Power Solutions helps builds green community center

IN 2004, THE COUNTY OF Arlington, Va., located just outside Washington, D.C., decided to build a new community center to provide recreational programs and an adult facility for senior citizens. But the county didn’t want just an ordinary community center; it wanted a “green” facility that would earn Silver-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the LEED green building rating system is a voluntary, consensus-based national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings. LEED was created to define “green buildings” by establishing a common standard of measurement, promote integrated, whole-building design practices, recognize environmental leadership in the building industry, stimulate green competition, raise consumer awareness of green building benefits and transform the building market.

Owned by the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Support Services, the $9 million Walter Reed Community Center is a one-story (with basement) 35,000-square-foot building with a 50 person capacity meeting room; 150 person capacity multipurpose room; gymnasium; kitchen; rooms for exercise, arts and crafts, and games; a teen lounge; and an arcade.

On the grounds are a playground, picnic area and basketball and lighted tennis courts. The county chose RTKL Associates Inc., Washington, D.C., to design the facility and HITT Contracting, Fairfax, Va., to be the general contractor.

If the Silver LEED certification was to be achieved, the project needed an electrical contractor to join the team with the experience and ability to provide an energy-efficient installation that included state-of-the-art lighting management technology and controls. HITT Contracting invited Power Solutions LLC, Lanham, Md., to bid on the project.

“We have worked with HITT Contracting for more than a decade on various projects in the D.C. metropolitan area in the commercial, healthcare, data center, government, and telecommunications markets,” said Ike Atkinson, president and co-owner of Power Solutions.

Power Solutions has also worked with the architect on multiple projects over the years, including office building construction and tenant build-outs. After providing the general contractor with the lowest bid with the highest value, Power Solutions was awarded the $1.25 million traditional electrical and fire alarm portion of the project. It would take an average of five electricians and a peak of 12, from August 2004 to March 2006, to execute the project.

A sense of community

Also on the construction team was Tyler Mechanical, Ijamsville, Md., and Federated Lighting, manufacturers’ representative for Lithonia Lighting, Conyers, Ga., and WattStopper Inc., Santa Clara, Calif.

“The goal was to put together a team that had the most expertise and financial and manpower resources to handle the job,” Atkinson said.

Before construction of the foundation could begin, compacted recycled-stone fill was required to make its location suitable for LEED certification. In addition, roadways and parking lot areas that sat on unsuitable soils were undercut and replaced with suitable fill.

LEED certification requirements also meant that recycled materials had to be used throughout the project, including the steel and timber, which came from sustainable managed forests. No volatile organic compound paints were used in the interior of the building, and the sloped roof was topped with planting soil and vegetation as part of the stormwater management system.

With design/assist responsibilities for the project, Power Solutions worked with RTKL and Federated Lighting to establish how the lighting control systems needed to be designed and installed to provide the highest levels of functionality while complying with LEED certification requirements.

The architect, however, was the product specifier for the center. Power Solutions’ scope of work included installing the power distribution, lighting, fire alarm and lighting controls systems as well as installing the rough-ins for the voice/data, security and audio/visual systems.

For power, Dominion Virginia Power installed a new transformer on-site. Power Solutions’ electricians ran the power from the utility equipment to the newly installed 2,000-amp switchboard in the basement electrical room. From the switchboard, power was routed to six distribution panels located throughout the building to provide the most efficient branch-circuit distribution.

“From the six distribution panels, power was routed via PVC and EMT conduit to the HVAC equipment, electrical outlets and switches throughout the building, kitchen equipment, interior and exterior lighting, and miscellaneous office and multipurpose equipment and devices,” said Michael O’Connor, project manager.

For the fire alarm system, Power Solutions was responsible for routing PVC and EMT conduit and wire both in underfloor slabs and in ceilings for the approximate 60 devices, including duct smoke detectors, smoke detectors, strobes, horn strobes, pull stations and tamper and flow switches.

Wiring for the installed devices was then run to the central fire alarm control panel in the basement and interconnected to a fire alarm annunciator panel in the main lobby. The entire system was integrated with the security system by the county’s own personnel, but Power Solutions provided the necessary integration modules.

The security, voice/data and audio/visual system rough-ins included the installation of PVC, EMT conduit and associated raceways for the wiring and cable trays. The county used its own contractors to install the voice/data cabling for telephones and computers, the security cabling for the card access devices and door monitors, and wiring for the cable TV and speaker system.

The right lighting and lighting controls were an integral part of obtaining LEED certification. Interior lighting consisted mostly of fluorescent parabolic lamp sources in various types of direct and indirect fixtures, including rack, recessed, pendant, wall-mounted and high-bay (for the gymnasium). Exterior lighting included high-pressure sodium wall-mounted fixtures for egress lighting and site lighting to illuminate the parking lot and walking trails.

“For the parking lot, high-pressure sodium lamps were mounted on 26-foot poles, and for the walking trail, the lamps were mounted on 14-foot poles,” O’Connor said.

The lighting control system was designed to comply with LEED requirements and consisted of occupancy sensors, daylight harvesting and timed event sequencing. Daylight sensors were installed in the gymnasium, teen lounge, game room and main lobby, since multiple windows in those locations illuminate the rooms with natural daylight.

“The sensors are preset to determine when man-made light can be shed to save power and energy,” O’Connor said.

Timed-event sequencing is obtained through a Lithonia lighting control system for the kitchen, multipurpose and other large gathering rooms, and the reception area. Lighting energy management in the rest of the building is controlled using wall or ceiling-mounted motion sensors from Watt Stopper.

“The system is designed with an energy-savings concept that maximizes the use of the sun to provide maximum levels of natural light,” O’Connor said. “A unique challenge of working on a LEED project was ensuring that field personnel complied consistently with certification requirements for the removal of construction debris and recycling.”

The company held orientation meetings with on-site electricians to outline the LEED requirements and the importance of complying with them to ensure certification.

“We also had to make sure the electricians used the correct recycling containers provided by the general contractor,” he said.

Another challenge the company faced that was unique to a LEED project was working with the different kinds of building materials, such as wheat boards in place of standard drywall and corkboard for flooring in place of standard carpet or tile flooring.

“We had to learn how to work around these types of materials without damaging them,” O’Connor said.

The team used plywood or masonite composites to cover and protect these unique, energy-efficient building materials. Winning the Silver level LEED designation (it will take six to eight months after the project was completed to determine if it qualified) required open communication among the team members and between project management and field personnel, according to Atkinson.

“The regular meetings that we held to discuss the project’s progress allowed issues or problems to be resolved quickly and to keep the project on schedule and on budget,” he said.   EC

 

LEED CERTIFICATION

THE FIRST STEP toward earning LEED certification is project registration. Once registered, the project team prepares documentation and the necessary calculations to satisfy the prerequisite and credit submittal requirements. A scoring system determines whether the project meets LEED sustainability goals and will receive certification. Based on well-founded scientific standards, LEED emphasizes state-of-the-art strategies for sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. If the project team feels that sufficient grounds exist to appeal a certification denial, it has the option to appeal. Detailed information can be found at www.usgbc.org.


POWER SOLUTIONS HISTORY

IN 1989, two separate electrical contractors in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area merged to form Power Solutions LLC. The company was intended to serve large, national telecommunications, data center and broadcasting clients. Today, the firm runs an average of 300 electricians in the field and 40 office staff providing project management, design, estimating, budgeting, legal, accounting and administrative support. Another office in Williamsburg, Va., handles local contracts in that area. With average annual sales of $53 million, Power Solutions provides its customers with electrical, voice/data, controls, electrical testing, and security and life safety installations in the commercial, government, utility, healthcare, telecommunications and data center markets. Since its inception, the company has been committed to pursuing long-term relationships with its customers and delivering the highest possible levels of quality workmanship, technical expertise, service and customer satisfaction.

 

PROJECT PARTNERS:

ARLINGTON COUNTY, VA.—Owner
HITT CONTRACTING INC.— General contractor
POWER SOLUTIONS LLC— Electrical contractor
RTKL ASSOCIATES INC.—Architect
TYLER MECHANICAL— Mechanical contractor

 

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or by e-mail at darbremer@comcast.net.