Busbar-based systems have completely altered the way in which commercial electrical installations are planned, installed, maintained and upgraded. Steve Marr of Legrand talks to Electrical Engineering about this new electrical order

The traditional flush floor trunking and perimeter systems used to deliver power around offices has made way in recent years for busbar-based systems that deliver an increased level of flexibility and can add to the appeal of a property.

Busbar solutions have a plug and play capability which covers all products, including rising mains, distribution boards, underfloor power, desk modules and lighting busbars that distribute both power and communications.

Rising main busbars

Rising main busbars, with their direct connection to the switchboard, are the spine of the modern electrical infrastructure. They carry power to different areas of a building and, unlike with cables, power can be accessed at any point, meaning their use results in a flexible and future-proofed installation that can be easily adapted when and where necessary.

Today’s rising mains busbars are designed with the intention of being suitable for any commercial installation. Standard busbar solutions are available up to a capacity of 6,300A and are offered with the choice of either aluminium or copper conductors. In addition, many systems are available with five conductor or 200% neutral versions.

In most cases these busbars have a quick-fit mechanism that makes them fast and easy to install once manoeuvred into place. Tap-off boxes can also be delivered to site pre-wired and can accommodate the supply and protection of a wide selection of loads including fuses, MCBs and MCCBs.

Distribution boards

Distribution boards have also become more flexible in recent years. Panel boards, Type B and Type A distribution boards, MCCBs and modular DIN-rail devices have all been enhanced in order to deliver more flexible solutions. And today, rather than being restricted to triple pole and fixed neutral, these products enable installers to mix multi-pole devices on the same busbar.

Underfloor power distribution

Traditional perimeter trunking and cables have been overtaken by underfloor power distribution systems as the prefered means of power distribution.

These bring power a step nearer to the end user and provide a high level of flexibility with a compact 63A busbar as opposed to the mass of complex wiring required by more traditional systems. And, with a dimensional height that allows them to be installed in the shallowest of floor voids, and tap-off outlets generally available every 300mm, a correctly designed layout can provide total coverage of any floor area.

In addition, a building equipped with a power track accommodates any growth, changing requirements and the introduction of new technologies within a building. Workstations and other office equipment can be plugged in anywhere on the system, and when changes are needed it is easy to move equipment without delay or expensive and disruptive re-cabling. What’s more, to achieve this no skilled labour is required and there is no down-time as circuits don’t need to be switched off when changes are made.

Such is the level of flexibility incorporated into the modern electrical infrastructure, even desk modules are now offered in a busbar-based modular form. This functionality is currently proving extremely valuable as the introduction of add-on RCD modules enables a quick and cost effective way of delivering compliance with the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations.

Lighting management

Busbar flexibility also extends to ceilings where lighting control systems offer the same plug and play benefits, but with the added advantage of carrying both power and communications.

This enables intelligent lighting control units to be mounted directly to the bar and delivers an array of lighting scenarios and energy saving features. In addition, a computer can be connected anywhere on the control network in order to reprogramme the fully addressable system, thus accommodating any future alterations and changes. If extra control modules are required they can be simply mounted onto the busbar and connected directly into the system.

With the rapid development of technology over the last 25 years, it’s quite surprising to think that some commercial properties are still being offered with the kind of electrical infrastructure that would have been expected in the pre-computerised era of the 1980s.

When faced with this type of property, it raises the question of why there are still landlords and developers around who feel they can make money out of outdated property? And why they are surprised when their properties fall vacant and stay that way. People today wouldn’t opt for a 1980s style television set or mobile phone, so why would they want a property with a similarly dated electrical infrastructure?