Educational experience: Designing electrical/power systems in K-12 schools
Engineering work on K-12 schools is complex—and not just because of dwindling school budgets. The facilities must meet a broad range of exacting standards coming from officials and state regulatory bodies, in addition to meeting energy efficiency standards.
- Robert J. Linder, PE, LEED AP, Senior Project Manager, Karges-Faulconbridge Inc., St. Paul, Minn.
- Robert N. Roop, CPD, LEED AP, Principal, Peter Basso Associates, Inc., Troy, Mich.
- Abbas Shirian, PE, CGD, LEED AP, Principal-in-Charge, Lead Mechanical Engineer, Bridgers & Paxton Consulting Engineers, Albuquerque, N.M.
CSE: Describe some recent electrical/power system challenges you encountered when designing a new building or retro-commissioning an existing building.
Shirian: With either new building or renovation, dealing with the local utility companies to get information that is critical to the design team is a challenge. For example, for new construction we need to fill out service applications and provide information that is usually not known until design development or later submittals. For renovation projects, challenges include lack of budget to deal with existing upgrades for electrical distribution equipment and understanding of how the latest codes affect and require upgrades to the electrical distribution equipment.
CSE: How do you balance the need for reliable power with the desire for efficiency and sustainability?
Shirian: We specify the most energy-efficient lamp and ballast combination to reduce energy use. More LED products, with the cost coming down, are being used to further reduce energy use. We also specify lighting control that also lends to the reduction of power use: occupancy sensors and multi-level manual switching. Reducing the lighting load will help to reduce the mechanical loads. General power load category has risen in recent years with a greater requirement for technology and computers. Using devices like surge protection and electrical equipment, like “K” rated transformers, helps to clean the power, and the proper sizing of electrical equipment helps to provide reliable power within the facility.
CSE: What types of renewable energy systems have you recently specified in a K-12 school?
Shirian: We have designed numerous ground-coupled heat pump systems for K-12 schools, and they have been well-received by our clients. Most schools request some sort of renewable energy on-site, and we have specified photovoltaics (PV) for some site lighting on a few schools. Normal facility power also is required for these lights during overcast periods.
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