2020 NEC Article 605 | Office Furnishings

By: Robert Key | Jul 06, 2022

Why is office furniture regulated in the NEC? Which types are covered or not covered by Article 605? Is cord- and plug-connected office furnishing really the responsibility of the electrician and Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)?

Freestanding modular office furniture is permitted to be connected to the premises wiring system.

Modular office furnishings can be found in most offices these days. They are defined in NEC Section 605.2 as:  

  •  Cubicle panels, partitions, study carrels, workstations, desks, shelving systems, and storage units that may be mechanically and electrically interconnected to form an office furnishing system.  

These units can be connected by plug-and-cord or hard-wired. Just as a modular home is built in sections in a factory and then assembled on the site, modular office furniture is brought in sections and then installed. These furnishings present a special set of hazards and specific electrical requirements. They merit the attention of the installer and AHJ so that each installation is as safe as possible.

What is covered and what is not? 

First, what type of furnishings are not covered by Article 605? Individual pieces such as motorized standing desks or chairs that are not interconnected are not covered. These are individually cord-and-plug connected and are not included in the scope of Article 605. 

The Article covers electrical equipment and conductors installed in office furnishings that are meant to be interconnected. They may be partitions, freestanding or fixed, but they are not permanent like a typical metal stud-and-wallboard type of partition. They may also include storage units, desks, and workstations that are interconnected. It is important to know that unless specifically permitted by the AHJ, the partition walls are not permitted to extend to the ceiling, since this could create a room that is cutoff from the surrounding space. This would impact the spread or containment of fire and smoke, heat and smoke detection, and the location of sprinkler heads. 

Requirements 

  • Section 605.6, Lighting Accessories– Since the lighting circuits are permitted to use number 18 AWG wire, they cannot contain an electrical outlet. The lighting equipment must be attached or supported, and if they are cord-and-plug connected, the cord must be the hard-usage type and contain an equipment grounding conductor. (Except on the load side of a class 2 power source)  
  • Sections 605.7, 605.8, Electrical system connection– Fastened-in-place furnishings must be hard-wired, but freestanding furnishings may also be permanently connected to the building power, so long as it is by a method that meets Chapter 3 of the NEC. 
  • Section 605.9, Cord and plug connections- If they are freestanding furnishings, they are permitted to be cord-and-plug connected if they meet the following requirements:  
  1. The cord must be extra-hard usage (Such as Type EV or EVE, see Table 400.4) and contain an insulated equipment grounding conductor. The length of the cord is limited to two feet.  
  1. The conductors must be at least 12 AWG. The receptacle must be on a dedicated circuit, and there cannot be more than 13 (15 amp) receptacles per circuit. At the calculated load of 180 Va per yoke, that would amount to 19.5 amps.  
  1. Multi-wire circuits are not permitted. 
  • The wiring channel within the furniture must contain no sharp edges that could damage conductor insulation. A wiring channel that is separate from the channel containing the branch circuits for light and power may be provided within the system components for the routing of communications, signaling, and optical fiber cables. 

The popularity of modular office furnishings makes these regulations quite important. To ensure a safe and functional installation, electrical professionals must familiarize themselves with the requirements. The single largest obstacle is a lack of awareness of what is covered by this Article and what is not. Office workers, employers, and the public in general expect us to be the experts at what we are doing. Be the expert.

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