AV Rack Design Best Practice

HowToAV talks to AV Rack expert Nick Pidgeon of Visualization from some great tips and techniques on professional design and build of audio visual racks and cabinets.

Where do you start with rack design and build?

You should always think about the rack design before the actual physical build, this saves time and frustration during the build stage. To start a rack design however you must have a system design in place first, this should include as a minimum:

  • a cable schedule
  • associated cable identification system
  • rack elevation
  • BTU calculation

Other documentation such as line drawings and connection panel layouts would also help further during the build phase.

Rack building at CIE Group

When creating rack elevation you must consider:

  • Space of equipment
  • Future proofing space
  • Ventilation/heat requirements
  • Proposed rack sizes
  • Location the euipment will be going - base on ergonomics, weight distribution and the ease of wiring.

Is it best to build a rack off-site then deliver it to site?

Predominantly yes, however there are certain situations when you cannot for example some site constraints such as access to the building so you have to build it on site. But most of the time you can build a rack off site, this is usually the best option to do as you have access to all tools etc and wont have to return the next day if you forget anything, you have the ability to test it beforehand and ofcourse get the rack ready in time for when the site is ready.

Why is specifying the rack size and location important?

Ventilation is important in a rack system as there is alot of heat to dissipate, therefore rack space planning and knowing where the rack is going is important - depths and widths are key things to consider. Once you have worked out the total rack units going into your design, you should then think about the size it needs to be calculating for ventilation space for each piece of equipment. As a rule it is advised to always go bigger - always take as much room in that space as you can. You must also bear in mind that there is more to a rack than just the rack unit itself, consider the cables and where they will fit etc. The more space you allow will also help with future proofing, if you later need to add something to the rack the space will account for this.

Why is it important to get the cabling in the back of a rack build right?

It all comes down to serviceability, if it is neat and tidy and you can see what you are looking at then you can service it. And if you can standardise on rack builds with the cable types, cable clours per signal type, cable identification schemes, rack shelves and equipment where possible, this saves time during the build and servicing the system at a later date.

Are there different rack types?

There is a rack for every use, however there is not a 'one rack fits all' solution. There are three primary types of racks: open frame racks, rack enclosures and wall-mount racks.You have to consider the space, what the rack is being used for and the location/space it is going to be used. The more room you have the better you can plan that rack around it.

  • cie group rack build shot

    Open frame racks - are open frames with mounting rails, but without sides or doors. Typically used for applications where the rack does not need to control airflow or provide physical security. They are good for network wiring closet and distribution frame applications that have high-density cabling as they provide convenient access and lots of open space for cable management.
  • Rack enclosures or rack cabinets - have removable front and rear doors, removable side panels and four adjustable vertical mounting rails (posts). The front and rear doors are usually ventilated to encourage airflow from front to back, through any installed equipment. They are ideal for applications that require heavier equipment, hotter equipment and higher wattages per rack.  With the doors and side panels locking, they also provide equipment security at the rack level. They are a popular choice for highdensity data centers and server rooms. Standard enclosures do not typically have as much room for cabling as an open frame rack, however wider / deeper cabinets are available to provide extra room.  They can also be configured without doors or side panels for open frame applications where higher weight capacities are required.
  • Wall-mount racks - are as it sounds designed to be attached to the wall, this saves floor space and fits in areas where other racks can’t. They can be open frame or enclosed cabinets. They’re usually smaller than their floor-standing counterparts however and can’t support as much weight. The cabinets can be adapted to floor-standing applications by adding rolling casters.

Top AV Rack Build Tips:

  • Always start with the system design then rack design before building the rack.
  • Pre-plan your rack elevation before building it! This avoids getting it wrong and having to re-build it and ofcourse saves time.
  • Specify the rack type, size and location.
  • Ensure there is a sufficient and effective cable managetment to your rack.
  • Allow plenty of time to complete the rack build and provide for it in your project plan
  • Plan for offsite builds where ever is possible.

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