Have you ever felt that grit under your feet as you take your shoes off near the door in the winter? Turns out all those trips out into the snow and ice have created a small beach at the doorstep!
While sweeping up for some (temporary) cleanliness in our home, I was thinking about how on-site conditions during construction can impact the eventual operations of the facility. Specifically, equipment storage, area access, and housekeeping regarding the electric room are all areas where planning and diligence can help protect the long-term investment for the facility.
I recently heard a story where the electric room on a new construction project became a regularly used pathway for the construction team because it was the shortest distance between the trailer park and the work area. Over time, this regular traffic led to the buildup of mud and dust in the room. Upon energizing the system, this dust was pulled into the electrical MCCs located in the room by the cooling fans, leading to an observable layer of dust on top of the VFDs and other electrical elements in the MCC structure. For the longevity of the equipment, something clearly needed to be done, and an Electrical Preventative Maintenance (EPM) effort was undertaken to clean the equipment and the room.
However, I would argue this situation could have been avoided by restricting access through the electric room during construction and completing thorough housekeeping in the room before the equipment was placed. Commonly, electrical equipment is purchased with a “ship to site” designation and the intention of placing it in the electrical room immediately after receiving. But what would happen if the electric room were not ready to receive equipment or was not complete to the point of providing environmental protection to the equipment?
Storing equipment in an alternate location on-site while the electric room is being built puts it in danger of damage from other construction operations and the environment of that area. Storing in the intended electric room allows electrical construction to proceed, but if not completed, the electric room won’t provide environmental protection that the gear may need to avoid damage from water, corrosive environments, or displaced animals seeking shelter.
Clearly, this is a challenge without easy answers, but you can take steps to protect your investment. Consider these recommendations for protecting the future electrical system during the construction phase:
- Manage the timing of electric room completion and equipment arrival on the construction schedule to limit the risk of moving the gear into temporary storage.
- Restrict access to electric rooms throughout the construction phase.
- Complete housekeeping and install needed environmental controls for the electric rooms prior to placing equipment.
- Audit the condition of the electrical equipment and electric rooms during construction to identify potential future issues.
If you’re interested in learning more about construction planning regarding electric rooms and electrical equipment at your facility, give us a call at 712.722.1662.
Sam Fopma, P.E., Project Engineer