Case study: Planning electrical rooms with the future in mind

New construction and renovations at Froedtert Hospital required careful consideration of the electrical equipment rooms.

By Scott Kesler, PE, LEED AP; CannonDesign, Chicago March 14, 2018

Figure 1: Froedtert Hospital Center for Advanced Care is shown after completion of the initial building, which is currently undergoing vertical expansion to 12 floors. Courtesy: James Steinkamp PhotographyFroedtert Hospital’s Center for Advanced Care (CFAC) in Milwaukee and the Froedtert Interventional Procedural Platform (IPP) project are two examples of the need for electrical rooms in support of planned programs. Each project presented different and unique challenges with project schedules, budgets, and anticipated scopes of work.

CFAC (see Figure 1) was a new building on the medical campus, completed in 2015. The building was intended to be vertically expandable to 12 floors despite a shorter initial build. Its electrical design needed to allow for easy expansion with strict budget control. CannonDesign settled on a design that involved sizing equipment to support future growth, left space for future equipment, and temporarily supported the new building from existing infrastructure in the case of emergency power.

The normal power and service entrance equipment was designed for the full building demand load including all future floors, and the emergency power distribution took a hybrid approach. The engineering team knew that as the building expanded and grew, it would outgrow the capacity of the current generator plant. In response, the team had a draft plan for a new central generator plant for support along with other planned projects on campus.

The team allocated space in the emergency distribution room (see Figure 2) for future transformers to allow interconnection for this future generator plant. The generator plant was planned to be located remotely and serve several buildings through an underground medium-voltage distribution system. This required engineers to accommodate feeders extending into the building that would eventually tie into the campus distribution.

Figure 2: The Center for Advanced Care building’s emergency distribution room left space for the installation of medium-voltage transformers that would interconnect with a planned central generator plant. Courtesy: CannonDesignThe IPP project involved the phased renovation of 167,000 sq ft of space and the addition of 31,000 sq ft of new space. Phased renovations require careful thought and planning as to where equipment will be located to ensure the space is available when needed, and that placement of the equipment does not impact existing ongoing operations in still-occupied areas.

The team installed new unit substations serving the emergency distribution systems in new and existing spaces. The concepts behind the new space were more straightforward, but the existing space presented challenges. The team needed to identify an area within the existing hospital that could be repurposed and was large enough to accommodate immediate needs. It also needed to be expandable and allow for growth. Because it was existing space, the team had to find a way to get the large equipment into the building without affecting surrounding areas while creating a space that met all code requirements. This meant that the team needed to relocate existing piping and ductwork to create the necessary clearances.

After reviewing several possibilities, the team decided to vacate an existing conference room for the initial project. The adjacent conference room would be repurposed to again serve future growth. The primary conference room was located on an exterior wall, which allowed for easier equipment installation through removal of the exterior building skin. Reconstructing two conference rooms elsewhere on campus to replace those lost was deemed a more cost-effective solution than rebuilding other more expensive clinical spaces.

Scott Kesler is a principal and engineering integration leader at CannonDesign. He is an electrical engineer with more than 25 years of experience