While working on the electrical installations at The Pampered Chef world headquarters and processing facility in Addison, Ill., the design/build staff of Electrical Design Systems Corporation (EDS) felt anything but pampered.

The design/build process for the project started with a rough outline of the project, and ultimately proceeded to a full set of 30-plus electrical drawings. The responsibilities of EDS included the design of a complete electrical distribution system, an interface with local utilities for service construction and connection, and the design of a complete power and lighting system that included a main computer room, the design of a voice-activated fire alarm system and the generator/UPS distribution system.

During construction of the new facility, the staff at 17-year-old EDS experienced typical industry challenges, as well as obstacles specifically attributed to design/build projects, yet still managed to complete the project on time, without any scheduling changes or difficulties.

Tim McJilton, vice president at EDS, located in Aurora, Ill., recalled some of the biggest challenges to completing The Pampered Chef project:

“The biggest challenge was right at the start of the job, when the initial design was the major hurdle for a variety of reasons. One reason was there was not a great deal of accurate information available. We had to be really aggressive with the customer and the general contractor to get the information from them—because they weren’t really sure of what they wanted to do—and they had this looming deadline for the new building’s completion. From the time we received the sketches until the time when we had to submit permit drawings, we had a two-month window, which is just insane for the amount of work they were looking to do with the project.”

He continued, “There were two other things we dealt with, although not huge obstacles. One was the municipality in which we were doing this work was in the process of changing their codes, from total National Electrical Code to adopting an international code. In between this change, there were some gray areas of interpretation that had to be hammered out, so we had to work fairly closely with the municipality as well.”

McJilton added, “The other problem was the weather. We were getting into the late fall and winter when construction actually started, so we were facing some fairly severe weather blocks. In the warehouse specifically, we were working off of a dirt floor, which in some areas was very unstable, but we still hit our deadlines. It took a lot of ingenuity on the part of my in-the-field guys to get that part of it done. The office areas actually had ice on the floors at some points, yet there were no changes to the schedule based on this weather. It was go from the start, so we really had to manage the job intensely from day to day as weather conditions changed.”

Plans for the new 42-acre world headquarters and household goods processing facility included an 180,000-square-foot, three-story office building and an adjacent 600,000-square-foot processing facility. The role of EDS required attention to a corporate data center supported by a 650kW standby diesel generator and UPS system; executive offices with indirect lighting; a theatre with state-of-the-art audio/visual systems; three complete test kitchens for product development; video production studio for media development; and kitchen and cafeteria facilities with an outdoor courtyard.

The office area required EDS to install a number of electrical specialty systems including open area lighting controlled by motion sensors that incorporate the latest heat- and motion-sensing technology; a fire alarm system with voice activation and fireman’s call system; and dimming systems in the special functions room and executive meeting rooms. Overall, EDS installed a total of four electrical services for the facility: a 3,000A HVAC service for electric heat, a 4,000A and 3,000A for general service, and a 2,000A service for shipping and receiving operations. The electrical system includes three electrical closets on each floor with individual distribution systems for electric heat, lighting and power.

Along with indoor electrical installation, The Pampered Chef project also called for a certain amount of additional outdoor lighting. The site lighting included bronze anodized aluminum poles with matching luminaries, wall-mounted high-intensity discharge (HID) fixtures, as well as an elaborate landscape, tree and flag lighting scheme along the main driveway leading to the main entry of the office building. The site lighting is controlled by two state-of-the-art microprocessor control panels, which were also installed and programmed by EDS.

One of the only aspects of The Pampered Chef project that was not handled by EDS was the overall security system, which was handled by the customer directly.

McJilton noted, “The customer decided they wanted to hire the security directly, so they did that on their own. We did all the power and piping for them, and then someone else pulled, trimmed and tested it. We actually bid on the teledata portion of the job and the security portion of the job and our numbers were pretty close on both of those, as we do security systems installation work as well. In fact, we are pushing to be a one-source contractor as much as possible, and have invested in training our staff for this goal specifically.”

As for the safety factor on this project, McJilton said, “As a company, I think we have one of the better safety programs in place in this area, as far as electrical contractors go. The weather conditions were a site-specific problem, because of the ice on the floor and the unstable conditions at the warehouse, so those were situations we pointed out to our men on a weekly basis in our weekly Toolbox Talks, giving them a heads up. So everyone was on heightened sense of safety in addition to the weather. There were a few injuries on the job, but nothing serious, just minor items.”

Now completed, McJilton said The Pampered Chef project is frequently used by his company as a marketing tool for the talents of EDS and its staff.

“We use this project a lot in our marketing because the project basically doubled in size, in terms of the actual dollar amount through the course of the project, and there was no schedule change. As I look back, that was probably the biggest challenge of the whole thing: that from the initial stage of the initial design, and the initial drawings we sent for permit, the job doubled, yet the time frame stayed the same. The job ultimately cost $4 million, and was scheduled for approximately $2 million.”

“Everything we have done on previous projects was accelerated tremendously on this job because of the short time frame, and the number of men we had to marshal to actually get this work done. We spent a lot of time up front deciding who we were going to have on the job, so we were confident with their skills. This ultimately proved to be the right decision, because when it came right down to it, we were able to get the work done within the time frame we had, without any schedule changes,” he said. EC

SILVA, a Hollywood, Fla.-based freelance writer, can be reached via e-mail at bsilva23@hotmail.com.