Exploring complex hotels, resorts, and casinos: Electrical/lighting/power

Casinos and resorts are designed for fun and relaxation, but with such projects becoming increasingly complex and high-tech, engineers charged with tackling these structures have challenging work ahead of them in regards to electrical/lighting/power.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer May 29, 2018


Brant Dillon, Director of MEP, Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis
Matt Dolan, PE, LEED AP, Senior Design Engineer, Southland Industries, Las Vegas
Jeffrey S. Grove, PE, Director, JENSEN HUGHES, Las Vegas
Ronald R. Regan, PE, Principal, Triad Consulting Engineers Inc., Morris Plains, N.J.
Mark Richter, PE, LEED AP, Partner, National Residential & Hospitality Practice Leader, AKF Group LLC, New York City
Gregory K Shino, PE, Technical Director of Fire Protection Engineering, NV5, Las Vegas
Toby White, PE, LEED AP, Associate, Sr. Fire Engineer, Arup, Boston

CSE: What are some key differences in electrical, lighting, and power systems you might incorporate in a hotel, resort, or casino as compared with other projects?

Shino: Finding the optimum lighting to balance the mood for the venue. Lighting in a casino floor is much different than lighting in a spa, restaurant, or retail space. Occupants and designers expect different lighting to make sure that just the right amount of light and the right color(s) are selected.

Regan: The lighting-aesthetics requirements of a hotel vs. commercial building vs. casino are all very different. The lobby of a large resort hotel must “pop” and draw the guest into that hotel’s experience. The common-room corridors must indicate more of a “quiet” theme. The rooms themselves must be well-lit on demand and have a muted background at other times. The casino lobby must pop even more than a hotel lobby, but then overall lighting must be muted (is it day or night?) outside the lobby, with almost task lighting in machines/tables areas, but a hidden evacuation lighting system that can light the casino interior like daylight. Luckily, we work with specific brands for lighting groups that design with our electrical engineers to meet local codes and AHJ preferences. Power system-wise, the designs are heavy on resiliency including CHP, battery energy storage systems, and renewable energy components.

CSE: Electrical/power technology is constantly evolving, putting more demands on engineers working on hotel, resort, or casino projects. Please describe a recent electrical/power system challenge you encountered when working on these projects.

Regan: New offshore hotels were in the predesign phase when the government announced that they could not impact the local utility. With projected loads of 5 to 15 MW, the connection of the hotels to the utility grid would not be permitted. Our local and U.S. engineering team met with utility and government officials and developed a CHP microgrid plan for power. Initially accepted, it was modified that each brand would be separate. Negotiations were continued to allow emergency/standby connection of the hotels for resiliency until such a time when the utility could provide stable backup power.

CSE: How does your team work with the architect, owner, and other project team members to design the electrical/power systems so they are flexible and sustainable?

Regan: Normally, we work with the same few specialized hotel/casino architectural groups, so things go relatively smoothly. Based on the real estate available, we can provide an early laundry list of achievable renewables expected with estimated cost/payback. The owners/franchisees indicate their commitment and we integrate those requirements into the final design.

CSE: Are you seeing more smart grid or microgrid aspects on hotel, resort, or casino projects? If so, how have you served these needs? Are there any issues unique to these projects?

Regan: We are seeing a great deal of renewables/microgrid content in offshore projects. This is based both on economic conditions and resiliency issues. We have investigated and developed relationships with natural gas suppliers to ensure long-term contracts for CHP. We have developed switchgear controls to blend CHP, solar, wind, standby generation, and the utility into microgrid-dispatchable energy plants. While sounding exotic, the controls are set to be operator friendly so offshore clients without power plant experience can become quite proficient in a short time period.

CSE: What types of unusual standby, emergency, or backup power systems have you specified for a hotel, resort, or casino? What were the project goals?

Regan: We have designed and installed solar/BESS standby systems that work in conjunction with life safety and natural gas/diesel generation using advanced BAS controls that permit load transfer and shedding as required. The goal was to use the system powered by renewables/BESS to offset utility or fuel costs.

CSE: What kind of lighting and power systems are incorporated into a hotel, resort, or casino to enhance energy efficiency?

Regan: Renewable power and hybrid power systems are used to increase the overall energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint. These systems must work seamlessly and not reduce the system’s resiliency. Smart lighting control systems from the back of house, lobbies, corridors, and guest rooms, all LED-driven, have made a serious inroad in energy reduction.