small company based in Charleston, SC has been doing just that since 1997. Before “Recovery and Reinvestment” was a congressional act and when green was just a color, Access Floors OnSite (www.accessfloorsonsite.biz) (AFO) has been reducing emissions, putting people to work and saving their clients money, but not exactly within the power grid. How do they do it ? One raised access floor panel at a time.

A raised floor (also raised flooring) or access floor(ing)
(also raised access computer floor) are types of floor
that provide an elevated structural floor above a solid
substrate to create a void for the passage of mechanical
and electrical services as well as conditioned air. They are
widely used in, IT data centers, computer and server
rooms where there the cable and wiring requirements are
substantial. Originally developed to support the massive
first generation mainframe computers developed in the
ʻ60ʼs, access flooring quickly evolved into the 2ʼx2ʼ grid and
structural panel system employed today.

Founded by Robert Boyle in response to the needs of the Federal Aviation Administration and their 24×7 Enroute Air Traffic Control Centers, Access Floors OnSite does what the name says, delivers onsite solutions for access floor installations. An access floor panel is made of two separate products, a structural “panel” with a wear surface such as high pressure laminate tile (pictured above) or in the case of FAA, conductive carpeting. When the wear surfaces do what they are wont to do, wear out, the general notion is to discard the entire assembly and buy a whole new panel + surface from the manufacturer of the original. Boyle, then a raised floor manufacturers rep and contractor recognized the waste here. Starting in a small shop in New Jersey, Bob turned to stripping and re-laminating panels for his customers. The caveat in this model he says, “In a word? Logistics. FAA facilities associated with aircraft on the ground or in the air are always on and populated with folks engaged in a very important job, “You can’t take them out of service, create job-site hazards or make any noise. We were picking up the old panels placing a temporary panel in its place, trucking it back to our shop, strip it, laminate it, drive it back to the site swap it out and do it all over again.” Again recognizing the waste and the cost involved Boyle decided to bring his laminating process to the source of the material. Enabled by advancements in adhesives and his own innovation, today, Access Floors OnSite operates out of a self contained, “factory on wheels” which can be deployed anywhere. Since 1997 Access Floors OnSite has delivered their unique brand to a business footprint that stretches from Fairbanks, AK to Miami Fl and to a customer demographic that includes federal, state and municipal government agencies, private sector businesses, hospitals, manufacturing concerns and of course, colocation and tier one data center operators, the latest of which is Google.

The structural core material for most raised floor panels is steel, steel that is milled into coil, shipped to a raised flooring manufacturer where they; die form it into 2’x2’ isotropic panels, weld, paint and perhaps inject the panel with concrete and then truck it to the user. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the steel industry accounts for between 3-4% of total world greenhouse gas emissions. On average, 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted for every ton of steel produced. A computer room grade  raised floor panel contains around 28 lbs of cold-rolled steel. Under a current contract with State Farm Insurance in Phoenix, AZ, aided by a hydraulic device that strips their panels clean, AFO will be directly returning 5000 of them right back into service. State Farm in turn saves us 119 tons of co2 gas in new steel production alone, the number does not include the energy required to produce the panels or the over-the-road trucks required to deliver them. At CSX Technologies in Jacksonville, FL AFO parked their mobile operation near the loading dock and simply re-bonded 3500 panels that had de-laminated. Before finding AFO, CSX was purchasing the entire panel assembly and having them delivered in lots of 28 pieces. Paetec, Inc is a colocation provider http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colocation_(business) they operate nearly 40,000 square feet of space in Andover MA (and others). Originally built out as a telecommunication operation the two story building was designed with a two-foot high raised floor throughout. After thirty years of service the floor was completely disheveled and yet the core access floor material was sound and the older steel content of high quality. AFO had the panels load tested to assure they would meet todays standards and then resurfaced and re-trimmed the entire 17,000 sq ft. second floor of the building at the same time they safety checked and re-certified the understructure. The untenable floor system was transformed to server-read in two weeks at a fraction of the cost of replacement.

While the private sector can use the carbon credit savings in a recovery and re-use scenario (versus discard and replace) to offset the discharge from their generators (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/09/22/technology/data-center-tour.html?smid=fb-share), our government agencies can and are utilizing the practice to comply with EPA guidelines for recycling and numerous executive orders including # 13514 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-signs-an-Executive-Order-Focused-on-Federal-Leadership-in-Environmental-Energy-and-Economic-Performance) that calls for increased environmental and economic responsibility. In their past fiscal year, AFO has completed projects for the US Coast Guard (https://accessfloorsonsite.wordpress.com) USMA West Point, and it is only fitting that the  National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration would use AFO to re-construct their server room floor in North Charleston, SC.  These agencies should be applauded for re-employing construction material, saving the taxpayer money and creating jobs locally that otherwise would be elsewhere. The U.S. government is moving ahead with an ambitious consolidation initiative that aims to slash the number of federal data centers from 2,094 facilities to 1,132 data centers by 2015. “What a perfect time for recovery and reinvestment, literally…” According to Bob, “recondition material at the decommissioned sites and ship it off to the new ones, create jobs, green up, save money.”

No longer restricted in a geographic territory dictated by a manufacturer, Boyle moved his hybrid mobile – contracting, re-manufacturing and distribution business to the Low Country of SouthCarolina in Y2K, he was not the first in the industry to do so. In the early 1990’s Maxcess Technologies, Inc. set up manufacturing in Summerville, SC, initially a joint venture, they would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Metals and at their peak employed two hundred people, running three shifts. Hitachi operated the facility on Demming Way through 2003 then off-shoring happened. A remnant of the business still exists in Ladson, SC under new ownership. After being bought out by Hitachi, Bruce Meade the other half of the original Maxcess began work on another raised floor business ASM Modular Systems, Inc. Out of their sales and distribution facility also in Ladson, they brand and sell raised floor systems and accessories manufactured in China. In July of 2005 ASM Modular Systems was acquired by the Kingspan Group an Irish conglomerate that also owns our nations largest manufacturer of raised flooring, Tate, Inc. with facilities in Jessup MD and Red Lion, PA.

Presently,  AFO operates out of one mobile unit with plans for placing more regionally throughout the country and beyond. Since its inception in 1997, AFO has returned over 500,000 square feet of structurally sound raised access flooring directly back into service saving the planet an estimated 2972 tons of greenhouse gas . When asked about the future of his business Boyle points to new panel production, (the Kingspan Group alone produces a half a million panels a week) and an industry that has been cranking out product for forty years as his inventory: “There are millions of raised floor panels out there, our (AFO’s) efforts aren’t going to reverse melting at the polar ice caps and will employ only a few, but were trying, one raised floor panel at a time.”

Taxpayer Frustration Eased (a bit)

April 17, 2012

Congratulations to our US Coast Guard Sector NY,  for specifying and executing a project that saved taxpayer dollars, reduced CO2 gas emission and put people to work.

Keeping NY Harbor secure is no easy task. Station New York is a multi-mission unit, performing search and rescue, environmental response, maritime security patrols and boardings throughout the Port of New York and New Jersey. While I cannot provide any detail, our Coasties and civilians alike are on task 24/7 monitoring video and radio feeds as well as processing information from underwater drones from a central operations center. When the raised floor surface material in the 2000 square foot N.O.C.  began to wear and the gluebond failed, Coast Gaurd NY decided to re surface their existing structurally sound raised floor panels instead of buying new ones. The original request for proposal was to bring in temporary panels taking the Coast Guards panels to an off site location, re-surface the panels and bring them back swapping them again and again until the project was completed. Access Floors OnSite won the bid by employing its mobile operations trailer, enabling the resurfacing to be done OnSite, greatly easing the logistics and thereby the cost.

By utilizing their structurally sound existing raised floor panels and re-surfacing them versus buying all new panels the Coast Guard preserved 19,163,340 lbs of co2 from entering the atmosphere*. This enormous number represents the discharge a coal fired steel mill emmits while making the steel coil needed for 500 raised floor panels (2000 sq. ft.). Not included in the calculation is the energy require to die form, weld and finish the panels, my request for information regarding these numbers was rejected by our countries largest manufacturer Tate, then there are the o.t.r. trucks required to deliver the raw and finished materials. My guess is, that enormous number will double when all of the elements are considered and we are only talking about 500 panels here.

The Coast Guard can also be pleased to know that they saved a lot of money. For us taxpayers, the fiscal advantages of reusing access floor panels go exponential; no new panels, no trucking, no new installation waste. Access Floors OnSite executes their mission with a service based business model inside of a traditionally product driven industry, in doing so much needed jobs are created at every site. Our Coast Guard project generated over 300 manhours for local labor.

The US Government operates over 1100 data centers, most of them on raised access floor, acres of it. Federal CIO Vivek Kundra is currently going about a major consolidation, shuttering a hundred or so this year. Imagine the millions of tons in greenhouse gas that could be saved if we were to salvage and re-use the flooring from all of those sites, the money we would save and the jobs we could create.


Is my frustration showing here?

December 30, 2009

A dozen years ago before any body had “Gone Green“, we (www.accessfloorsonsite.com) were very much into “Recovery and Reinvestment“. Now that the above phrases are part of our daily lexicon and we have mandates, Environmentally Preferrable Purchasing Guidlines (www.epa.gov/epp/) executive orders (www.epa.gov/epp/pubs/13101.pdf) not to mention conferences on global warming and Green IT conventions ad nausium has anyone gotten the message ? For the third time in as many months I have responded to solicitations from three different government agencies seeking to purchase completely new entire raised floor panels to replace an existing panel merely because the wear surface had worn or they wanted a different finish, in each case the structural core material was intact offering many more years of service yet was discarded. Throwing away a structurally sound floor panel is like removing the concrete slab in your basement along with the carpet that got wet, nobody would do that, accept our government ? Not always, we have successfully returned to service more than 30,000 raised floor panels for our government and US Businesses. For each panel saved from the scrap heap we have saved our planet the btu equivalent of 2.6 bbls of oil. Our hats are off and we are proud to have worked with the visionary folks at the agencies and businesses who have helped to save more than 78,000 (btu equivalent) bbls of oil and the green house gasses associated in the manufacturing, trucking and installation of new raised flooring, lets don’t stop here.

Hello world!

December 30, 2009

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