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Challenges, Opportunities and Solutions in Structural Engineering and Construction – Ghafoori (ed.

) © 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, London, ISBN 978-0-415-56809-8

Challenges of a substation and infrastructure upgrade in an urban downtown setting
M.L. Cochrane
Stantec Consulting, Edmonton, AB, Canada

C.D. Wagner
EPCOR, Edmonton, AB, Canada

ABSTRACT: EPCOR, along with the design consultant, Stantec Consulting, faced a number of challenges when taking on a major infrastructure upgrade project for the supply of power to the downtown area of the City of Edmonton. During the design phase, these challenges included the high price of land, severe space constraints, designing around existing underground infrastructure, and working with future city infrastructure upgrade plans. Construction presented more barriers including field design changes due to existing conditions, managing numerous scheduling restrictions, managing multiple contractors in a very small working area, public consultation, safety for work occurring in a highly populated area, and sequencing of work to minimize interruption to existing service while relocating and replacing existing equipment. Although the list of challenges was long, the project team was able to deliver a successful project by planning for anticipated challenges and being flexible enough to adapt the execution plan as new obstacles arose. 1 INTRODUCTION presented unique challenges to this infrastructure upgrade in a downtown setting: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Space constraints Public consultation Project planning and staffing of project team City planning Underground unknowns Sequencing of work Field changes and design change support

The project included modifications to an existing substation and the expansion of a second, consisting of a 240 kV/72 kV 450 MVA transformer, new control building, and relocation of two 72 kV High Pressure Fluid-Filled (HPFF) underground transmission cables installed in a restricted footprint. A 10.5 km, 480 MVA, 240 kV underground Cross-Linked PolyEthylene (XLPE) transmission cable system was also constructed between the two stations. The cables are installed in a concrete encased ductbank from north Edmonton to downtown. This project was requested by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO) and assigned to EPCOR to build and modify the existing facilities as required. There are three main driving factors behind this project: – Improve the power supply to the downtown core and safeguard the power grid – Allow a downtown generating station to be decommissioned – Expand the available power supplied due to load growth in the downtown core. Many of the challenges faced on this project spanned both design and construction phases, with initial management of issues during the design stage and further management and adaptation during the construction stage. Following are the key areas that



Many alternative locations were considered by the AESO when selecting the site of the substation to be expanded. The downtown substation selected for expansion is located on three lots in an older area that has been neglected, but is currently undergoing a revitalization and a construction boom with numerous high rise condominium developments in the surrounding area. Land prices jumped considerably in the year prior to project commencement. Originally two empty city lots were purchased across the street from the existing substation. Public consultation and complex engineering requirements led to the purchase of two additional lots adjacent to the existing substation. Buildings located on these lots were demolished prior to the start of construction. The two extra lots were used for construction laydown and storage, site trailers, and wash cars. They


Transparent planning facilitated smooth consultation without objections from the public. financial discussions. which resulted in changes to the planned transmission line route. While all staff contributed to this useful reference tool throughout the project. purchasing. A preplanning session helped determine some questions from the public. and is also available for future expansion. the responsibility of material handling on site was not assigned to a project team member. the contractor was found to be competing within their organization for resources and experienced personnel to complete each contract. legal. Clearly defined roles for the project team were required early on to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure nothing was overlooked. scheduling. and engineering support became involved. cable project coordinator. Two open houses were held for the public to address concerns and questions. safety supervisors. allowing for easier referencing and information searches in the future. the laydown area was accessible to all contractors and was not controlled. assigning this role to an individual as a part time duty could have increased the efficiency of construction activities. Stakeholder meetings were conducted in person with a project team member and the major stakeholders. regulatory affairs. During design. Meetings began prior to the design contract being awarded to determine initial requirements and to map out the best plan for working with the City. and a web site. When the project progressed into construction. Early consultation with the City also allowed them to share their plans for the expansion of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system. safety discussions. A 5 m tall brick wall around the substation enabled equipment to be placed closer to the perimeter and also acted as a sound and safety barrier. a contractor was awarded two separate contracts for different aspects of the project. businesses. The photos proved to be a valuable resource. A solid dielectric bus was used instead of traditional underground cable bus to accommodate the small space and existing underground duct banks. signs along the route. These photos were used for as-built purposes. Construction site staff completed a daily work log. The size of the team was small for the scale of the project. finance. This presented challenges in maintaining the schedule and ensuring quality standards were met. the public consultation group set up mailings. as identified in the pre-planning session. As an example. and engineering support. handouts. 4 PROJECT PLANNING AND STAFFING OF PROJECT TEAM would have been an asset throughout the project to review documents and respond to questions from the consultants and contractors. The Province of Alberta and the City of Edmonton experienced an economic boom due to the price of oil at the time of this project. An additional lot was purchased adjacent to the two new construction lots part way through construction for access and laydown. Initial consultation with the City revealed that the installation methods used for the construction of the underground duct line would have to be considered in 778 . and community leagues. Numerous photos were taken throughout the project stages for documentation. regular project updates. environmental. a construction manager. document control. 5 CITY PLANNING The owner’s main project team was formed in June of 2005. Key stakeholders included area hospitals. The final equipment layout design considered future operations and maintenance activities to maximize access. having an electronic log would have been an improvement to this process. they could have been more useful if a detailed filing system had been developed to log the thousands of photos. During construction. then converted to a permanent parking lot for employee access to the substation. In one case. While this did not raise significant issues. special consideration was required to ensure maintenance of minimum electrical clearances. In addition. and consisted of a project manager. This team evolved as the project progressed and members from safety. and began coordinating and planning with the City from the very early stages of the project. and site administration were also added. substation project coordinator. and public consultation groups. 3 PUBLIC CONSULTATION EPCOR’s public consultation team took a proactive approach to dealing with public inquiries.were then sold at project completion. therefore. construction engineers. schools. Additional staff EPCOR anticipated that permitting and City approvals would be extensive. Alternatives to the final design such as a gas insulated indoor station were considered. Contractors had difficulty staffing well-trained and qualified personnel in the specialized fields required for this project. Weekly status reports were completed for the project manager to pass on to senior management. especially where timely responses were directly related to maintaining the project schedule. quality assurance supervisor. while minimizing the overall footprint of the station to fit into the two compact lots. inquiry hotline. however. Preliminary planning involved determining what permits and City review stages were required and developing key contacts with various City departments. but discarded due to cost.

Unlike above ground services such as overhead power lines. the City would not allow the road to be open trenched due to the high traffic volume. so elevations had to be extrapolated between two known points. the contractor located and exposed utility crossings only as needed for construction.5 km route. In this case. Long term closures of the road and alley adjacent to the substation also required special permits and planning to ensure scheduling was acceptable. as well as the separation required between parallel lines. the revision time was minimal and did not impact the overall schedule of the construction project. Due to ongoing redevelopment of the area surrounding the substation. Not all records provided complete data. drainage. and in one instance. Careful selection of the route still posed construction challenges. telephone cable. In both the jack and bore and HDD installations. Late in the ULA process it was identified that the location of the planned LRT had recently changed. the contractor was informed of the method by which the design was produced and advised of the risk of error. This allowed the ULA permits to be applied for in advance of the IFC drawings being issued. and television cable running underground. The difference in information resulted in cases where construction was delayed to determine alternate routing. Due to the contacts that were developed early on with the City and the contractor’s plans to not commence construction at this location until a later date. There are clearance requirements for both separation of a line crossing. At these locations. This resulted in a significant effort to re-issue drawings and then re-submit them for ULA approval. It was identified that one construction method could not be used to construct the entire 10. In addition. These services are found at different locations and at different elevations. part of the already constructed duct line had to be removed to adjust the duct location. resulting in a conflict with the planned routing of the underground transmission line. the cable would not be able to bend through a duct line route with numerous horizontal or vertical bends. In another location. exact elevations at a particular point where a utility was crossing the duct line were unknown. a 520 m Horizontal Directional Drill (HDD) was used to complete the crossing. the duct line conduit was then pulled through the casing pipe. inaccuracy. All design clearances and avoiding conflicts with an existing underground utility were based on the data in the City records. Again. one cannot easily determine the exact location of underground facilities. and in many cases. Stantec and EPCOR had to work quickly to revise the design and move a segment of the underground transmission cable route from one side of a roadway to the opposite side. the jack and bore method was used to cross under the roadway without impact to traffic. open trenching was not an option. and finally the casing pipe was filled with concrete. In Edmonton. these verifications are limited to point locations only and do not verify elevations of the entire line. as well as eliminated construction rework. At the commencement of construction. or lack of information in the City records. The route selected minimized disruption to roadways by constructing several kilometers of the transmission line through an old rail line that is now used as a multi-use recreation corridor. there are often a variety of utility services including water. a Utility Line Assignment (ULA) is required for all newly constructed utility routes. In order to start construction without delay. At this location. Upon award of the construction work. power distribution. natural gas. City records of the location of all utilities must be relied upon. Selection of the exact routing of the transmission line required evaluation of the construction obstacles that would be faced. plans were taken to a City redevelopment committee. Due to the size of the cable. The underground transmission line needed to bend under and over a maze of existing lines. in this case. 779 . Some locations can be verified by measurements taken at manholes or other access points.the design stage of the project. each utility has a required minimum clearance that must be maintained—no other underground facility may be constructed within a minimum distance from an existing underground utility. giving time for ULA review and approval to be completed in advance of the scheduled start of construction. The majority of the transmission line route was constructed using open trenching to install the concrete encased duct bank. sewer. Even with the possibility of snaking the route between existing lines. As well. 6 UNDERGROUND UNKNOWNS In an urban environment. however. it was determined what information was needed for ULA submission and the drawings were prepared before the Issued for Construction (IFC) package. the design required careful consideration of the minimum bend radius and the maximum pulling tension of the cable allowed between vaults. the cable also required a minimum depth to ensure there was enough ground cover to dissipate the heat that will be generated by the operating cable. At two roadway crossing locations. the transmission cable could not twist and bend at the will of the route designer. a casing pipe was first installed. This design was IFC to the contractor without verification of the actual locations of existing underground utilities. the transmission line had to cross under a large railway yard and a major arterial highway that runs through Edmonton. This approach proved to be inefficient due to differing elevations between actual and provided records. however. as well as the impact of construction on the surrounding neighborhoods.

To ensure that the integrity of the piles were not compromised during the duct bank excavation. Locations were discovered using a hydrovac truck and survey crew to provide the detailed. After piling was complete. standard backfill and compaction techniques were used. Much of the route was constructed along roadways that required lane closures for construction. This project would have benefited further if the work to determine exact locations and elevations at all utility crossings was done prior to the design stage. which resulted in significant design effort being required to re-plan the cable routing in these locations. backfill was compacted with a smaller compaction device to minimize vibrations around the piles. Stantec. the task was even more complex. In addition. all under two city lots. This ensured that the excavated piles did not move in any direction. Clear marking of construction zones were important in slowing traffic to protect the workers and the public. Working ahead to determine exact locations proved to be an excellent decision for the progress of construction. connecting to piles that were not exposed in the duct bank excavation. Due to the minimum bend radius of the cables. which was critical in ensuring clearance requirements for electrical equipment was maintained. The underground space constraints presented even more impediments to determining how to fit a building basement. Traditional compaction techniques could result in damage and movement of the piles. this information was collected during the design phase of the project and provided in the technical specifications of the duct line construction package. 7 SEQUENCING OF WORK The underground duct line was constructed with three or more crews working on different areas of the route. backfill techniques had to be evaluated to ensure the effectiveness and location of the piles was not compromised. In some cases. the duct line in the substation was approximately five meters deep to allow the cable to make the 90 degree bend from running underground to rising vertically out of the ground. EPCOR. the field support staff and design staff were able to evaluate options and prepare a new design without delaying construction. Signage for the road closures was coordinated with the City. In other locations. a number of events occurring in close proximity to the areas of construction imposed restrictions on allowable dates and times of road closures.After seeing these delay issues arise very early in the project. Chain link fencing on concrete jersey barriers was used to separate the new construction site from the existing energized yard. At Victoria Terminal Substation. This fence was easy to move and reconfigurable to accommodate construction access. During construction. Accurate design data would have resulted in IFC drawings that required significantly less re-work during the construction phase and less updating effort during the as-built stage. 780 . Excavation of the duct line to five meters would be challenging in any location. construction of the underground transmission line duct bank was started. This information was collected through meetings with various groups at the City to ensure closure information covered both regular road closure regulations. By having the information ahead of time. In some locations. Once the site was backfilled to a level where the piles were considered stable. The City traffic standards outline regulations on allowable road closure times including limitations during peak traffic hours (morning and afternoon rush hours). underground cable trays. Then the piles were installed. and two relocated existing underground transmission cables. further meetings and consultations were necessary to review requirements and establish plans for specific closures for each location. All work inside of EPCOR’s energized substations must be performed under qualified safety supervision. The transformer foundation and building foundation were constructed first. major differences in elevations were found. and weekends. This reduced the amount of supervision required and allowed the contractors to work without restriction in the areas of new construction. the space to construct the substation was very limited and presented many design difficulties in trying to fit the required equipment onto two city lots. After construction of the duct bank. accurate measurements. containment pit. transformer foundation. numerous piles. the new transmission line duct line. It was determined that the contractor would work ahead with an additional crew to physically locate all utility crossings on the duct line route. and the contractor worked together to determine how to minimize delays and rework. evenings. Permitting and signage requirements had to be considered several days to weeks ahead of when a closure was required. fillcrete (a low strength concrete) was used as it does not require compaction and has suitable friction properties. drainage system. a series of steel rods were designed to span between piles. This required special attention by the construction contractor to ensure that all work crews’ sequencing of work was well planned and that alternate options were available to ensure work crews were not stalled by limitations set by the various road closure constraints. but as the duct bank ran very close to a number of piles and the transformer foundation in the substation yard. as well as coordination with City construction activities and special events. To ensure the contractor performing construction of the underground duct line could plan appropriately for the allowable road closure dates and times.

The engineer worked out of the construction management office and was in the field daily to respond to issues arising during construction. Having this resource in the field allowed EPCOR and Stantec to react quickly to issues that arose during construction. the new construction was being integrated with existing infrastructure. For the underground transmission line. The FCN system was effective because it was managed within a clearly defined process for reporting. and approval of all information. 8 FIELD CHANGE AND DESIGN CHANGE SUPPORT It is impossible to eliminate all changes during construction. This combined process of addressing issues ensured that adequate experience and knowledge was used to address issues. When a situation arises where a change is required. and encountering unexpected field conditions. making the presence of EPCOR engineers with knowledge of the existing sites an important element in the field engineers’ positions. However. In the case of the substation work. This ensured that the critical information in each FCN was communicated to the right people in a time efficient manner. she was able to immediately access the design team at Stantec to determine a resolution. Construction coordination meetings were formally held weekly and informally on a daily basis to determine work fronts. the contractors often shared construction equipment such as back hoes and manlifts. it worked because of its simplicity. discuss safety on a small work space. Unlike the underground transmission line that was new construction. In the case of electrical or equipment issues. the EPCOR engineers were often able to resolve the issue on their own. In many instances. Field support for the substations was managed through a similar process of having the field engineers available and on site to evaluate issues and determine how to manage them. These reviews could have been more beneficial if they were held earlier in the project and more frequently to ensure designs were constructible and all materials were available.It was intended that the construction of the substation was to be completed in several stages. and equipment and materials required. review by the field engineering support team. Changes during construction can range from a design modification due to material or equipment substitution. Typical process for issue management would begin by a construction crew identifying an issue. the field engineer could respond to an issue and work with EPCOR’s engineer to resolve it without delay. For the construction of the substations. changes to construction methodology. and ensuring that the process occurs in a timely manner to minimize delays in construction. there were two main contractors and multiple sub-contractors on site at the same time. Stantec’s personnel would visit the site to review the issue and determine a resolution. review. while also ensuring a problem was resolved as quickly as possible. Stantec provided a field engineer to support EPCOR’s construction management team. The civil construction was to be completed prior to the general electrical contractor being on site. In other cases. In the case of civil or structural issues. Due to construction delays. return of a revised design from the consultant. constructability reviews were held to discuss sequence of work. or in the case of requiring consultation from Stantec. a simple Field Change Notice (FCN) system was developed. opportunities for cost savings. EPCOR placed one of their own engineers and an Engineer In Training (EIT) in the construction management office to provide a similar field engineering support role. they could communicate enough detail that site visits from Stantec’s electrical personnel were often not required. given that this was not their area of specialty. The challenge is managing this process to ensure all changes are properly documented and recorded. To ensure information was clear and properly documented. their experience and knowledge regarding civil and structural construction was limited. Prior to starting some of the more complex construction activities. it can often lead to review and re-design by the design consultant or the project engineering support team working in the field. 781 . EPCOR field engineers contacted Stantec’s engineers or designers for consultation. with extensive experience in substations. and minimize conflict on work zones. notifying the field engineering support team. The system was based on a single page form that documented issues and provided instructions on changes required to address the issue. EPCOR field engineers quickly determined that the optimal process for handling field construction issues depended upon the nature of the issue. The EPCOR engineer and EIT were both electrical engineers. Often. This process is typical and straightforward. This direct link to the design team eliminated a step in the communication chain and allowed EPCOR to benefit from minimal delays in construction while issues were being resolved. and the field engineering team communicating this change back to the construction contractor. review and reporting of the issue to the design consultant. where the field engineer was not able to resolve the issue on site. ensuring proper FCN documentation was generated to record the change. The system was not complex and was easily developed. so proper planning to manage changes was critical. Due to the small construction zone. safe work planning. the substation construction took place beside and integrated with existing equipment.

As required by the AESO. but communicated in the most efficient time possible. the team worked to find alternative design methods and equipment options to work within the limited space of the new substation. the project was completed on schedule and within budget. no matter how well any project team plans for a project. careful attention was required to ensure that the correct revisions of drawings were being used at the time of construction. regardless of the change made. It was determined that the contractors often did not issue new revisions of the drawings to their field crews. where appropriate. A design change may require new information on dimensions or other information that requires a drawing to clearly communicate this information. Some of the lessons learned on this project were gained through careful planning and anticipation. and permitting a drawing takes time and involves a number of people. The processes of quality review. sketches were used. During the design phase. the contractor was ordered to stop construction until the proper revision was produced. unexpected challenges are always going to arise and the true measure of a successful project is the ability for that project team to be flexible enough to manage these issues as they arise and find solutions that keep the project on track. measures to deal with these challenges were put in place early. The sketches were used only where appropriate. Construction changes were addressed with up front planning to anticipate problems and deal with them early to reduce delays. By issuing sketches instead of revising issued drawings. the process can be slow and is not conducive to the quick turn around required to minimize delays in construction. Stantec and EPCOR were able to work together to ensure design changes were clearly communicated. IFC drawings were issued at various stages to allow construction to begin without delays. the project team was able to deliver a successful project by planning for anticipated challenges and being flexible enough to adapt the project execution plan as new obstacles arose. 782 . If the revision was not correct. This was managed by the owner’s on site quality assurance supervisor continually inspecting the drawings on site. to communicate the changes. For the substations. Meeting the schedule and budget commitments on this project was a key measure of success for the project. However. Despite a long list of challenges. 9 CONCLUSIONS The new substation and underground transmission cable were successfully energized in October 2008. In these cases. meeting an important milestone in the successful completion of the project.Where design changes were required to address issues encountered in the field. To revise and re-issue a drawing that has been IFC. stamping. but provided a valuable system for making changes and then tracking these changes to ensure the information was included during the red-line mark up of construction drawings. Given the staged issuance of drawings.