Five Steps for Power Packages

When considering the path for an electrical distribution system, owners and facility managers often look for energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In response, consultants frequently turn to a fully integrated electrical package. This includes electrical and mechanical systems in one consolidated, prefabricated enclosure, usually backed by a systems integrator or controls provider.

By Scott Pinder, epiProducts Business Director, Novar Controls Corp., Cleveland August 1, 2004

When considering the path for an electrical distribution system, owners and facility managers often look for energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness. In response, consultants frequently turn to a fully integrated electrical package. This includes electrical and mechanical systems in one consolidated, prefabricated enclosure, usually backed by a systems integrator or controls provider. The integrated package can help maximize space savings, facilitate energy controls and minimize certain costs. However, not every building design is a candidate.

To determine whether a packaged electrical system is right for your project, consider these five key attributes:

  1. Facility type. Is the project unique or a prototype? When design consistency and low inventory volumes are essential, integration is ideal. The goal is to limit the amount of building space needed for equipment. Electrical and mechanical equipment should be placed in a central location or in a parent/child-type arrangement with major and minor integration in quadrants of the buildings.

  2. Project type. Is the project new or a retrofit? If funds are limited, integration should only be considered in new construction and major retrofits. When speed to market is critical, having a factory-wired and managed system can increase job efficiency. The labor pool of acceptable contractors also increases because the scope of work at the jobsite is more limited.

  3. Space constraints. How much workspace is available? The integrated approach is ideal for limited areas. It can decrease the electrical and mechanical room space by 40% to 60%.
    A robust UL-891 design allows virtually any electrical and mechanical component—from panels, transformers and transfer switches to telephone equipment, motor starters, security devices and controls of all sorts—to be consolidated. Consultants should inquire about the scope of the building’s needs.

  4. Electrical and mechanical design. Today, building owners want increased access to real-time information for facility maintenance, forcing multiple disciplines to work together. As a general rule, the more complicated the electrical and mechanical systems are, the higher the value proposition is for integration.
    Designing the system under a Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) Division 17 specification heading takes most of the oversight burden off the electrical and mechanical contractor and places it with a top-level integrator. Be leery, however, as the installation can often become a smaller priority compared with the system’s overall design and its ongoing maintenance.

  5. Cost analysis. In most projects, labor costs are a dynamic element. An integrated system helps control a large portion of that cost variable by incorporating the labor into fixed components at an ISO-compliant facility.
    Integrated electrical package specifications should also include product and labor under separate headings. Both the package and labor component should be bid to ensure that labor associated with the product is included in the bid process.

  • All in the details

Specifying an integrated electrical package helps meet projected cost and energy-efficiency needs. Knowing the intricate requirements of the end user and the full capabilities of the integrated electrical package provider can help turn needs into reality.

Integrated package considerations

Facility type

Project type

Space constraints

M/E design

Cost analysis