Manufacturing and industrial building electrical, power trends
Several new and retrofit manufacturing building projects show trends in electrical, power and lighting systems
- Brian Arend, PE, LEED AP, Electrical Engineering Manager, SSOE Group, Toledo, Ohio
- Shane R. Eckman, PE, LEED AP, Vice President, Industrial & Institutional Practice Leader, Stanley Consultants Inc., Minneapolis
- Kevin LaPlante, PE, LEED AP, Mechanical Group Leader, CRB, Medford, Massachusetts
- Sunondo Roy, PE, LEED AP, Director, Design Group, Romeoville, Illinois
Are there any issues unique to designing electrical/power systems for these types of facilities?
Brian Arend: Large-scale facilities usually require some level of redundancy and scalability. The electrical system needs to be designed to accommodate the client’s needs and future plans. Not all the gear needs to be purchased upfront, but a plan needs to be put in place to accommodate future growth and changes. Busway is a great distribution method that can be used if frequent process changes are envisioned.
Shane R. Eckman: The biggest challenge is to make sure we are designing a system to accommodate future growth and development of the site, as often the future demand is unknown. Another challenge is to locate the new electrical equipment on the site that results in the most efficient and cost-effective distribution of duct bank and cables. The location may not be obvious at first due to unique site constraints, such as other existing underground utilities, established utility corridors, building and structure foundations, anticipated projects or excavation, geological challenges and future site development.
What types of unusual standby, emergency or backup power systems have you specified for industrial and manufacturing facilities?
Brian Arend: Emergency power systems are pretty straightforward. Some more creative solutions we’ve designed are upgrades to existing facilities that don’t meet current code, like a recent example where an older generator was being used for life safety and started to fail the requirements to start in 10 seconds or less. We designed an inverter system for the life safety systems that would provide the necessary illumination while the generator was coming online. This allowed the client to keep the current system and limited the cost associated with the upgrade.
What are some key differences in electrical, lighting and power systems you might incorporate in this kind of facility, compared to other projects?
Sunondo Roy: All food and beverage processing facilities with open product rooms require wash-down capability. Lighting fixtures should be sealed lens and have wet location rating. The National Electrical Manufacturer Association uses a standard rating system that defines the types of environments in which an electrical enclosure can be used and the rating designation indicates a fixed enclosure’s ability to withstand certain environmental conditions. All facilities need to assess likely environmental considerations and specify the increasing enclosure water- and dust-tightness requirements described for NEMA 1, 3, 3R, 3RX, 4, 4X and 12 rated enclosures.
Brian Arend: Heavy industrial typically requires a more robust system. It needs to work and it needs to work correctly. This doesn’t always lend itself to innovation or trying new things. If something goes wrong, the owner needs to have faith that the system will work as designed. That requires proven technologies. Most are willing to experiment with new lighting technologies, but the power system that powers the process needs to work. Many automotive clients were early adopters of LED technology, for example. The overall system needs to be workable, constructable and maintainable.
How does your team work with the architect, owner’s rep and other project team members so the electrical/power systems are flexible and sustainable?
Brian Arend: Because all of our disciplines at SSOE are in-house, we routinely work very closely with the other disciplines for a coordinated design. We work with the architects to identify the proper space requirements for the electrical gear to be in adherence with NEC Article 110 and for maintenance purposes. The NEC requires 48 inches front-to-front for 480-volt gear, but that typically isn’t enough space to physically get the gear in and out of the space. How the gear gets installed or replaced in the event of failure needs to be considered.
Sunondo Roy: Having architects in-house, we are able to provide an integrated design team and extend that integration to include our clients to review the design as it develops, collaborating to meet the design needs of the facility and the operational needs of the fixtures client. This collaboration ensures all systems are integrated and complementary to deliver a flexible and inherently sustainable solution.
When designing lighting systems for these types of structures, what design factors are being requested? Are there any particular technical advantages that are or need to be considered?
Brian Arend: LED is the most common. The price points have dropped enough that LED specifications are a slam dunk. The fixtures are cheaper, perform better, last longer and save money. Now we are seeing steps into networked and tunable fixtures. Having both allows owners to adjust color temperature and light output for different working conditions. For example, they can have dimmed lights during production for areas that are less populated, but during shutdowns or maintenance activities, drive the light output up for better visual acuity.