While installing electrical service equipment in the basement or garage
level, ;rst ;oor, or second ;oor makes little difference to the electrical
trade cost of installation, it can have a signi;cant impact on the overall
project construction cost as well as other factors.
Below-grade rooms constructed to protect equipment from ;oodwater
require reinforced poured-in-place concrete wall construction engineered
to withstand the sidewall pressure of water in the adjoining space. Ventilation ducts must enter the space from above the ;ood level, which can
impact the design of the ;oor above. These factors will generally increase
the overall project construction cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At-grade electrical rooms take up prime space otherwise available for
retail or other revenue-generating uses, which can impact a project’s bottom line. Utility company access requirements typically dictate that these
rooms be at the perimeter of the building, which can also affect how lively
the streetscape will be. But the construction cost impacts of at-grade
electrical rooms are minimal, ranging from zero to about $5,000, depending on project size and location.
Second-;oor electrical equipment rooms may require a double-height
space in order to provide the required ceiling heights. Removable panels
or louvers for equipment replacement can affect the building’s facade.
The structural reinforcement to support the equipment will result in some
increase in the construction cost, which typically ranges from roughly
$10,000 to $50,000, depending on the project. ■
ment equipment on hand enables
managers to avoid having to track
down equipment that may be temporarily unavailable due to post-storm
surges in demand.
When one considers these three approaches, it becomes apparent that a
different approach may be appropriate
for each system, with multiple solutions applicable to different systems
in a single building. Some services,
like telephone service equipment,
are relatively simple to relocate from
their traditional below-grade locations.
Others, such as electrical service, are
subject to utility company constraints
such as ventilation requirements and
access for equipment maintenance
or replacement. No one solution
can be applied to every system or to
every building; each project must be
evaluated carefully in order to develop
a solution that meets the project’s
physical constraints and the develop-
er’s program and ;nancial constraints.
Three projects engineered by Cosentini Associates in Boston’s Seaport
District illustrate this point. The ;rst
has adopted a “protect in place”
approach with ;ood-proof construction to protect below-grade electrical service equipment. The second
project located the electric utility
company pad mount switch outdoors,
elevated approximately 12 inches
to raise it above the storm surge.
Transformers are located within the
building on the ground ;oor, and are
also set on pedestals that elevate
them above the storm surge. The
building switchboards are located on
the second ;oor. At the third project,
the pad mount switch is situated on a
pedestal at grade, while the trans-
formers and switchboards are located
on the second ;oor.
As with any decision that affects a
building, the location of utilities to
mitigate effects from ;ooding and
other severe weather events requires
collaboration among owner, architect,
construction manager, cost estimator,
utility companies, structural engineer
and MEP/FP engineers in order to develop cost-effective, creative solutions
that protect critical systems. ■
By Randall Duke, PE, LEED AP BD+C, vice
president, Cosentini Associates Inc.