At Your Service

Hotel chains have unique demands when it comes to telephone, data, video, security and building automation. Hotel owners need a facility with the latest amenities and access to information about their building’s mechanical equipment through building automation systems. For example, the facility managers need to know when a piece of equipment is failing or when temperatures have risen too high or dropped too low in any part of the building before customers complain.

Hotels are different from commercial or residential buildings because they have extreme fiscal constraints. From the moment a hotel company purchases a location, the clock is ticking until that investment can start to show returns. The pressure to get guests inside as soon as possible means contractors have to maintain close coordination to get the job done quickly.

Coordination can be what makes or breaks a project. Since low-voltage wiring cannot go in until the conduit is run, building automation cannot be managed until the equipment is installed, and testing cannot take place until all of these tasks are complete. Coordination breakdowns often cause lost sleep for contractors and building owners.

In this regard, the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel is a fast-tracked project that required such close coordination. This luxury hotel will open to guests in December 2008, but the work began only about 18 months ago.

Situated on 12.79 acres of waterfront property, the bottom five floors house the lobby, restaurants, gift shops, a waterfront promenade, 165,000 square feet of meeting and event space, two ballrooms, a prefunction lobby space and 35 meeting rooms. There is a 7,300-square-foot health club, 3,000 square feet of retail space, a 2,400-square-foot business center, a swimming pool and an adjacent parking structure for 2,000 vehicles. Above these five floors looms the 30-story hotel tower with 1,190 guest rooms.

Since Emcor owns both Dynalectric and University Mechanical, San Diego, the company contracted for nearly every task—electrical, teledata, building automation and mechanical. The general contractor was Hensel Phelps Construction, with electrical engineer JBA Consulting.

The Dynalectric Service and Systems (DSS) Group installed the fire alarm life safety system, telecommunications systems cabling, closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, cable television (CATV), intrusion detection and all audio/video components.

For the DSS division, this was the seventh hotel project in six years. It was the largest of the seven, requiring about 65–70 Dynalectric workers on-site at peak. For low-voltage portion alone, Dynalectric had 18 workers, with 22 at peak, which altogether amounted to a $3.9 million low-voltage contract.

Checking in

Project manager Jay Caputo said large hotel corporations can sometimes be hard to communicate with.

“Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to speak with the hotel operator,” he said.

This tends to cause misunderstandings or slowdowns. In this case, however, Hilton Hotel provided a detailed design criteria document.

“The design team worked as a preconstruction team for two years,” Caputo said.

The project was managed as design/assist, so Dynalectric provided assistance to JBA Consulting Engineers with some of the preplanning. That preplanning was one of the reasons the project came in on time and on budget.

“There weren’t as many surprises once we got out there,” Caputo said.

He joined in the weekly coordination meetings with the other project managers and general foremen, going over material procurement, field issues, budget, manpower and changes.

Fire above

When it comes to high-rise hotels, there are many challenges.

“Fire alarms in high rises are always unique,” Caputo said.

Meeting the local and state codes poses different challenges at each project, but sometimes the products chosen allieviate those potential problems.

The GE Security EST 3 fire alarm system has 1,400 addressable points to detect fire, 2,100 loudspeakers and a strobe device. The system can broadcast recorded or live voice messages throughout the facility.

A passive smoke control system primarily in the guest tower uses pressurization fans in the elevator hoistways and stairwells to limit smoke migration between floors by creating a pressure differential between the corridors and shafts. The five lower floors are broken down into various smoke zones. All of this is controlled by the fire alarm system through programming in the fire control room on the ground floor.

Six fire alarm CPU nodes are connected with RS-485 network cabling to the main fire alarm control panel in the fire alarm control room. The nodes receive and send specific information to field devices and communicate this information back to the main CPU.

When the fire department arrives, firefighters use the fire control room as a command center. There, the computer display shows them what has occurred, so they know where the fire is and can develop a plan on how to best fight it.

Speaking and listening up

Teledata is a huge part of any newly constructed hotel facility. In this case, several manufacturers’ products were chosen.

A Leviton/Superior Essex Copper Cabling solution includes the Category 5e Ethernet workstation cabling, RJ-45 jacks, faceplates, and Cat 5e patch panels for the telecommunications systems. Corning fiber optic cabling is used for information systems (Ethernet/Internet) distribution. There is Cooper B-Line ladder racking and 26 equipment racks for wireless connection to guests and staff members.

One telecommunications equipment room (TER) houses the owner’s network servers and equipment, telephone switch and customers’ premise services, and 19 telecommunications rooms are consolidation points distributed throughout the building.

There are 1 million feet of Superior Essex Cat 5e cable for Ethernet and phone services, including administration workstations, point of sale (POS) workstations, property management system (PMS) workstations, guest room data and voice ports, and guest room television outlets. There are 400,000 feet of QUAD Shield RG-6 coax for CATV, and 6,000 Leviton Cat 5e RJ-45 jacks. The hotel has 400 wireless access points, with 8,500 feet of multipair Superior Essex Cat 3 cable for the TER-TR telephone interconnect distribution cabling, installed in a star pattern with the TER at the center. In addition, there is a total of 10,000 feet of 12-strand Corning 50 micron multimode 10 gigabit fiber optic cable at the site.

Three thousand feet of QUAD Shield RG-11 coax distribution cabling is for the CATV system distribution, amplifiers, taps and splitters.

Three dedicated audiovisual equipment rooms feed the 132 A/V input/output plates, and Ethernet and voice connections in meeting rooms and ballrooms. Seventy individual speaker zones with room-combining functionality allow different rooms to connect to each other by speaker. DSS installed more than 700 Atlas Sound loudspeakers as well as head-end equipment consisting of Biamp Professional Audio Systems digital signal processors, eight-channel Crown power amplifiers, and AMX control equipment.

The pool area has a “Dive-In Movie” with a 150-in. outdoor screen and surround-sound system, which allows guests to watch a movie from the pool or poolside areas.

There are 22 motorized projection screens located in meeting rooms and ballrooms. On the top of the hotel, presidential and executive suites have local Bose surround sound systems and 15-in. LCD TVs with reflective glass that acts as a mirror when the TV is not on.

For audio/video, DSS ran 100,000 feet of West Penn high-performance audio and video cables.

Secure and protected

Hilton’s security system includes surveillance and access control. A CCTV security surveillance system consists of 54 high-resolution fixed color GE Security video cameras and digital video recorders. The security system has Ethernet capability with a combined total storage capacity of 2.5 terabytes (TB), two computer workstations, one with a 20-in. LCD and the other with a 32-in. LCD with a 20-in. spot monitor. The system includes a 1 gigabit Ethernet private security network dedicated to CCTV.

The intrusion-detection system monitors 140 entrances and exits with door position switches at each location. A GE Security NetworX control panel with remote LCD keypad is located in the security room.

Building automation

DSS undertook all building automation controls for the hotel. These allow facility managers to receive alerts if building mechanisms are not operating properly, or if, for example, the temperature in one area of the building is not within a predetermined range. Project manager Matt Hylton said although hotels generally are simpler than the group’s typical projects—schools and county offices—the scale of this project was enormous.

About half the time the company is asked to specify an automation vendor. In this case, DSS was given a list of potential vendors, but it suggested an alternative: Distech Controls.

“We chose Distech because it was more cost effective and for its ease of use and reliability,” Hylton said.

Although in the past, the group installed open programmable controls based on the LonWorks protocol, its engineers still had to learn a new programming language, and the installation would be new to the electricians.

“There was a definite learning curve,” Hylton said, adding that, “Distech was a new product for us, and we were learning it on a very large project.”

Dynalectric engineers did the Distech programming while electricians from the IBEW Local 569 went through training in Distech installation and did the work on-site.

The automation installation will be isolated to the first five floors: the podium level, where the lobby, conference rooms, stores and ballroom are located.

Since the Hilton automation system includes remote access, Dynalectric will be able to sign a service contract for continuing maintenance at the building. Remote access will save the Hilton money because, in some cases, problems can be resolved without a visit to the hotel.

Checking out

“It’s been a pleasure working as a team on this project,” Hylton said. “There hasn’t been any gaps.”

With a schedule about six months shorter than usual, the biggest challenge was meeting the end date.

“For them, they need to get their guests in as soon as possible. This is a huge investment,” Hylton said.

Commissioning a project this size takes months. Testing just one of the 29 air-handling units could take several days.

“Verifying everything is valid is very time consuming.” Hylton said.

He assigned an automation team of four men doing installation and two for commissioning.

Ultimately, the hardest part was staying within budget, said Tom Diersbock, Hensel Phelps project manager.

“It’s a constantly evolving design and a big collaboration effort between the electricians and the designers,” he said.

Electrical work on a job like this, Diersbock said, tends to account for 10 percent of the budget, as it did in this case.

“So with a job that has 50 to 60 subcontractors, electrical is one of the most important roles on the job,” Diersbock said.

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at

About the Author

Claire Swedberg

Freelance Writer
Claire Swedberg is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at .

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