Technological Features That Make an Impact
“Thanks for your excellent engineering, craftsmanship and execution. The electronics guys say they have never seen a table that was so easy to work with. There is room to run everything imaginable.”
We are experts at figuring out good ways to bring power and data to our custom conference tables. Here’s information on how we do it:
What you plug into: Power/data units
Let’s start with power/data units. These hold the plugs you need to make connections in the table. There are hundreds of these available, at a very wide variety of price points. How to choose? We can make recommendations if your needs are simple. We are also happy to work with your IT department or the AV firm you designate. They will identify all of the hardware required to make up your system.
We’ve worked with units from many manufacturers. Based on that experience, we have three favorites: Extron, Electri-Cable, and Mockett. Each is best for particular situations.
Let’s start with Extron. They make a huge variety of solutions. We have used their AAP series customizable plates many, many times. These plates can be configured with any combination of plugs that fits. Here is an example:
AAP 106: with custom plug configuration:
Electrici-Cable makes some nice units. Here’s a 30″ Oasis Table Trough, set into a Quartz Zodiaq table top that we built for Vanguard:
Mockett makes a lot of units. Our favorite, because it fits into our custom hatches and is very inexpensive, is the PCS-3:
Once the units are chosen, we design the custom conference table to accommodate them. Our flexible construction methods make it easy for us to reconfigure the table to accommodate any kind or quantity of unit. We can handle microphones and monitor lifts as well. Anything you can think of, we’ve done it.
How We Hide It: Hatches & other strategies
Most people like to hide their table plugs under a hatch for a more seamless look. Some power/data units come with their own hatches, but most don’t. Because of this, we have several strategies for hiding the plugs.
We can build a hatch directly into the conference table top. The grain of the top veneer runs uninterrupted across the hatch. This is a very clean look, and the least expensive approach. The downside? It’s harder to access the power/data ports without removing the top. But they do look great:
This strategy involves a removable unit consisting of a frame that holds the dataport and the hatch. Like the frameless, we run the veneer continuously across each lid. The advantage here is that the whole unit lifts out of the table top, allowing for access to the underside of the unit and the table interior without top removal. It also provides some protection from spills. The downside? It’s more expensive, depending on whether the hatch is wood or metal. Here’s an example:
We get asked for these frequently, and we strongly recommend that you choose one that is spring activated instead of powered – the units are much less expensive and work reliably. Our favorite unit of this type is the Altinex PNP-417, see below. The hatch for this looks simple, but it’s actually quite complicated to fabricate what you can’t see. When you add to that the high cost of each unit ($1700 or more), this is the ultra-priced option.
Like our custom conference tables, we can make hatches out of any material and size the to suit the equipment chosen. Here’s an example of an all-metal hatch with a back-painted glass top:
Table Edge Units
There are a number of low-profile units that are designed to be mounted under the conference or boardroom table edge. These work well, and keep the top uncluttered, but take away from leg room and require an additional piece of structure under the top. Here’s one:
In The Base
We’ve put all kinds of plugs into the base of the table, but we recommend against this. It’s hard to see them, and difficult to use them in a dignified manner. But if that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do.
How to Get the Wires into the Table: Wire runs
Our table bases are designed with wiring in mind. We make sure that there is a clear and accessible path from any of the pedestals to any other part of the table. And our bases are designed so that they can be assembled and wired before the top goes on – this greatly speeds up installation. Here’s a typical 3-pedestal base, with bridge units that both connect the pedestals and act as wire runs:
The pedestals are open to the floor, and each has a hatch on its face, held on by magnets, that allows access to its interior.
We can add wire runs to any of our base designs, even those with traditional styling. Here’s a shot of a Sheraton-style base with a central wire chase:
And here’s a shot of another of our bases, after being wired. Even a very heavy wire load, as seen here, fits neatly into the bridge units.
Summary: Checklist for a successful project
Putting wiring into a custom conference table can be complex. The plugs in the table are often integrated into a complete audiovisual system that contains many pieces of hardware. If you want anything more than simple power outlets in your table, you will need someone to design the entire system. We don’t do that – our expertise is building tables. But we have worked on thousands of projects in coordination with other providers. Usually, these teams consist of the following:
- Client: That’s you. You are expected to provide a vision of how you want your system to work. Do you want displays on the walls? Projectors in the ceiling? Charging ports for phones and laptops in the table? An operator to run the system? You make the top-level decisions.
- AV Integrator: This person or company identifies all of the hardware required to fulfill your vision and maps out where those components should be located and how they will connect to each other and into your network. They also certify that the system will operate as planned. In many of the projects we work on, this task is performed by our client’s internal IT staff. They also review our recommendations and either approve as presented in our confirmation drawings or request modifications. Depending on the request, modifications could increase cost.
- General Contractor: If you need to move walls and/or put wiring into the floor of your room, the contractor will do that work. This can be an outside hire or done by your own maintenance staff.
- Electricians: Building codes require that certain electrical installations and connections be made by licensed electricians. The general contractor should be able to provide or recommend a good one.
- Table maker: That’s us. Our job is to design a custom conference table that fits all of your requirements, including holding all of the equipment you need. We can help you identify what power/data units will fit into your table, and what kinds of plugs can be included. We also make sure that all parts of the table will be accessible and easy to wire. And we provide plenty of space underneath the table for all the components you will need.
We also handle delivery and installation of the table (unless you want to do that yourself). In many cases, we also order and ship the equipment that will be mounted in the table. However, there are limits to our responsibilities:
- We are not certified electricians or trained AV integrators.
- We typically do not supply hard-wired electrical equipment. The units we offer have a standard cord with “pigtail” plug. (Most have a standard 72” long cord.)
- Our installers are not certified electricians or trained AV integrators. They are qualified to assemble the table but not to hook them up to your network or the electrical grid. They will not install plugs or wires. You or other members of the team are responsible for installing and connecting the equipment.
- We can provide technical spec sheets for any equipment we provide.
If you’ve been selected to manage the project of purchasing a custom conference table that houses AV/power ports, here’s a checklist:
- Discuss your needs with your internal decision makers and identify what you want the system to do.
- Work with Paul Downs to design your table and other furniture in the room.
- Select an AV integrator, or engage your internal IT department to design the system.
- Decide whether a general contractor will be required and if so, hire one.
- Decide whether an electrician is required and if so, hire one. (Consult with the GC and AV integrator.)
Keep in Mind:
Complex projects will be successful if the right team is working together towards a single goal. At Paul Downs, our primary desire is for you to have a conference room that you are proud of and that works well. We will do everything we can to help you and the other members of the team. Feel free to reach out to our designers and project managers if you have any questions along the way.