With falling corporate budgets and rising energy costs, mission critical facility operators need cost-effective power distribution.  The most common power distribution practices provide the facility power at medium voltage (2400 V to 35 KV) and then step down to distribute power at 480 V to critical loads.  This “step-down” approach can be a costly mistake since there are typically inherent efficiency losses and cost increases associated with this basic design. 

One solution is to focus on the power distribution infrastructure and incorporate a medium voltage uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to ensure the most efficient power distribution.

People are usually surprised at how inefficiently their electrical infrastructure performs. Digital Realty Trust's recent survey of IT-dependent businesses found the average Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating at 2.9 across the industry.  Compare that to some facilities that operate at an achievable 1.7-1.9 and you’ve got an efficiency issue.

Stepping Down

In a traditional electrical distribution system there is a series of power exchanges that require energy to be reduced accordingly.  When power is received from the utility at medium voltage (2400V-35KV) and transformed to 480 V for distribution, which requires several steps: 

1) Utility/Power Source:  Supplies power to the facility at medium voltage.

2) Primary Transformers:  Power is stepped-down to “distribution voltage” (480 V) at the substation transformer.

3) UPS/PDU:  Power is stepped-down again to 280/120 V by a power distribution unit (PDU).

4) IT Equipment:  Power is stepped down a third time to 12Vdc, the operating voltage for most server and storage gear.

Use of this model means more added costs and greater inefficiencies in each step of the power infrastructure. 

Advantages of Medium Voltage

Transitioning to a medium voltage system offers physical cost savings. Medium voltage systems require smaller or fewer conductors, which eliminate the need for expensive copper.  They also avoid the voltage drop of 480V systems so there is no reduction of supplied energy as the current runs through a circuit.  The more voltage drops, the greater the inefficiencies that result in lost power.  Also, medium voltage systems do not have the heat and associated cooling costs associated with a lower voltage system. 


Typically, a UPS provides emergency, stored power to a load when the main input source fails, ensuring instantaneous protection from power interruptions.  This is often one of the biggest roadblocks to transitioning to a cost-effective medium-voltage model.  Typical UPS systems are static and powered with a battery that provides the energy source in case of failure.  But standard UPS systems were not designed to handle a medium-voltage load. This has increasingly led companies to turn to a Diesel Rotary Uninterruptible Power Supply (DRUPS) to support the load with a diesel generator, and provide continuous backup as needed. 

Modern DRUPS systems are designed to condition power at medium voltage, without the use of transformers.  They operate at 97% to 98% efficiency, far higher than static systems, at a rate that minimizes losses. 

One medium-voltage DRUPS unit alone can reduce a facility’s PUE by several points – not to mention the amount of money saved in energy over the lifecycle of the building.

An infrastructure operated at medium voltage is a smart, simple, and reliable alternative that offers increased efficiencies and decreased costs. Investing in a DRUPS system can help remove step-up/step-down roadblocks and offer a medium-voltage system designed to meet growing data center cost and efficiency needs. 

David Mazur is chief technologist and vice president, sales and marketing for Hitec Power Protection, Inc. and can be reached at david.mazur@hitec-ups.com.

You've probably heard the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" before. Maybe you take this approach when it comes to your building's fire protection program. Why bother testing or replacing equipment that you know already works, right? In actuality, regular maintenance and testing can end up helping you in the long run. Just because a piece of fire protection equipment appears to be in good working order doesn't mean it will stay in that condition or that it is National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) code compliant. 

Here are four components of a facility manager's fire protection program that can go overlooked:

1) Fire sprinkler systems – It's often believed that if fire protection equipment such as the fire sprinkler system is working then a building is in the clear. However, your fire sprinkler system may have undetected issues such as problems with valves opening and closing, corroded pipes, or damaged sprinkler heads. All of these deficiencies would render the equipment both noncompliant and dangerous in the event of a fire. 

2) Obstructed equipment – Any fire protection equipment that is obstructed from view is considered noncompliant – after all, what good is equipment that no one can reach? Exit signs must not be covered or otherwise obstructed from sight. Also be sure that all paths of egress and exits are not obstructed in any way. 

3) Light bulbs and backup batteries – An often disregarded fire protection system aspect is missing or burnt out light bulbs and backup batteries. These items tend to go ignored when it comes to everyday maintenance because they're not always immediately noticeable. However, forgetting to replace a light bulb or backup battery could cause a safety issue and result in a hefty fine come inspection time. Light bulbs should be replaced as part of your regularly scheduled maintenance, and backup batteries typically need to be replaced once a year. 

4) Sensitivity testing – Smoke alarm sensitivity testing is another part of a facility manager's fire protection program that is regularly forgotten. If smoke alarms are too sensitive, they may be susceptible to nuisance alarms. However, if a smoke alarm is not sensitive enough, it may not be able to detect smoke from a small fire which puts building occupants in danger. According to NFPA 72, sensitivity testing should be conducted every other year after the first test. 

As a facility manager, your fire protection program is one of the most important aspects of your job. No component should be considered too small or unimportant to address as soon as you notice a deficiency. Consider working with a certified fire protection provider to restructure your current fire protection program and keep track of regular maintenance and inspection schedules. By regularly maintaining, testing, and inspecting all fire protection equipment, you can ensure security and compliance for your building and most importantly, safety for occupants. 

John Amann is vice president of operations for Cintas Corporation, he can be reached at amannj@cintas.com.

Coxe Cage at Yale University for Auld Design and Petersen Aluminum | 25 July 2014 Coxe Cage at Yale University for Auld Design and Petersen Aluminum | 25 July 2014 Coxe Cage at Yale University for Auld Design and Petersen Aluminum | 25 July 2014 Coxe Cage at Yale University for Auld Design and Petersen Aluminum | 25 July 2014

The venerable Coxe Cage field house at Yale University remains an integral part of the school’s track and field history thanks to the building’s new roof. Although the old cinder track and dirt floor were replaced with modern surfaces in 1982, the roof and its large, single-glazed skylight – both of which had deteriorated badly and needed replacing – had remained largely untouched for 80 years, until late 2013.

Built in 1928, the Cage was named for Charles Edmund Coxe, a hammer thrower on Yale’s squad. The story goes that Coxe, who was charged with raising funds for the new facility, offered the necessary $300,000 with the stipulation that it be named for him. Construction began on what then was considered one of the largest structures of its kind in the world. Measuring more than 350 feet long and 156 feet across with a ceiling reaching nearly 83 feet high, the building encloses more than 3.3 million cubic feet of air space.

The University hired Kiss + Cathcart Architects in Brooklyn, N.Y., to lead an evaluation of the technical feasibility, energy performance, aesthetics and cost of various envelope and mechanical upgrades and replacements. After review of the options and alternatives, it was determined that the first phase of renovation would concentrate on the roof and skylight.

Approximately 26,000 sq. ft. of Petersen Aluminum .040 aluminum Tite-Loc Plus panels were utilized on the project. The 16-inch O.C. panels were finished in PAC-CLAD Cool Color Zinc.

“This was a fairly complex roof,” said architect Colin Cathcart. “It included a ridge ventilator unit, giant vent fans and, of course, the massive skylight. The roof has enormous scale compared to most roof installations.”

The design team initially considered other roofing materials but settled on metal because of the life span, low maintenance and the look. “The view of the building and roof from the adjoining Yale Bowl was an important consideration,” Cathcart said. “We felt the standing seam panels interfaced nicely with the new skylight to retain the historical appearance. The metal matched up functionally and aesthetically with the performance of the skylight and the flashings, gutters and parapets.”

The Petersen roof was installed by Silktown Roofing, Manchester, Conn. The majority of the Tite-Loc Plus panels were 72-feet long. “Getting those long panels up on the roof by crane and landing them on a 7/12 slope was a real challenge,” said Steve Pumphrey, project manager. “The old roof was removed down to the existing tongue-and-groove decking. Then we stitched all of the decking boards with fasteners, installed an ice and water shield, then nailboard, and then another ice and water shield. But the toughest part was getting the long panels up there. Once that occurred, the job was relatively straightforward. Everybody loves it.”

Architect Colin Cathcart reiterated the challenges of the job. “It was an amazing logistical accomplishment necessitated by the scale of the roof,” Cathcart said. “Matching up all of the systems was really the primary design challenge. The overall installation went cleanly.”

The Petersen distributor was ABC Supply, Hartford, Conn. The general contractor on the project was Giordano Construction Company, Branford, Conn. The skylight was provided by E-Skylight Inc., Branford, CT.

If you are replacing old flashing, but not necessarily the entire roof, be careful not to damage existing shingles, because it can be difficult to find replacement shingles that are the same color. Vent boots typically are held in place by six nails: two below the pipe, two in the middle and two above the pipe. Carefully pry up just enough shingles to expose the nails and remove them. Pull the flashing up, turning it 90 degrees so it slips out from underneath the shingles.

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Sometimes, a warranty policy may be written for full replacement costs on roofing materials. Typically, the amount of coverage falls during each year in the warranty period, until it reaches zero after 25 years. To prorate a roof, take the total cost of materials when you purchased the roof and divide them by the warranty period, 25 years in this case. For each year the warranty is in existence, subtract one-twenty-fifth of the material costs.

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In places where winter means long stretches of subfreezing temperatures and frequent snows, sunlight and the warmth inside the attic causes snow to melt and run down from the peak to the gutters. The melted snow runs under accumulated snow, resulting in full gutters and thick drifts of slushy snow along the eaves of the roof. When the sun goes down the water along the eaves, which hang outside the walls of the house, freezes. Each day this happens, more snow melts, moves down toward the eaves and freezes. If snow is plentiful and the freeze-thaw cycle goes on long enough, icicles start forming and water begins backing up under shingles. As the water works backward under the shingles, it again encounters a warm surface where it begins to seep through the deck of the roof.

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Energy efficiency has become a significant consideration for building owners, facility managers, and contractors. Not only are they trying to meet more stringent state and municipality codes surrounding sustainability, but they are also tasked with accommodating the increasing energy demands of corporate tenants. When energy efficiency is achieved, so too are real-world operation cost savings, and the corporate sustainability mandates that matter to tenants. 

The building envelope, along with the roof, will either contribute to or hinder energy efficiency. Areas of energy loss may occur at numerous points in the structure, with the roof, walls, and ceiling all functioning as key contributors. Various insulation material options exist for new construction or the retrofit of an existing building and can assist in meeting energy efficiency goals. One material may be utilized for both roofing and wall assemblies, and has the ability to insulate, air and water seal, and control moisture throughout the building enclosure, eliminating the need for multiple materials.

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF) is utilized in commercial buildings as a single-source solution. As a thermal insulator, SPF boasts one of the highest R-values per inch of all options available. Because the material forms in-place and fully adheres, it virtually eliminates cracks and gaps that leak air. It can also be applied in a continuous layer, eliminating most thermal bypasses. The superior thermal performance and air-sealing from SPF lowers energy costs for the building over the lifespan of the product, which can be 50 years or more with proper maintenance. 

When used in roofing applications, SPF serves the dual purposes of protective roofing material and functioning as thermal insulation. Insulation effectiveness and performance – in roofing and the building envelope – is not measured by one factor alone, but rather by the assessment of combined considerations for air leakage, moisture control, health, safety, durability, comfort, and energy efficiency. SPF scores high in all categories. 

Because SPF provides thermal, air and moisture control, the versatile material not only maintains indoor temperatures and reduces energy costs but also protects the building against water and mold damage. SPF, along with mechanical ventilation, controls allergens and pollutants that can enter the structure. This improves indoor air quality and comfort, making the interior more habitable especially for those who suffer from allergies. 

A lightweight, durable solution, SPF can bolster the strength of the structure. The material is optimal for use across all geographic regions and climate types, and also requires little maintenance post-installation. Like many building products, spray polyurethane foam should always be installed by a professional installer utilizing proper handling and installation techniques with all safety precautions employed and followed. Choosing a professionally certified installer is recommended, and will help to ensure that the material is installed safely and correctly, which in turn ensures SPF's effectiveness at achieving energy efficiency. 

Rick Duncan is the technical director of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance and can be reached at rickduncan@sprayfoam.org.

CREDIT: Photo courtesy of USGC

September is National Preparedness Month, the perfect time to see how safety precautions integrated within building construction can protect tenants and material value from emergency situations. This article explores retrofits that can protect against earthquakes.


Earthquakes can wreak havoc on buildings, making large seismic joints critical for today’s code standards. Use a closing system that automatically reseals itself after a seismic event or a flexible cover, which can prevent wall and ceiling finishes from damage. Gravity activated seismic floor covers also return to a normal position after an event. These retrofit solutions minimize facility damage, offer occupants safe egress, and provide structural resilience against seismic activity.

Safeguard Your Building

Every retrofit project has unique movement criteria, making it important to understand how to integrate movement into expansion joint sizing and coverage. Sizing the building’s expansion joint appropriately to accommodate the joint cover assemblies and any accessories (such as fire, insulation, or vapor barriers) is necessary to ensure top performance during and after an event. This includes day-to-day movement cycles as well.

The California Memorial Stadium at the University of Berkeley, for example, faced a significant reconstruction challenge – the owners wanted to preserve the historic facade while adding seismic reinforcement. In addition to being built over the Hayward Fault, the precast horizontal stairs and vertical seating added a layer of complexity.

The solution was a series of angled joint covers that cut across the seating bowl and followed the profile of the stadium seating. Each custom joint accommodates 12 inches of expansion, compression, and lateral movement while preventing holes or gaps.

Design for Resilience

Off-the-shelf solutions rarely work for retrofits, making this a field of customization. To effectively communicate specifications needed to the manufacturer, facility managers should understand their loading needs. Manufacturers may then select a cover type that can be engineered appropriately for the required loading scenarios and expansion joint cover connections that will effectively transfer loads back to the structure.

When the Utah State Capitol underwent its seismic retrofit, the 98-year-old, 320,000-square-foot building needed to accommodate 24 inches of universal movement. Project managers closely examined the loading conditions of each moat cover area and the connections back to the structure. Covers were designed so they could adequately carry pedestrian traffic and maintenance equipment and ensure that the moat cover finishes would endure maximum loading conditions.

Consider Aesthetic Appeal

What joint finishes will compliment your space? Working with your manufacturer closely will ensure an effective solution that naturally blends with the existing structure. Consider how daily building movement may displace cover systems. To avoid an undesired finish or hazard, select a qualified installer to ensure a quality installation with the desired finish.

After withstanding a 1989 earthquake, the de Young Museum in San Francisco needed a covert way to prevent further damage. During a 1993 rebuild, the facility incorporated a base isolation system that could flex up to 42 inches in any horizontal direction. Though placed on the building’s exterior, the seismic joints are hidden underneath a copper skin.

Expansion joint covers that bridge the gaps created by seismic retrofits are critical elements that positively affect structure stability, occupant safety, and building aesthetics. Providing new buildings and existing structures with enhanced measures greatly increases resiliency and long-term property value. Bestowing your property with the capability to withstand a seismic event is a critical step that’s never too late to consider.

Kevin W. Smith, PE, is the Engineering Manager for the Expansion Joint Cover Division at Construction Specialties. Kevin can be reached at KSmith@c-sgroup.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: DICK WOODSustainability has always been a tough fit for retailers. The smaller profit margins under which most retailers operate and the short-term financial deals developers typically use in structuring retail projects make green retail challenging at best.

Recently, though, the tide has begun to turn as retailers have recognized not only the public relations value of “going green,” but also the economic advantages. These benefits include: greater productivity since employees working in green facilities typically have fewer health problems, lower operating costs, and increased interest among prospective tenants.  In a recent survey of more than 1,400 facility management professionals, over 45 percent of respondents identified energy efficiency in buildings as their top carbon reduction strategy.

While green retail is gaining momentum, 2008’s economic downturn continues to shift the attention of many shopping center owners with large portfolios away from building new retail centers and toward retrofitting existing centers. The Institute for Building Efficiency concludes that while roughly two percent of commercial floor space is newly constructed each year, existing buildings represent the most opportunities of improving energy efficiency over the next several decades.

Some older retail centers have gone “all in” on retrofits. Federal Realty Investment Trust, for example, recently installed a roof and ground-mounted 1,146 kW solar panel system at Ellisburg Shopping Center, an aging center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The solar system provides approximately 20 percent of the electric needs for the tenants and common area of the center and an estimated lifetime carbon dioxide reduction of 22,992 tons. 

More commonly, though, retail facility owners or managers are turning to simple retrofits that can be easily – and economically incorporated to make their centers more sustainable. For example: 

1) Thermal envelope improvements (insulation, roofing, windows, etc.): By frequently inspecting their existing building stock for breaches in the thermal envelope caused by gaps, cracks, and missing insulation, owners and operation managers can increase energy efficiency and reduce the risk of indoor air quality problems. 

2) HVAC upgrades: About 40 percent of the electricity used in commercial buildings is from their HVAC systems. Substantial energy savings can readily be achieved by increasing the efficiency of the HVAC systems. Have a professional inspect your system and ensure that is size correctly for the heating and cooling needs. Too often systems are too large for the requirements or undersized. Replacing components to match the heating and cooling needs with more energy efficient components could significantly reduce the operational energy costs. 

3) Lighting upgrades: Compared to other energy saving strategies, lighting upgrades are typically the most profitable and easiest retrofit investment. The Energy Cost Savings Council determined that lighting improvements can produce a 45 percent return on investment in an average project payback period of just over two years. 

4) Sub-metering: Retailers – including banks, grocery stores, and companies with multiple buildings require a sub-metering strategy to achieve additional energy savings beyond the traditional upgrades. Sub-metering makes tenants aware of their energy use and when tenants pay for what they consume, they become more prudent. 

5) Waste heat recovery: Recovery of waste heat has a direct impact on the efficiency of the process, resulting in reductions in pollution, equipment size, and auxiliary energy consumption. The use of the heat produced by some building systems can be collected and used for other purposes. For example the high energy demands of refrigeration systems at a food retailer. The reuse of the waste heat from cooling and refrigeration systems can decrease the heating load of the store. 

Double-glazed, low-E glass to reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in summer, energy-efficient HVAC units, and energy management systems to monitor the performance of buildings are just the tip of the iceberg. Retail centers can lower cooling costs by up to eight percent by adding lighter, reflective membrane roofs that will reduce air-conditioning requirements. Similarly, outfitting the facility with energy-efficient bulbs, controlling exterior and interior lighting with timers and sensors, and adding tree foliage to help absorb carbon dioxide and shade the building during summer can result in both cost savings and a reduction in energy consumption.

When exploring energy retrofits, an owner or manager should consider the payback period, the return on investment, and costumer perception. A typical energy performance upgrade in the U.S. can expect savings of between 3-15% on utility bills. Simple measures such as swapping out old commercial air handling units with energy-efficient versions at the end of their useful life can help to offset retrofit costs. Periodic reviews of building operating systems and procedures are essential for optimal energy efficiency.

Renewable energy sources will undoubtedly continue to play a larger role in green buildings as fossil fuel energy prices continue to rise. Shopping center owners and retail facility managers must carefully choose priorities when ranking efficiency projects, regardless of whether those priorities are social, financial or environmental. Improving efficiency certainly provides an environmental benefit, but from a financial perspective it is a winner as well. 

Dustin Watson is a partner and director of sustainability at DDG and can be reached at dwatson@ddg-usa.com


Joel Avila, volunteer and Young Professionals Board member (left) and guests at the job readiness course enjoyed the presentation about careers in the metals industry given by John Palesny (second from left), president of Petersen Aluminum Corp.

Joel Avila, volunteer and Young Professionals Board member (left) and guests at the job readiness course enjoyed the presentation about careers in the metals industry given by John Palesny (second from left), president of Petersen Aluminum Corp.

Elk Grove Village, Ill. (Aug. 25, 2014) – Guests at the Breakthrough Urban Ministries’ shelter in Chicago received career advice and job search tips in August when John Palesny, president of Petersen Aluminum Corp. in Elk Grove Village, Ill., gave a presentation during the organization’s Job Readiness Course.

In addition to employment advice, Palesny shared the background of the metals industry as well as a list of qualities manufacturers look for when considering candidates for employment. “The guests at the shelter were receptive to the advice I was sharing with them. They asked good questions and were really engaged. I enjoyed the experience and was happy to help,” Palesny said. The mission of the job readiness course was to equip shelter guests with the skills they need to be successful in their pursuit of employment.

Volunteer and member of the Breakthrough Young Professionals Board Ashley DeVecht said the evening was a success. “Shelter guests were receptive to John and we had a lively Q&A session after he was finished making his presentation. Many of the guests were eager to share their experience with the metals industry. Some had worked for garage door manufacturers or with a company that made paint cans. Many were certified to drive a fork lift, too. John left them with an inquisitive outlook toward the metals industry and with confidence in their skill sets and job experience. That is the most valuable outcome of John’s talk—confidence.”

Breakthrough partners with those affected by poverty on Chicago’s west side, and serves Chicago’s men, women and children in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. Breakthrough has been working for 20 years to bring forward what’s positive about the East Garfield Park neighborhood and eliminate its struggle against the cycle of poverty. Services include a men’s shelter, women’s shelter, afterschool program, preschool-age program, Fresh Market neighborhood food pantry, mentor-based youth running club and much more.

Each year, Breakthrough …
… serves 70,000 meals to the homeless;
… provides 300 homeless men and women with 24/7 shelter and free health care;
… connects 580 youth to a support network that provides opportunity;
… supplies 1,100 families with groceries and fresh produce.

For more information visit www.breakthrough.org.