Marine Electric Takes the High-Tech Route

Education customers keep coming back:

The University of Louisville, a state-supported research university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area, was a municipally supported public institution prior to joining the university system in 1970; its 274-acre Belknap Campus is just three miles from downtown Louisville and houses seven of the university’s 11 colleges and schools. Construction of a new 106,000-square-foot, three-story research building, plus basement and mechanical penthouse, began in January 2004 and was completed in May 2006. The approximately $40 million Belknap Campus Research Center was designed to provide cutting-edge facilities for physical, biological, chemical and engineering research and to create new knowledge and educational opportunities. It houses the largest clean room in the state, where researchers use a wide range of equipment to fabricate, package and test various microelectronic devices and circuits.

Several multimillion dollar grants from federal agencies will help support research conducted at the center, including those from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA. In the fall of 2004, the high-profile project was spotlighted in the news in Louisville, bringing it to the attention of Marine Electric Co. Inc., Louisville.

“We had finished working on another research building project just 18 months before and decided we had the necessary experience and manpower to successfully bid on the Belknap project,” said Dan Swintosky, president. The company presented its bid directly to the university, with which it has had a 30-year relationship. Marine Electric then was awarded the contract for the $3 million plus electrical and security system installation and integration.

Messer Construction Co., as the university’s choice for construction manager, was joined by OMNI Architects and Staggs & Fisher Consulting Engineers Inc. to round out the construction team.

“As the Belknap construction project was a public one, we were awarded the contract based on our low bid. However, we have performed work on a number of various electrical and security installations for the university in research buildings, libraries and housing units,” Swintosky said.

Partners in progress
For more than two decades, Marine Electric and Messer Construction have worked together on various projects in the educational, institutional and commercial markets. Although by comparison, Marine Electric’s relationship with Staggs & Fisher is new at only 10 years, the two companies have developed into close working partners through open communication and each other’s willingness to work as a team to resolve engineering design issues, which normally might arise during a project.

During the design of the offices, labs and clean room, Marine Electric provided input to ensure system constructability and that the products specified would fulfill the university’s requirements.

“Marine Electric took an active role in planning the project and in foreseeing potential stumbling blocks in terms of constructability, scheduling, budgets and providing solutions early in the process,” said Mark D. Ketterer, project executive for Messer Construction.

Marine Electric’s scope of work consisted of installing the power distribution, lighting, security, fire alarm, firestopping, seismic restraint, toxic gas monitoring and lightning protection systems and integrating them all into the university’s Department of Public Safety infrastructure.

With specification parameters provided by OMNI Architects, Marine Electric turned to its team of trusted subcontractors for design and installation support. Koorsen Fire & Security Inc., Indianapolis, designed the security system wiring; Orr Protection Systems Inc., Louisville, was responsible for designing the fire alarm and closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV) system; MST Technology Inc., Schaumburg, Ill., was responsible for the toxic gas detection system; Cas-Air-Co. Inc., Goshen, Ky., was the designer and vendor of the seismic restraint system, which is particularly important in a facility conducting specialized research, and SimplexGrinnell, Westminster, Mass., integrated the systems into the university’s existing infrastructure.

It took an average of 14 Marine electricians and a peak of 22 to perform the work. The power distribution system included the installation of two 13.8-kilovolt, double-ended substations; two step-down transformers; 480-volt distribution breakers and panels; and a 120/208 double-ended switchgear to power the facility’s equipment, lighting and motor control centers.

“We also installed an emergency 480-volt backup generator, which feeds emergency panels for the security, life safety and evacuation systems,” said Mike Jury, senior project manager.

Lighting for the facility meant installing 2,500 fixtures, including wall-mount, pendant, chandelier, linear fluorescent, incandescent and halogen.

“Lighting is controlled by local switches and individual dimming controls,” said Mike Karem, project manager. Marine Electric was also responsible for installing the site lighting, which consisted of 150-watt metal halide lamps on 30 concrete-supported, 12-foot poles around the parking lot and building perimeter, along with wall-mount metal halide fixtures outside doors and recessed metal halide fixtures in the covered walkways surrounding the building.

The security system installation included exterior CCTV cameras, which send images of activity at emergency call boxes to the university’s Department of Public Safety, and interior cameras at the building entrance and clean room, which continuously record activity. Coaxial cabling was run from each camera to control panels in the security equipment room and tied to the campus-wide Department of Public Safety network, which is notified of unauthorized activity. Other devices in the security system included card access readers, most of which are located on the first floor to restrict building entry and limit access to sensitive areas; door position switches; motion detectors to monitor activity during unauthorized hours; and voice alarms to announce security breaches.

“Twisted, shielded cable for each device was run to control panels in strategically located security equipment rooms. Each panel is then linked by fiber optic cabling to the main control panel and to the Department of Public Safety,” Jury said. Approximately 200 devices make up the fire alarm system, including pull stations, strobes, horn strobes, smoke detectors, duct detectors and magnetic door locks. In addition, four infrared smoke detectors were installed at the top of the atrium lobby. Multi-conductor, twisted, shielded wiring was run from each device and terminated at the main fire alarm control panel and tied by fiber optic cabling into the same backbone as the security system.

“We also installed a remote annunciator in the lobby for firefighters,” Karem said. The clean room, which has positive air pumped into it to ensure 100 percent sterile conditions, required a toxic gas monitoring system composed of 100 sensing and pull station devices and 50 sensors, alarms and pull stations in the room’s support areas. Devices were connected to three alarm panels, which were then integrated into the main security and fire alarm control panels.

The security, fire alarm and toxic gas monitoring systems are designed to communicate with each other to allow, for example, door locks to be released in the event of an emergency.

Challenges and successes
The clean room required that all materials and equipment had to be cleaned and wiped down prior to installation.

“Electricians had to comply with various protocols concerning changing clothes and wearing special sterile suits,” Jury said. To minimize the amount of dirt and dust at the site, the build-out was done from the third floor down, rather than the bottom-up. Coordinating schedules of the five different types of contractors and integrators involved in the installation of the security system required that any issues and their solutions had to be communicated clearly on a daily basis.

“In addition, integrating the center’s building systems with the campus system was difficult,” said Kevin Wells, systems integration foreman. There were at least 4,000 monitoring points that had to be integrated, tested and documented with the Department of Public Safety’s infrastructure.

Finally, the amount of the mechanical equipment and electrical systems required for the installation created extensive coordination and logistical issues.

“The main air handlers were situated in the penthouse and the generators exhaust, and the switchgear were in the basement, which meant that piping and conduit had to share a common mechanical shaft,” Karem said.

All the trades worked in tightly confined spaces and had to coordinate their schedules daily. The team held extensive coordination meetings and created a work environment that fostered cooperation. Jury said all of the trades communicated well and worked together with the common goal of a successful project.

“Marine Electric stepped forward as a leader in meetings and partnered with Messer Construction to help create a team environment that ensured the project remained on track,” Ketterer said.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to SECURITY+LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or by e-mail at



About the Author

Darlene Bremer

Freelance Writer

Darlene Bremer, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributed frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR until the end of 2015.

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