Small Bites, Big Meetings: Make IRS Security Job a Success

By Curt Harler | Jun 15, 2003




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It’s safe to say the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) keeps close watch on everyone’s money. Especially its own revenues and expenditures.

That is why the contractors who completed the recent security project at the IRS’s Kansas City location—including closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV), fencing and other anti-terrorist systems—had to be on top of everything, all the time.

The project went to Mark One Electric Co. Inc. (, Kansas City, Mo.), according to Company President Rosana Privitera Biondo. Tony Privitera, her brother and a vice president, oversaw all the electrical work.

The job, known as the Rosana Square IRS facility in Overland Park, Kan., was done in five phases. “The challenge,” Tony Privitera said, “was to take an existing, occupied, 100,000 square-foot building and expand it without interrupting the day-to-day operations of the tenant.”

The entire project was planned, built and scheduled around Rosana Square, an active shopping center, and the nearby neighborhoods.

No slam dunk

Lots of little nuances made this a challenging job. At the request of the owner, there was to be no electrical room. On GSA property, they will pay rent on a telecommunications closet, but generally not on an electrical room.

Viewed from above, the facility is a very long building.

There are 40 CCTV cameras, a console in a monitoring room, data, electric, fire, speakers, card readers and a host of other low-voltage applications installed.

Underground conduits link the data and phone systems along with the CCTV and card readers. Since Sept. 11, 2001, a new landscape fence barrier controlled with iron gates and one-armed barriers prohibits unauthorized people from even getting close to the buildings by car.

Access cards are required to gain entry to the buildings as well.

Heating and air conditioning was another challenge. The building is all-electric. They looked at having a chiller system or using multiple 80-ton units. But there was a job requirement setting a maximum of 1,750 square feet per zone. Instead, they went with multiple six-ton packaged units. That means there were roughly 150 rooftop units to be installed. Environmental Mechanical Contractors of Olathe, Kan., handled HVAC.

“In addition,” Privitera said, “we ended up with a building that is six-way redundant.” The building is fed with a loop with six meters, one every 20,000 square feet. “If something goes down, the rest stays up,” he added.

In addition to the security requirements of working in a government facility, each of the five phases posed its own challenges. Phase One required minimizing disruption of IRS activities while work progressed.

To accommodate these requests, a “swing space” was set aside. Workers moved there on a temporary basis while work was completed in their areas. Once an area was completed, workers returned to their desks with minimal disruption.

Since there were to be no electrical closets, the building’s distribution system is six 1,200A meter banks. KCPL provided six 300kW transformers with a redundant feed. Each transformer is metered and then turned into a single bill. Each meter bank location has 12 225A breakers feeding 12 225A 120/208V panels, for a total of 72 panels.

The panels are spaced every 25 feet in the 2,000-foot-long building. “The idea was to use the six meter bank locations with the KCPL transformers as the distribution spaced out about every 20,000 square feet,” Privitera said. This eliminates large, costly conduit runs.

The building has occupancy sensors for all lighting. It is a parabolic two-by-four system with electronic ballasts.

The HVAC system is controlled by an Automated Logic Building Automation System. There is a personal computer which controls and monitors every unit. The system has color screen visual pictures of the building so the user can promptly identify cold or hot spots.

Phase Two also required minimizing disruptions. This time, a main sanitary trunk line, main storm sewer trunk line and 13,000V electrical duct bank had to be relocated. Each was active and served adjoining properties, yet had to be relocated before the City of Overland Park would allow footings for the new addition to be poured.

“The solution,” Privitera said, “was to treat each utility relocation as its own project.” This required extensive co-ordination and cooperation among J.E. Dunn Construction Company, Kansas City—the general contractor—and each of the subcontractors.

“Due to the nature of the project, everyone knew that there was added service required,” said Paul Oberle, senior project manager for J.E. Dunn. “Because of that and the need for speed on this project, we held weekly meetings.” The sessions discussed what happened in the previous week and what was planned.

“Everyone was on board and got to see and hear everything,” Oberle continued. “It minimized the amount of information loss.”

The meetings between the project managers and on-site foremen made the necessary teamwork possible. Phase Two went on schedule.

The contractors

“The honest truth: the meetings and the people made it work,” Privitera said. Without fail, every Tuesday all contractors, trades, subcontractors and suppliers had to attend a meeting.

It worked for everyone, and is a necessary ingredient for J.E. Dunn Company, which is proud of its ability to work with others. They note that relationships were everything to founder John Ernest Dunn. Today, over 75 percent of the company’s business comes from repeat customers and referrals.

“All the meetings were kept to an hour,” Oberle said. He noted that the subcontractors on the project were a selected or negotiated group. The major subcontractors were hand-picked, some with negotiated contracts or with a set fee for the work.

While contractor meetings are part of the process for J.E. Dunn, traditionally, Oberle said, they hold contractor meetings every other week.

Oberle said the weekly meetings were part of a winning strategy. “Everyone sensed that a lot of work was happening fast. Not too much was terribly complicated, but the speed required update meetings and talking about where we had to go.”

Chad Althouse, project manager for Environmental Mechanical agreed that the meetings helped. “They made it a smooth-running project,” he said. “But the thing that was different on this job was we had the same team of contractors on all of the different phases. We worked together, so the right hand knew what the left hand was doing.”

Althouse has been involved in projects where different players show up for different phases. “The Tuesday meetings are typical most places,” he said. “But having the same team made a big difference.” Generally, they had two to three weeks notice on what they were expected to do next. “That gave us time to schedule deliveries and work,” he added. All-State Mechanical was the plumbing contractor.

Sequencing was well defined and chiseled in stone before the aspects of the jobs got underway. Rigorous scheduling was the rule of the day, but it allowed an aggressive timetable. “We made sure the concrete for the floors was poured before the steel contractor arrived. Everyone had a set time to do their work,” Privitera said. “There were no weak links in the chain.”

Electrically, everything was tested in an off-site facility before it was hauled to the job. “We counted everything. We checked for breakage. We tested 2,000 light fixtures. Everything went from truck to ceiling,” Privitera said.

“If you have a good owner who understands construction, then things go smooth,” Privitera added. It is an industry truism that discontent on a job tends to spread like wildfire. “If the owner does not understand construction, there’s trouble ahead.”

Five phases

Once the project was scheduled, everyone made Herculean efforts to keep on track. Phase One was the addition of a second floor over the center core entry. Phase Two extended the east wing of the original building 215 feet. These two phases amounted to a total of 30,000 square feet.

Phase Three was renovation and re-carpeting of the 100,000-square-foot original building. New mechanical systems for the facility’s mainframe computer room and telecommunications switch were installed. A new cooling system for the computer room was installed. It consisted of three separate cooling units, each with its own duct work, running on a four-hour rotation and monitored remotely through an automated system.

Phase Four transformed a former movie theatre—the 38,000-square-foot Movies 10 building—into a two-story, 100,000-square-foot office building. All communications and data systems had to be tied into the existing facility. This phase started at the same time as Phase Two and ran throughout Phase Three. The front and rear quarters of the building were demolished. All utilities were removed. The footprint of the building were expanded and the structural steel was reinforced to support the second floor.

To save the tenant money, the building’s telecommunications and data systems were tied back into the original building, eliminating the need for a new phone switch and second mainframe.

Phase Four had some permitting delays. “But through extensive coordination, good weather, excellent safety practices and some overtime, this phase of the project was also delivered on time,” Privitera said.

Phase Five was similar, taking a 20,000-square-foot building to the south and tying communications and data back to the original building.

Despite the complexity of the job, the remodeling went off smoothly. The multiple security improvements, air conditioning and other projects went well.

That left everyone involved with good feelings—for the project, for the other contractors, and even for the IRS.

HARLER, a frequent contributor to SECURITY & LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at 440.238.4556 or [email protected]. 


About The Author

Curt Harler, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He also can be reached at 440.238.4556.





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