U.S. Patent Office Breaks the Mold

The US Patent and Trademark Office headquarters (USPTO) in Alexandria, Virginia, received a citation in the Engineering and Technology category from the General Services Administration (GSA) as part of the agency’s 2006 Design Awards Program. The GSA Design Awards Program is held every two years to honor the best of the federal projects designed and constructed by GSA.

Completed in 2005, the $885 million USPTO complex comprises 2.5 million square feet of space in five 10-story office buildings. There are two open parking structures each with a 77,000-square-foot townhouse-style office building fronting them. There were six buildings and two parking garages in the total project.

Power Solutions of Bowie, Md., and Sachs Electric Co. of Fenton, Mo., were part of the team that put together the energy-efficient project.

“Power Solutions got involved with the project through Turner Construction Co.,” said Glenn Phillips, their senior project man-ager on the USPTO job. Power Solutions was involved on projects with Turner in the past, so both were familiar with each other’s needs and expectations.

The engineering challenge for the project was to design future-forward, highly energy-efficient building systems within a tight budget and, most importantly, to address the GSA’s demands for a phased control and operations strategy that would give the agency maximum flexibility.

Automated controls and systems installed

To meet those requirements, the design team at Syska Hennessy Group, headquartered in New York, developed an innovative approach to campus district cooling by designing interconnected, decentralized chiller plants with state-of-the-art primary pumping and plant opti-mization controls. The design provided an advanced-yet-flexible approach for electrical, life-safety and filtration systems. The design meets the GSA’s need to run the campus as a single, efficient, cost-effective unit while respecting the developer’s potential need to operate each building independently.

The primary electrical service distribution system was conceived to be efficient and easy to operate. The final solution required the developer/owner to control and maintain the campus medium-voltage service loop but significantly reduce the cost associated with individual building electric utility services.

“All of the fluorescent and most of the downlights had high-efficiency electronic ballasts controlled by the Base Building installed lighting management automation system produced by Watt Stopper/Legrand,” Phillips said.

The Watt Stopper Basic Control contactor panel combines multipole contactors with a system clock in a preassembled panel. The system provides line-voltage control for interior and exterior lighting.

“On our part of the campus, we installed approximately 500 lighting sensors and 16,500 lighting fixtures,” Phillips said.

“The repetitive nature of the work helped make it successful for us,” Kriegshauser said. He also cites the availability of quali-fied field labor and supervision provided by Local 26 as another contributing factor to the success of the project. However, everyone was juggling time and effort.

“Our main concerns, at first, were on Building C. That was because we are a ‘follow’ trade, and we had to worry about other contractors keeping their schedule, so we would be able to keep our schedule,” Phillips said. “As it turned out, Building C went fine, but Building A did not do so well.”

The concerns were unfounded, however. The workers were able to work around some of the scheduling difficulties to keep the job moving forward.

“We installed approximately 60,000 feet of EMT conduit, 370,000 feet of THHN wire, 650,000 feet Type MC Cable and 5,000 gen-eral outlets in our portion of the project,” he said.

Sachs Electric installed the conduit for the building management system. Johnson Controls installed the wiring for the building management system. Dominion Virginia Power provided the campus power with two separate 35-kV feeds. Each supplied its own piece of switchgear in the buildings. A tiebreaker in each piece of switchgear allowed for backfeed from the other source if required.

A continuous loop from the 35-kV services supplies power to the four remaining buildings with transfer switches at each, allow-ing redundancy among the incoming feeds.

A rotary uninterruptible power supply system was installed on the site to supply the campus UPS. This was necessary because the quantity required for uninterrupted power was greater than a standard battery backup system could supply.

On the central campus, operational control centers (OCC) monitor power, lighting, elevators, fire alarm and heating ventilation and air conditioning system control and performance.

“As with the lighting management system, we connected our approximately 1,300 fire alarm devices to the base building Siemens brand fire alarm system,” Phillips said. The units were installed by Sachs Electric. For the security and closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveil-lance components, Power Solutions installed only the conduit raceways for the system. Sachs Electric installed the conduit for the security and CCTV.

The team

“Project coordination and ample supply of qualified manpower helped make the project successful,” Phillips said, adding praise to Local 26 IBEW inside wiremen who performed the entire job.

The USPTO project was delivered by a team led by developer LCOR that included Syska Hennessy Group (mechani-cal/electrical/plumbing engineering), Skidmore Owings & Merrill (architecture), Gensler (architecture), KCE Structural Engi-neers and Turner Construction. The GSA National Capital Region procured the developer-financed design/build/operate project, and it represents the largest lease of private space by the GSA to date.

At the electrical end, a job such as this eats up resources. The Power Solutions group included Jamey Giles, president; Ed Howell, vice president; Glenn Phillips, senior project manager; John Marlow and Walter Everett, superintendents; Paul Borgeson, general job site foreman; Eric Johnston, fire alarm and systems foreman; and Joe Cagnina and Mike Hardesty as subforemen.

Sachs Electric took over the work about 30 percent of the way through the project.

“It is a challenge any time you take over a job midstream,” said Pat Kriegshauser, chief financial officer for Sachs. “We took over the job for Fischbach & Moore as part of an agreement to complete certain projects for Fischbach in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland.”

Many were concerned about getting equipment to the job site.

“In terms of the field installation, site access was a great concern since the buildings were within the limits of the city of Alexandria, which affected material handling and delivery of equipment,” Kriegshauser said.

At the peak of the project, Sachs Electric had more than 200 electricians at the Patent Office site.

“There were also a number of other project management, design and support personnel on the project,” Kriegshauser said. “The combined field labor of all trades involved was close to 1,000 people.”

It was that people-power that made both the standard and low-voltage power project work. That just proves a government-related job, given the right people in the right places, can be as effective as any other project.

HARLER, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at 440.238.4556 or curt@curtharler.com.


About the Author

Curt Harler

Freelance Writer
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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