“As pop-up retail stalls and al-fresco dining and bars have become a common feature of many towns and cities, coupled with peak levels of park usage and tourist destinations booming, the potential value of outdoor space has been transformed. For any land owner or manager, this offers an opportunity to leverage the value of spaces such as courtyards, gardens, large paved areas or even vehicle yards more than ever.
Making these spaces practical, however, requires having a reliable power supply in place for users to access as and when required. The majority of newly converted outdoor spaces will not be used all year round – or even all day/week – so being able to set-up and pack up equipment with ease is essential.
The solution for putting an on-demand power supply in place permanently could come with pop-up (retractable) power units, in-ground service units or power bollards. These types of units eliminate the need to hire noisy and unattractive generators, which is why they have been installed over the past two decades in many high-profile tourist attractions, shopping centres, sports stadiums and numerous other locations across Britain, large and small.
So, if the idea of installing a versatile power supply infrastructure in an outdoor space appeals, the next step is to consider five key factors:
What characteristics of the proposed location could influence the installation of a submerged power unit like an in-ground or retractable unit, or a power bollard?
You will need to consider the ground conditions in respect of the potential for it becoming waterlogged or if the ground slopes with a high level of surface water run-off. In these areas, in
ground units or pop up units should not be used and a power bollard – with the right treatment – would be a better option.
The ground conditions must also allow for the depth of the unit where an in-ground or pop up unit is proposed. This could be as deep as 1050mm for an in-ground unit and 1350mm for a pop up tower unit, allowing for a drainage pit beneath the unit.
Consider too the traffic in the proposed location if this is in an area such as a pavement, courtyard/plaza or street – what is the likely volume of pedestrians, cycles and vehicles in the space, if any?
Any electricity supply in a public place requires very careful consideration in respect of safety and security. It must be designed in a way that prevents the risk of electrocution by accident or by deliberate means as much as possible.
This is one of the major benefits of a pop up, in-ground or power bollard unit. None of these units can be accessed without a key when locked and not in use – only a very dedicated vandal is likely to be able to force open up the units.
Choose a pop up unit and it stays locked away when not in use. When required, the unit is raised from the ground using a simple turning handle and returned to its submerged position when no longer needed.
An in-ground unit features a flip-lid which is unlocked for access to the power sockets, but once power leads are connected the flip-lid can be locked down to provide a continuous, unattended power supply.
How will the power unit be used? How many power sockets will be needed? And would the location also benefit from a supply of water or data cables?
Equipping any outdoor space with a power infrastructure is going to add a great degree of flexibility to the location, but when designing the power supply, it is important to have a picture of the typical and maximum usage that will be required.
Under-specifying could mean that the unit would not be future-proofed for any possible changes or additions to the equipment used on the site, which may necessitate power generators being hired for larger events.
The materials used to manufacture power supply units will be a major factor in how durable the unit will be and its longevity (design life).
Look for a unit construction in AISI 304 and 316 stainless steel, cast iron and concrete as these materials create strong, hard wearing units. This, along with high quality manufacture, helps to protect against unauthorised access and the effects of long term exposure to moisture and environmental conditions.
Finally, consider what visual impact the power supply unit could have on the site.
A power bollard will be visible all the time as an integrated part of the street or outdoor furniture. With multiple different bollard designs available and finishes in any RAL colour, these units can be specified to achieve a look that complements all other outdoor elements such as seating, railings and benches.
For applications and locations where you are seeking to keep the power supply out of sight for all or most of the time, the in-ground unit or pop up unit are better options. In-ground units remain submerged at all times so the only visual evidence of their presence is the flip-lid, which can match the surrounding surface covering anyway – including tarmac, paving stones and grass – and any protruding cables when they are in-use.
Pop up units are hidden away apart from when they are in-use. This is often regarded as a perfectly acceptable approach for even the most architectural sensitive locations.
Creating high quality outdoor spaces will be hugely important to ensure the public’s appetite for being outdoors for eating, drinking, socialising, exercising, working and all sorts of activities does not wane as the pandemic eases.
That is why adding a power supply can make a big difference. Get the basics right to determine whether the space is suitable for a power unit to be installed, then decide which type is best for the usage and application, and the end result could be to transform the functionality of a space.
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