Kingspan’s Redesigned next generation raised access flooring to drive better energy efficiency

Written By

Steven McFadden
Sales Director EMEA

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Kingspan Data & Flooring

Kingspan, talk to Digital Infra Network about their new product range Kingspan Caso and Kingspan Solida. Steven McFadden their Commercial Director talks us through their high performing raised access floors and explains why the product was relaunched. He provides a detailed look at how this technology has developed over a number of iterations and the importance of raised access floor in both data center construction and operations.

Digital Infra Network (DIN): Raised access flooring has been a standard in the industry for some time, why was your product re-launched? 

Steven McFadden (SM): Kingspan has supplied the worldwide data centre industry with raised access flooring for many years and in that time we have gathered a huge amount of knowledge and experience with raised access flooring and airflow panels from working with the industry and stakeholders. We looked at multiple concerns and challenges within the industry and it was clear that something new was needed. We re-evaluated our offer to meet the needs of the changing market working with architects, specifiers, contracts, and customers to re-design, develop and future-proof the product to meet the new requirements of data centres. The new systems are designed to be adapted for future upgrades and fit outs with sustainability at the heart of the product. We have two new systems; one is calcium sulphate the other is wood core as different markets require different cores and load capacity. 

DIN: Your products have been around in data centres and for a long time so how is the new product different? 

SM: There are a range of differences and improvements. We started by streamlining the portfolio, and by doing so hopefully streamlined the industry requirement as a result. In the past three years data centres have increasingly been demanding raised floors. The original data centres were designed around commercial office and industrial-type flooring and products were designed accordingly. Over time the load capacity requirements increased, the void height increased, and the performance of raised access flooring had to increase in line with these greater demands. Existing commercial and industrial flooring was modified time and again with additional heavier steel supports and it got to a point where the existing flooring had been adapted so much that standards could not keep up. In Europe the EM18125 standard relating to raised access flooring classifies products in six classes and, while in the past many products worked to class four or five, today all our products are now class six. We still use the EM18125 standard to determine load classification and testing methods, but we have gone further. We have looked at the industry requirements and re-developed our tried and tested systems to create products specifically for the data centre industry. Streamlined is the first main difference in our product offering. The re-launched points stakeholders straight to tried and tested solutions that are designed for today, tomorrow and the future. 

DIN: What exactly is the difference – is it the floor loading? 

SM: Racks are getting heavier, which means the raised access floor’s point load must increase dramatically. In some data centres we have seen point load increase by 300 per cent. Void height has increased so new fire tests must be conducted. We have looked at this entire process by analysing the challenge and working with structural engineers to meet size and load requirements in different international markets. Then there are issues such as the finish that covers floors. Data centres are getting hotter, there is less humidity which affects the floor covering. 

DIN: There is a lot of retrofitting happening in data centres. Should operators of legacy data centres install your new future-proof products? 

SM: Once a data centre rack goes beyond five KN floor load, the floor will have to be changed, whether it is the floor panel itself or the entire system. We are creating systems that will accept greater loads in future and we are discussing this openly with operators and contractors to track the evolution of rack weight. In the past racks were loaded in situ, now those racks are being rolled in from elevators and across corridors into white space so there are huge changes and we have adapted to those. Our products now offer the capacity to carry more load in future. 

DIN: The value of the kit sitting in the rack is greater than anything else, so ensuring the rack is safe is something that data centre operators should be considering. They should be thinking about the type of floors they have got and whether they are fit for purpose for the new workloads and the new customers now coming into data centres. 

SM: There is a lot of ambiguity in the industry about raised floor and uniformly distributed and point loads, so we have developed data sheets around our products to remove complexity and provide clear information and understanding. The assets that are sitting on raised access floors have significant value, so we look at weight as single units, as multiple units and we determine, along with the structural engineers and architects what point load is sufficient for a particular rack. There are many safety loads built into our products. 

DIN: Kingspan is the leading supplier of raised access flooring but not the only supplier. Why should a data centre choose your company and your products? 

SM: Our products and our approach are unique, in removing complexities involved in choosing and installing suitable raised access flooring. Kingspan Data and Flooring have been manufacturing products for a wide range of industries and sectors since 1903 so we have an enormous amount of knowledge, experience and expertise. We have teams of designers, engineers, architects and technical experts and the insights we have gathered form our key data centre customers have led to us being the most trusted manufacturer. Our customers rely on us for flooring solutions because of this expertise. There are different approaches across the industry, hyperscale or wholesale data centres for example are moving to different configurations that don’t include raised access flooring and for these environments we have developed a range of products to meet these different requirements. 

DIN: What role does raised access flooring play in a data centre and why is it important? 

SM: For co-location environments raised access floor panels and airflow panels still offer the greatest flexibility. The flexibility of a raised access floor is important too in this environment. Efficiencies come from having more control over the flow and direction of air and as long as air cooling is needed in data centres there will always be a significant role for raised access flooring. 

DIN: The power of data centres is increasing all the time. How are you meeting the scale of demand? 

SM: We have expanded greatly in recent years with manufacturing sites in Germany, Belgium, England, and Ireland with commercial offices in these regions as well as Spain and Dubai. Our supply chains are robust, and we have huge production capabilities and unrivalled capacity to supply the most demanding of requirements and schedules. Staff numbers have greatly increased, and we have a graduate programme to encourage new talent into the company. We have up-to-date internal system and processes to ensure operational efficiency with sustainability at the heart of what we do. The past two years have been a challenge for everyone in terms of rising costs and sourcing materials, but we have a very robust supply chain that has met every challenge in maintaining quality supply. Cost around steel and transportation have risen dramatically but we have managed to circumnavigate these challenges without negatively impacting our operations. 

DIN: How do you see the industry developing and how do you adapt to coming changes? 

SM: Data centres are changing, and operators are integrating different solutions that require a flexible space and products that meet the changing needs of their customers. There is a great deal of retrofitting and replacement happening in data centres and for those with raised access flooring the big challenges are around replacement of things like transformers and cryogenic units. We work with structural engineers and architects to strengthen floors and work out the safest routes to moving such equipment using dispersal plates and tracks. Kingspan design and manufacture a wide portfolio of products and we work with partners across Europe that install and maintain our products. We provide a consultant surveying, analysis and reporting service to help data centre operators in meeting their changing requirements. We welcome calls from operators who’re seeking to retrofit, replace or simply comply with regulations in view of the increasing scale of data centre operations.  

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