Casino owners are always looking for ways to stand out from the competition and attract more patrons. For many, sustainable design affords a way to make a mark on the industry and simultaneously save on long-term energy-consumption costs.
Fortunately, many high-performance and sustainable strategies are available to help create an efficient and attractive gaming environment. However, few of these strategies can deliver both and do so cost-effectively. Raised access floors are an exception, with the ability to create an environment that saves energy in the face of steadily increasing costs while ensuring customer comfort.
An access floor is an elevated floor system that includes an understructure that supports welded-steel floor panels filled with lightweight cement. The understructure provides positive positioning and lateral retention, ensuring that the floor is soundly supported at all contact points. Essentially, access floors look, feel and function much like a slab, but what lies beneath the floor offers far more benefits than concrete.
The 24-inch square floor panels use typical finished floor heights from 3 inches up to 24 inches on understructure that can also offer a height-adjustment leveling device to ensure the floor is level even when the slab is not. The resulting under-floor pathway created by the raised panels provides housing for any type of service distribution system, including modular wiring, passive or active zone cabling and heating and ventilation and air conditioning. Power-voice-data (PVD) terminations can be fed through the panels to provide slot machines and other gaming equipment with convenient, flexible access to all of these services. At the same time, air diffusers supply fresh, cool air from the under-floor plenum directly into the occupied space. PVD terminations and diffusers can be relocated anywhere services are desired as spatial layout or technology needs change.
It’s a design that also allows for more gaming space. In a traditional overhead service distribution design, data and power cabling runs through concealed rigid structures, such as walls and columns. With raised access flooring these same cables can run under the floor, eliminating the need for additional structures and supporting a more open floor plan. This translates to more table games and slot machines with less sight-line obstructions.
Raised access flooring also affords operators more flexibility to respond to equipment layout and technology changes quickly, easily and cost-effectively because updating the interior design does not demand expensive facility investment and construction expenditures. Operators can plan their space around functional requirements without the limitations of fixed, inflexible spaces. Layout changes are fast and require minimal disruption to the environment, which means less interruptions of valuable gaming time. Most changes can be performed by in-house facility managers who can easily access and/or move wiring and cabling by removing a few panels and sliding the cables to new locations.
TALKING STICK RESORT
Raised access flooring also helps to control a casino’s environment by providing improved indoor air quality and more efficient temperature control for maximum occupant comfort. Conventional HVAC systems force cool air from the ceiling, where it mixes with stale air and moves down to the occupants. In casinos, these ceilings are often high, and the air is filled with smoke and warm air, compromising the ability of cool, clean air to make its way down to the occupied zone, typically identified as the space from floor level up to 6 feet.
Under-floor air distribution uses a pressurized plenum to deliver fresh air through the floor, replacing, not mixing with, existing contaminated, often smoke-filled, air. Floor- or pedestal-mounted diffusers can supply air at warmer temperatures and low pressure because only the 6-foot-high occupied zone needs cooling. As a result, the HVAC system uses less fan energy, while the increased supply temperature can expand the use of the economizer, providing additional free cooling. In buildings like casinos, where ceilings can be as high as 25 feet, the efficiency of an HVAC system that uses raised access flooring becomes even more evident. Working with the natural flow of air using the heat load generated by people and gaming equipment maximizes energy efficiency and indoor air quality by creating a one-directional air flow through the occupied zone.
“The use of a raised floor with under-floor HVAC is probably the most efficient system that you’re going to find,” says Todd Mellott, construction director for Casino Arizona’s new Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale.
Owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Talking Stick features a 240,000-square-foot gaming area with more than 800 slot machines and 100 table games, and the good results the property has seen from raised access flooring (and at the company’s McKellips Casino) increases the likelihood that Casino Arizona will be incorporating the technology in future developments.
“Going forward with another casino, we would analyze the square footage and what would be the area’s function, but without a doubt we would use a raised access floor system in any gaming area,” says Mellott.
CASE STUDY: GREENBRIAR CASINO CLUB
In addition to energy savings, raised access flooring can contribute to construction savings, helping to bring down installation costs and enabling faster build times by eliminating ducts and reducing wire and cable drop-down lengths. The floors also install quickly, allowing casinos to open sooner.
The new Greenbrier Casino Club in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., containing more than 320 slot machines and 37 table games across 103,000 square feet of gaming area, opened in July following a 10-month, fast-track construction process. Raised access flooring contributed to the success of this timetable. And its flexible nature allowed architects to work within a difficult space efficiently and without compromising the look and feel of the venue.
“When we designed the casino there wasn’t any option in our mind other than a raised floor,” says Greenbrier Vice President of Operations Todd Fishon. “Our main focus was to make sure that the flooring would support the necessary load while providing a flexible cable management solution. For us, there just wasn’t any other option - this is how we were going to do it.”
Greenbrier knew they needed to use raised access flooring because the casino was well below grade, which necessitated an efficient use of the available vertical space.
“Part of this casino is 28 feet below grade so we didn’t want to excavate any further to accommodate a traditional system,” explains Oliver McClung, a partner with Shope Reno Wharton and the lead architect on the project. “Raised access flooring allowed us to work within the confines of the space and provided an effective solution for service distribution and cable management concerns. … We also used one of the heavier-duty product lines because we wanted the flooring to still feel very substantial, solid and comfortable. You’d never know you were walking on a raised floor, which is the feel we wanted for a luxury casino.”
It helps that access floors also offer a variety of attractive finishes, same as traditional flooring, from luxury vinyls to woods, cork, rubber and terrazzo.
Scott Alwine is marketing manager for Tate Access Floors, headquartered in Baltimore, a leading manufacturer of raised floors that facilitate under-floor service distribution systems. He is LEED AP-certified and has eight years’ experience in the building products and services industry. For more information about Tate, visit www.tateaccessfloors.com.<br><br>