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the role of electrical engineers
By Keith lane, pe, RCDD, lC, leeD ap, Lane Coburn & Assocs., Seattle
Qualified electrical engineers can play a key role in working
with owners to upgrade existing critical facilities and to build
new modular facilities that are more efficient, cost-effective,
and, at the same time, meet the owner’s reliability requirements.
he successful engineer is on top of all of the within the critical environment and a desire for low PUE, less
emerging technologies and practices. System redundancy within the electrical components may be advisable.
scalability, modularity, and system efficiency Fewer redundant components will lead to higher loading per-
are terms that have been around for years, but centages and higher system efficiency. The entire data center
as energy use in data centers has become a larger does not have to meet a certain Tier or redundancy level. The
part of the bottom line, CEOs and CFOs are demanding more UPS, for instance, could be designed at N+1 and the generator
efficient critical environments. Next-generation data centers system could be designed at N.
with very low power utilization effectiveness (PUE) have been A UPS can have a significant reduction in efficiency when it is
the trend. Power costs are not going to decrease, and the expec- loaded to less than 50%. A Tier 4 electrical distribution system
tation of doing more with less will continue. This is good that has 2(N+1) redundancy in the UPS will typically be loaded
news for electrical engineers as we can play an integral role in to less than 33% under normal operating conditions.
designing these systems. Recent advances in UPS technology have provided addi-
tional options for the critical envi-
“ The design and operation of critical environments is efficient UPSs offer “eco-mode”
ronments electrical engineer. These
in continual flux. This economic downturn will require operation where the UPS operates
offline while the input power qual-
us to sharpen our pencils and be innovative. ity (voltage and frequency) is within
certain predetermined parameters. If
Reliability and redundancy the input power drifts outside good power quality limits, the
The electrical engineer needs to be in lockstep with the owner UPS switches back to online operation. All of this occurs
to ensure there is a good understanding of the owner’s reliabil- well within the Information Technology Industry curve.
ity requirements and IT operations. If there is geo-redundancy Some of these systems offer up to 99% efficiency, represent-
36 Consulting-Specifying Engineer • DECEMBER 2009
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2009 Thought Leaders
ing a delta of approximately 6% to 7% Data centers and other critical environ- Changing environment
over standard UPS efficiency. ments use large mechanical and electri- The design and operation of criti-
cal systems. Collaboration between the cal environments is in continual flux.
Monitoring a mission critical MEP systems is essential. Identifying This economic downturn will require
environment and resolving conflicts between the us to sharpen our pencils and be inno-
Monitoring and controls within a systems will save significant time and vative. Increased knowledge of the
mission critical environment are essen- money during construction. relevant data center topologies and
tial. With more attention being placed The 2008 National Electrical Code the latest technologies is essential. In
on energy efficiency and the ability to (NEC) includes a new section for criti- addition to the PE license, credentials
verify PUE, a comprehensive control cal environments. Critical Operations like the RCDD, LEED AP, and their
strategy is important. Metering, includ- Power Systems
ing power quality, should be deployed
in the electrical distribution system. A
comprehensive control and monitoring
(COPS) are gen-
erally installed in
“ Several organizations and societies
interface can also be leveraged in the U.S. ture facilities that,
offer valuable information for engineers
Green Building Council LEED process
if destroyed or involved in critical environments.
Rack level monitoring with Zero U disrupt national security, the economy, associated continuing education can pro-
power distribution units (PDUs) can help or public safety; and where enhanced vide the edge required in this competitive
ensure that data center operators will pop- infrastructure for continuity of opera- environment. Staying active in profession-
ulate the racks in the most efficient man- tion is deemed necessary by government al organizations and groups that special-
ner, using all the amps available within authorities. COPS are those systems so ize in the design and operation of critical
branches of power without overloading classified by municipal, state, federal, or environments is highly recommended.
any component. In an N+1 or 2N system, other codes, by any government agency
overloading beyond prescribed percent- having jurisdiction or by facility engi-
ages of system rating can cause cascad- neering documentation establishing the Lane is president at Lane Coburn & Assocs.,
ing failure. Rack level monitoring can be necessity for such a system. Seattle, and a member of several
integrated into a system-wide monitoring Knowledge of this electrical code is professional organizations,
and control system. essential. Discussions with the local including BICSI, NFPA,
authority to determine if a critical proj- 7x24 Exchange, Illuminat-
Professional certification and training ect is considered a COPS facility must be ing Engineering Society, and
In addition to a professional engineer- completed at the very beginning of the the Washington State Society
ing license, LEED certification and regis- project. Significant additional require- of Healthcare Engineers. He
tration as a communication distribution ments in the design and operation of the is a member of Consulting-
designer (RCDD) are desirable creden- facility are necessary if the critical facil- Specifying Engineer’s edito-
tials. Certification as a LEED AP, as well ity must comply with this section of the rial advisory board.
as experience with the LEED certification NEC. Some of these requirements include
process, illustrates additional know-how 72 hours of fuel, a portable as well as per-
in sustainable design. The RCDD certi- manent generator connection, UL 1008
fication illustrates significant knowledge transfer switches, full load testing, and
of good data system design practices in many other items.
critical environments. Several organizations and societies
An increased number of owners and offer valuable information for engineers
general contractors realize the impor- involved in critical environments. These
tance of coordination in 3D-CAD, organizations include, but are not limited
especially for critical environments. to, 7x24, AFCOM, and BICSI.
Consulting-Specifying Engineer • DECEMBER 2009 37