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.