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Electrical Design for Tall Buildings

Electrical Design for Tall Buildings

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Published by: adgas on Jul 10, 2009
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Electrical Design for Tall Buildings:
Designing electrical systems for high-rise buildings is anexercise in engineering coordination and cooperation.
By Mark Bendix, P. ENG., Senior Director, Operations, Giffels Assocs. Ltd.,Toronto -- Consulting-Specifying Engineer, 8/1/2007 12:00:00 AM MT
There has been a sharp increase in the development of extra tall buildings, usually multi-purposeand often consisting of a retail and/or entertainment podium and towers of commercial offices,hotels and residential facilities.A good example is the iconic Emirates Towers complex in Dubai, comprised of a below grade parking area, a retail podium and one tower of commercial office space. The other tower housesThe Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel. The complex electrical systems installed in these tall buildings present to the engineer a number of design challenges, including space constraints,limitations of physical structure and the integration of multiple systems. To successfullyovercome these challenges, careful planning, collaboration with other professionals andcoordination of systems are essential.First of all, every tall building is supplied with multiple sources of electricity, including feeds for normal power, usually supplied by the local electrical utility company (LEUC), and anemergency or standby source of power, usually supplied from on-site engine-generator sets.The LEUC supplies the building with medium-voltage power from one or more utility sub-stations. Ideally, the supplies are fed from multiple sub-stations to increase the reliability of themain electrical system. The utility supply will enter the building from below grade and usuallyterminates in a main switch room. Often, the location of this electrical room depends on thedemands of the LEUC.A significant concern is that each LEUC has its own idiosyncrasies. In some jurisdictions, theLEUC has no requirements for the main switch room at all, and it can be located anywherewithin a basement area. In other jurisdictions, the LEUC may require that the main isolationequipment (switchgear or ring-main units) be located as close as possible to the outside wallwhere the service enters the building. Other LEUCs, such as the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), in the case of Dubai, may demand that this isolation equipment be located ina room at street level, directly accessible from the outside or in a completely separate building atthe site property line.Therefore, it is essential that the electrical engineer contacts the LEUC as early as possible todetermine if there are specific requirements for the service entrance equipment and its location.At this early stage, the engineer also should determine the codes and standards that the LEUCrequires for electrical system design. The engineer will likely find that the LEUC has a set of additional design requirements specific to local conditions and local practices. Often these arenot obvious, and if the engineer does not uncover these early, it can be costly to the engineer andto the owner.At a late stage in the design of the Burj Lofts and Burj View buildings in Dubai, DEWA insistedon the addition of a low-voltage main isolation room at the ground level. This change requiredclose cooperation between the engineer and architect to accommodate the room with the leastimpact on the design and loss of leasable space.
A similar situation occurred during the construction of the Emaar Residential Towers in Dubai.In this case, DEWA changed its high voltage regulations during construction, so that a groundfloor ring main unit (RMU) room had to be added, with a significant impact on the construction process and, once again, loss of leasable space.The medium-voltage supply must be transformed down to the utilization voltage (480 volts in theUnited States, 600 volts in Canada, and 400 volts or 380 volts in much of Europe and Asia). Instandard buildings, the transformers are located at or below ground level. In extra tall buildings,transformers at low levels are insufficient. At some height, the voltage drop caused by theimpedance of the supply conductors will become significant and the supply voltage will fall below acceptable values. The architect's design must therefore accommodate service levels in theupper parts of the building, in which additional transformers are located.Selecting the location of the service level requires cooperation between the engineer and thearchitect. The engineer will require the service levels to be located where they can adequatelyservice selected floors. The architect will consider issues such as the impact on the esthetics of the façade, the space requirements and space constraints, the impact of the service space onadjacent spaces and the transportation of equipment to and from the service room. In theEmirates Towers, the transformer rooms at the upper level are located close to the elevator shafts,so that transformers can be transported through the elevator shaft in the event that one must bereplaced.Medium-voltage cables must be fed to the transformers on the upper levels. Frequently, theowner or LEUC will demand that the medium-voltage cables be kept completely separate fromany low voltage equipment and routed up the building in separate accessible spaces. The accessis necessary so that the cables can be secured and supported at regular intervals so as to relievestress on the cables, and to limit their movement under short circuit conditions.But what about emergency power? To ensure safety in the event of a normal power outage,emergency power generation is required. The emergency generators also may be used to providea reduced level of service to non-critical items.When selecting the generation system, the electrical engineer must decide between low-voltageor medium-voltage generators. Selecting medium-voltage generators allows for the use of fewer,larger generating units, all of which can be located at a low level. However, a medium-voltageemergency system will require a sophisticated transfer scheme—more costly than low-voltageequipment. In addition, some LEUCs will not permit the use of such an arrangement.Conversely, selecting low-voltage generators will require more generator units. And due tovoltage drop, they will have to be distributed throughout the building on service floors.Moreover, electrical and mechanical engineers must coordinate their work to ensure thatsufficient combustion air and ventilation is provided to the generator rooms, and to ensure thatthe exhaust, fuel and cooling systems are correctly designed.
Service rooms, spaces and risers
In any building, service rooms and spaces present a design coordination challenge. The architectwill strive to maximize the use of space for which the building is being provided and will attemptto minimize the space loss caused by service spaces. The electrical and mechanical engineersmust work closely with the architect to ensure that an adequate number of service rooms andspaces are provided to support the building requirements. They also must ensure that thesespaces are large enough and practically located, that is, close to the point of utilization. Thelocation must allow for easy movement of equipment in and out of the room and to the outside.
Finally, the spaces must be configured to accept the equipment they are to house and providesufficient space for equipment maintenance.The architectural design will include service cores such as elevator shafts, electrical andtelecommunications rooms, mechanical rooms and risers, garbage and linen chutes and other such utility spaces. The cores may extend the complete height of the building or they may rise toa specific level and then transfer and continue in a different location. Where such an offsetoccurs, the engineers must find a horizontal space in which the services can be transferred to thenew location.In many cases, the electrical engineer will find that the electrical spaces provided in the initialdesign are irregular, undersized and impractical, and may request larger and more practicallylocated spaces that will provide maintenance and service staff with a convenient and comfortableworking environment. The architect will accommodate these requirements as long as the loss of usable space is minimized and the overall building costs are not increased.For example, when Giffels Assocs. was designing Atlantis, The Palm, the engineer and architectmade several changes to service rooms as the design matured. The size and shape of some roomsin the original architectural concept proved to be too small, oddly shaped or not practicallylocated. To resolve the problem, the engineer provided the architect with scaled layout drawingsshowing the equipment to be accommodated, as well as minimum space requirements andtechnical limitations. As design progressed, the solution was further refined based on the specificneeds of the facility.The space requirements for electrical and telecommunication riser rooms and spaces in tall buildings are significant. These rooms will house equipment for many different systems,including power distribution panels, feeder and plug-in busways, lighting control panels,emergency lighting supply panels, fire alarm transponder panels and their associated batterycabinets, security system equipment, voice and data distribution racks and cabinets, buildingmanagement system panels and cable and conduit risers. To minimize the space demands, it may be possible to spread the equipment among several floors and to serve multiple floors with one piece of equipment, but this solution is not practical for all types of equipment.Services will be supplied radially from each service room to the point of utilization. The routingof cables and conduits that exit these service rooms presents another challenge. The electricaland telecommunications rooms in the service cores may be located adjacent to an elevator shaftand riser shafts for air distribution or linen or garbage chutes. Service raceways may not penetrate such risers, so the electrical engineer may be faced with a limited exit window. Usually,these raceways will exit into a public area and must be routed above a ceiling. These constraintsmay limit the size of the raceway window to the extent that it cannot accommodate all requiredraceways, resulting in the need for additional service risers on each floor.Cabling limitations also may result in additional service risers. The length of power distributionconductors will be limited by overall voltage drop. Horizontal telecommunication cables(category 5 and category 6) are limited to a maximum length of 295 ft. to comply withacceptable standards.It is clear that the architect and electrical engineer must work together closely so that theelectrical equipment can be accommodated and safely serviced without excessive loss of usablespace. This requires a significant amount of cooperation and compromise from both parties.
Structural constraints

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