Spectrum Engineers: University of Utah Campus Wide Electrical Infrastructure Upgrade

Utilities; public works; transportation; electrical, power; energy; and electrical infrastructure upgrade

By Spectrum Engineers August 9, 2018

Engineering firm: Spectrum Engineers

2018 MEP Giants rank: 88

Project: University of Utah Campus Wide Electrical Infrastructure Upgrade

Location: Salt Lake City, UT, United States

Building type: Utilities/public works/transportation

Project type: System overhaul

Engineering services: Electrical, power

Project timeline: April 2012 to July 2017

MEP/FP budget: $6,051,666


Coordinating a project of this magnitude is a unique challenge that required time and dedication from the entire team. Working on a project at the largest higher education institution in the state of Utah where biomedical research and emergency services are happening simultaneously can be demanding. But juggling this with the responsibility of not only creating a better electrical infrastructure but doing so with little or no shutdown was a unique challenge that Spectrum overcame. Once being selected as the lead design firm, Spectrum wanted to make sure that the provisions made would actually increase the reliability of the University’s electrical system. This increased the challenge of the work. Spectrum didn’t just want to suggest solutions based on things they’d done in the past, so they needed to devise a way that would measure actual results of the changes made.

Spectrum was responsible for designing the electrical systems for the University’s upper campus. This portion of the University of Utah’s campus includes a hospital and supporting medical facilities as well as the University’s medical school buildings. The team had to work carefully with the hospital still on the main utility system because if the back-up generators failed, the hospital would suffer downtime. In addition to having to work around live equipment, the undocumented construction of what was underground, and dealing with facilities that allowed for no shutdowns or service outages was a challenge that sets this project apart.


Because of the critical nature of power reliability, Spectrum applied the IEEE Gold Book in a unique way. Spectrum’s team utilized a quantitative method over a qualitative one. The use of a quantitative method was superior when predicting reliability because it helps guide decisions, backed by data, regarding the approach and priorities of the project. Spectrum used actual numbers, or "scores," to help the university to determine which areas were most at-risk and where funding was needed to improve reliability.

Spectrum worked around the obstacle of not being able to remove the hospital from the main utility system by replacing one utility at a time. In addition to working carefully to keep things up and running, Spectrum had to be cautious when working around live equipment. Spectrum designed temporary feeds to keep one utility up without relying on the backup generators. This required close communication with the hospital so work could be done when an outage would be easier to accommodate.

Furthermore, the team coordinated with Rocky Mountain Power to obtain clearances, rights-of-way, and approvals. Continual communication with university staff, users, and team members was critical. This project was completed with minimized interruptions to the critical facilities and done on a campus that was fully-populated with students, staff, and other construction projects.