Special | the office after the office
initiated by Evoline
The joy of having power sockets in trains
Adeline Seidel talks to
Steffen Waldminghaus
Nov 6, 2013

Adeline Seidel: Even in newly designed offices destined for flexible work there is no guarantee there will be access to electric power and data points everywhere. Why this discrepancy between flexible workstations and rigid infrastructure?

Steffen Waldminghaus: There are no doubt very many reasons for this discrepancy and there cannot be one simple answer. In our everyday work what we often find is that architects and planners think a lot about different work zones, the design of the tables, the ergonomics of the office chairs and the like. But sadly they often neglect to devote much thought on how to provide the setting with power and data. Now maybe this is simply because this “basis for work” is “invisible” or maybe it’s simply unclear who should be responsible for thinking about the infrastructure during the planning, the architect, the office equipment supplier or the IT section.

Photo © Adam Drobiec

Customizing workstations to individual needs is an ever more important factor in planning. How do you respond to the challenge?

Steffen Waldminghaus: At the moment I believe things are developing in two directions: First, in particular large corporations are pushing for the utilization of standard workstations which are as far as possible all designed identically so that it really makes no difference who works at which desk. The conditions are the same everywhere. The company decides the infrastructure that each staff member will require. The standardization is meant to offset the costs per workstation incurred for the IT and facility management.

Steffen Waldminghaus, Director at Evoline – a brand of the company Schulte Elektrotechnik. Photos © Robert Volhard, Stylepark

That’s one side of the coin. But what about the other direction, the move toward more individuality?

Steffen Waldminghaus: Well that trend really flies in the face of standardization. In this case, companies address the different requirements and needs individual staff members have as regards their place of work and, for example, create informal meeting areas, team workstations and quiet zones. Such diverse offices accordingly require diverse solutions in terms of the wiring and the data infrastructure. And this is where our modular product range comes into its own, as it can be customized to fit each person’s wants.

“Google” offices stand out from customary office environments given the different designs and variety of possible uses. How would you go about wiring up such office worlds?

Steffen Waldminghaus: I find it very exciting when architects design working environments that don’t look like work. That said, power and data inputs are of course important at Google, too. To ensure the infrastructure remains invisible but as flexible as possible, we at Evoline would suggest placing the power and data cables under a false floor in “Evoline Consolidation Points” – and not confining the wiring to a fixed grid pattern. Because the “Evoline Consolidation Points” allow you maximum precision and freedom when relocating a desk, whereas set grids tend to exclude possibilities from the outset. The reason: The system can be easily and swiftly repositioned, as reconfigurations are not complicated. This is key. Our experience shows, and this is borne out by studies by Fraunhofer Institute, that office spaces are rarely used for longer than three years the way they were originally planned to be used. As a rule, after three years something in the office space gets changed.

But after three years you surely don’t change all the rooms at once?

Steffen Waldminghaus: Yes, but if you simply decide to turn a desk setting for four into a desk area for six, or single workstations into group workstations, or reposition desks that were located opposite each other in a line you are going to find out that the prior power and data wiring structure will no longer be in the ‘right’ place. Meaning you have to reconfigure the entire infrastructure starting from the original point. If you have decentralized electrification under a false floor – and that is what “Evoline Consolidation Points” offers you – then you save having to make extensive and time-intensive readjustments to the space.

Siegfried Schulte (middle), founder of Schulte Elektrotechnik and inventor of Evoline. Photo © Schulte Elektrotechnik

In many offices you can’t simply retrofit a false floor let alone invest in new office equipment. So what add-ons are possible instead?

Steffen Waldminghaus: Existing buildings always have some sort of infrastructure. Often complex reengineering and change is not worthwhile. Flexibility in the office can be achieved by ensuring the optimal and relatively simply electrification of the workstations. The fact is our products are plug&play solutions that can be used individually and can be assembled or removed again relatively swiftly. This applies both to cabling for an individual workstation as it does for wiring an entire office.

Evoline products are made by “Schulte Elektrotechnik”, a company that business magazine “Brand eins” describes as being dedicated to ensuring the safety of electrical appliances. Where does safety come to bear in the Evoline range?

Steffen Waldminghaus: The quality of our products, and we carefully think the structures through, ensures at all sorts of levels that power resistances are reduced. For example, we rely on silver-plated contacts. Now this is just an indirect factor, but it symbolizes the quality of all our lines. Our products will not cause a large fire as our power sockets are all based on highly flame-resistant self-extinguishing plastics. Moreover, our cables and plastics are largely halogen-free. As regards the fuse system, our’s hinges on decentralized safety technology, meaning we protect and switch at the point of origin, preventing any cascade of perpetuating faults arising, which could potentially power-down an entire office suite or storey.

Today, a manufacturer’s prowess tends to be measured not just in terms of sound products. Manufacturers are increasingly morphing into expert service providers who support architects in the planning process. So when does Evoline tend to be taken on board on a building project?

Steffen Waldminghaus: We support the architects and electrical planners during a building project in developing the right electrification concepts. We then assist in the planning process, contributing our knowledge on flexibility in electrification, decentralized safety configurations and modular systems. The earlier we are involved, the better. But we don’t handle the planning proper, which remains the task of the architect or the specialist planner.

Made in Germany: Evoline All products are handmade in Lüdenscheid. Photo © Schulte Elektrotechnik

As we all know, today work doesn’t just get done in offices. Railway stations, trains, airports, cafés, even public spaces are now part of our working world. How does Evoline respond to these new office “modules”?

Steffen Waldminghaus: You won’t always find power sockets in railway stations or airports. And you’re even more unlikely to find a rack of sockets for several users. Which is why one of my colleagues always travels with an Evoline Plug with a multiple socket, to the joy of his fellow passengers. But that as an aside. We need some kind of standardization of these places to support the products. I think, thanks to its flexible and modular products Evoline will increasingly be called on to provide the connections in such spaces. Because using the modular systems we offer you can cater to the respective local needs – albeit only if the companies operating the facilities want to do so.

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