In January 2017, construction was completed on Tower Health System’s new Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical + Patient Care. At first glance, the Ballinger-designed 465,000 SF facility is notable for its 88,000 SF green roof, which serves to visually minimize the massive 115,000 SF operating platform footprint and provide patients with an environment that promotes healing. Equally important to patient experience, however, are the advanced systems employed by Ballinger’s engineers to ensure that the hospital is able to provide seamless care under any circumstances. We sat down with Ballinger Engineer on the project, Ben Medich, PE to learn about how the engineering team approached the unique challenges of this project:

What factors need to be considered when designing a power system for a hospital as large as the Reading HealthPlex?

BM: It’s crucial for all hospitals to have reliable power supplies in case of power outage. At Reading HealthPlex, everything from the technologically advanced machines in the surgical suites to the lights in the patient rooms are critically important to patient care. We drew from our previous hospital experience and also considered reliability strategies employed in data centers when designing this power platform.

What sort of solutions did you come up with?

BM: Our system employs fully-redundant UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) systems. Each UPS has N+1 flywheels for energy storage to back-up all of the lighting and receptacle power in the building and ensure no disruption to the medical equipment or patient care during a power outage. The systems are employed in conjunction with the paralleled backup-generators to provide both short-time ride-through of transients and intermediate-term power backup.

So what would happen if there was a power outage?

BM: Our design allows for 96-hours of on-site fuel storage for the generators. The system will function without interruption to the power of emergency and life-support systems. Even if the UPS units were not online, the power system would still meet The Joint Commission’s requirements for back-up power to critical and life safety systems within 10 seconds of power loss. This allows us to design the system without requiring the UPS units to have a UL 1008 listing, which is not available in large sizes.

In the event of a natural or man-made disaster that could impact the power supply, the hospital can continue to fulfill its commitment to emergency preparedness and patient safety.