Articles Tagged with: Electrical Engineering

HUP: Q&A with Russ Neithammer

Ballinger’s electrical engineers are celebrating the completion of a long-term project to replace the 15 kV medium-voltage power switchgear in Penn Medicine’s Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine was the nation’s first medical school and remains a renowned center of research and clinical excellence. HUP is the oldest university-owned teaching hospital in the country and sees over 72,000 patients per year. Ballinger has worked with them over the last ten years on the planning and implementation of several major electrical power projects, with the end goal of replacing the 15 kV medium voltage main service entrance switchgear for this prestigious institution.  Chief Electrical Engineer, Russ Neithammer explained Ballinger’s approach to this monumental project.

What was this project all about?

RUSS NEITHAMMER: The overall goal was to upgrade the over 70-year-old 15 kV medium voltage utility service entrance switchgear, leading to an improvement in overall reliability, simplified maintenance, and a reduction in exposure to catastrophic failure. We started with a feasibility study in which we identified a number of approaches to replacing the switchgear and to upgrading lighting, HVAC, fire sprinkler protection, and egress provisions in the hospital’s main electrical equipment vault to meet current code requirements and to be consistent with other University electrical service facilities.

What sort of options did you consider?

RN: Each approach had its pros, cons, and risks.   For switchgear replacement, we considered many options. For example, we looked at a vacuum circuit breaker retrofit into existing switchgear cubicles, installing the new switchgear in the existing location, and installing it in an adjacent transformer vault location.

How did you decide which approach to take?

RN: It was essential that there be no disruptions to hospital operations in the process of replacing the service entrance switchgear.  This meant that we had to have a design that minimized the time required for any single outage as we changed over from the old switchgear to the new, while also allowing for the option of temporarily backing out to existing conditions if we encountered problems during any of the outage work.  Continuity of operations and constructability were the key drivers that informed all major design decisions.

That sounds complex. What methods did you use to make that possible?

RN: We designed the switchgear installation with constructability in mind right from the start.  The design option that resulted in the least amount of risk to hospital operations was the one that allowed for installation and energization of the new switchgear in the adjacent transformer vault before removal of the old.  This allowed us to move loads from the existing to the new switchgear via separate, sequential outages for each of the feeders.

The initial challenge was that before we could address replacement of the main switchgear, the active 2400V transformers in the transformer vault had to be removed from service.   This meant that the entire existing 2400V distribution system (a holdover from the early 1900’s) had to be eliminated.  We accomplished that by executing two predecessor enabling projects.  First, we replaced the 2400V switchgear and transformation (to 480V) in the Dulles building portion of the HUP complex.  Our second enabling project involved the construction of a new building that houses transformation (to 480V) and distribution to the three oldest buildings of the HUP complex.  As with the replacement of the main substation, each of the enabling projects had its own constructability issues, which were addressed in a similar manner to the main substation project, i.e., install and energize the new equipment before removing the existing equipment.  Completing the enabling projects eliminated all loads on the existing 2400V transformers, thus allowing them to be removed from the transformer vault and freeing up the space we needed to completely install and energize the new switchgear and move the feeders.

With an empty transformer vault, construction work leading to installation and energization could go forward, requiring only two short utility outages to tie in and energize the new switchgear and make it ready to accept load as the feeder moves were executed.

What takeaways do you have after 10 years on this project?

RN: Overall, communication throughout the process was the key to executing the project with minimal disruption to hospital operations. The design and construction staff, operations staff, clinical staff, construction manager, design assist electrical contractor, design engineer, and PECO (the electrical utility serving HUP) were all involved throughout the entire process. Likewise, although this project had a heavy electrical focus, architecture and all of Ballinger’s engineering disciplines played significant roles.

Approaching the project with this level of communication meant that the design constructability was understood by all parties.   This understanding led to detailed outage planning for the best possible coordination with hospital operations. The result was a process with minimal design changes or surprises and a project executed on-time and well within budget.

Reading HealthPlex: Q&A with Senior Electrical Engineer Ben Medich

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.

VP Joe Biden Visits Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center

Kicking off the Obama Administration’s national initiative to find a cure for cancer, VP Joe Biden visited Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center yesterday. Ballinger engineering designed the Mechanical & Electrical systems for the Abramson Cancer Center research facilities located in the Smilow Center for Translational Research and the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the new South Tower.

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Inspired by Data Centers, Ballinger Engineers Protect the Power Supply for Patients

An article by Ballinger’s Benjamin O. Medich, PE and Reading Health System’s David J. Major, PE, CHC, CHFM was published by Medical Construction + Design Magazine (MCD). The piece describes the power supply design for the Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical and Patient Care, which applies techniques from modern data centers. High quality and highly reliable power is critical in healthcare environments.

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