A Blended Approach

H&S Electric Inc., Valencia, Calif., has been in business since 1990. Its services include construction, commissioning, consulting, energy analysis, engineering safety, green building/­sustainability, maintenance and operations, systems management, systems design, and technology evaluation. It works directly on projects or as part of a subcontracting team.

Its work includes new electrical systems; new construction and installation; upgrades, renovations and expansions; alterations; power wiring; control wiring; maintenance; infrared survey; troubleshooting, testing and repair; emergency service; power quality; and power analysis.

“We usually have 30 to 40 employees, depending on the number and size of the projects we have,” said Marvin Hatch, president.

While most of the company’s work is traditional, it does some low-voltage work, which comes about in two ways.

“In our market, we look for projects that come out for bid. Typically, the low-voltage part of the project is already in the package, so when we are bidding it, we decide if we are going to do the low-voltage work ourselves in-house or if we are going to contact the existing building control systems people to give us a price to do it.”

Low-voltage subcontracting

“Typically, on our large contract work, we will subcontract the low-voltage work to low-voltage contractors, such as Johnson Controls or Siemens,” Hatch said. “However, we do a lot of their back boxes and conduits. We pull in their cabling and mount their devices.”

Most of H&S’s foremen and supervisors are trained in the pulling aspect of the low-voltage wires, the type of wire and how to install it.

“However, since we aren’t up to par with all of the new technologies for low-voltage building wiring, we don’t educate them on that,” he said.

As a result, the low-voltage subcontractors will do the programming.

“That is, we will run and pull all of the conduit,” he said. “Then, the low-voltage contractors will do the ‘parts and smarts’—installing and programming the devices.”

Low-voltage direct

On occasion, though, the company does some low-voltage work itself. Hatch estimated that this is between 6 and 10 percent of the company’s work. H&S does a lot of low-voltage control wiring, such as energy management (air temperature sensors, air flow volume controls, etc.). The work also includes high- and low-speed data (including LAN jacks), CCTV, and phone.

“I have been doing low-voltage work since I started in this business in the early 1980s and been dabbling in it ever since,” he said.

H&S has five people who are certified in Category 5 and 6 cabling and other different types of cables. However, it has two people in particular who do most of the low-voltage work, and Hatch tries to keep them current on all of the new technologies and the different panels, such as the nurse call, public address, energy management and air temperature systems.

“I selected these two people because they are the ones who I noticed seemed to excel in this area, and they took the initiative on their own to show me that they wanted to learn more about it,” he said.

Currently, H&S is doing a medical gas system for Kaiser Permanente’s Baldwin Park Medical Center.

“It is a pretty intricate project because they want to keep both systems online until the new system is 100 percent up and running,” he said. “The key to success here is to do the proper analysis to make sure that we understand their needs and who is being impacted.”

Looking forward

As Hatch sees it, the most challenging part of low-voltage work is staying current with the technology, since it changes so frequently.

“However, we are at the point where we are starting to think about creating a separate low-voltage division in-house, so that we can handle all of the fire alarm systems, nurse call systems, PA systems, etc.,” he said. 

The two people who currently do most of the company’s low-voltage work would head up this department, and then H&S would go out and look for new people to hire to begin to build the department.

According to Hatch, the idea of creating a separate low-voltage division makes sense from a business and marketing perspective.

“The main concern is making sure we have sufficient capital to do it,” he said. “It is also important to make sure we have the management ability to stay on top of a new division.”

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