The gung-ho approach to electrical design, whilst ignoring sound advice from smaller companies because a large company says it’s okay!?
We were called in by an electrical contractor to carry out the full design of a system he was already working on after he ran into trouble with a firm of consultants who were constantly trying to force changes at breakneck speed onto him and forcing all design responsibility in his direction, which is often the case in the industry it’s called buck-passing! In my personal opinion.
We often find many contractors are just not set up to carry out full design criteria and normally rely upon and believe the consultants often ending up with large costs as they did not check!
This was an existing 200-bed HMO for student accommodation based in London they were doing a major conversion and dilapidation works and upgrades adding a large amount of additional load to the existing system.
This had all been sorted by the larger consultancy firm without even having an up-to-date EICR and was relying on a woefully inadequate one that was missing huge swaths of information and out of date.
Upon receiving the brief, we carried out a full EICR which had not been done, even by our client, to obtain current readings and found multiple problems with the existing installation we immediately passed this information onto our client, which included under-sizing of the cables, fuse boards hanging off walls, most of the ventilations not working or even in existence, local smoke alarms not being in the correct places, the communal smoke alarm was not working and faulty, a lot of the emergency lighting not working and inappropriately sited, incorrect signage and the list just went on, how this was being operated safely previously is beyond me.
We carried out a full redesign including all of the new systems complete with electrical schematics and informed our client that the incoming power supply was woefully inadequate for the new requirements, the existing supply was only a three-phase 400 amp supply, with 315 amp fuses fitted they needed a 1250 amp supply to deal with all the new loads, the new Laundry room with multiple 25KW 3 phase washing machines and dryers needed an additional 200 amp 3 phase supply just for starters.
We found 97 existing issues including undersized sub mains to the individual bedsit fuse boards, undersized main switches on the communal boards at many levels undersized fuses and far more.
We provided a fully itemised detailed 821-page report with over 30 full A1 Electrical Schematics showing all of the protection and full selectivity studies, together with, Full Load calculations inclusive of design load (A) (Diversified + Spare) for the whole project itemised breakdowns of every protective device and board on the project, and cable calcs for every cable on the entire site.
Our client was met with a do-it-or-else bullying attitude even with the information that he supplied, and they ignored him, after discussing the situation with us and his partners he cut his losses and removed himself from the contract as the consultants and the client were trying to run roughshod over him and force him to do dangerous work, he said it was the best decision he had ever made and saved his company from huge litigation.
They found another company that came in and continued, which is often the case in the culture we work in; They in my personal opinion just looked at the pound notes and had no consideration for the safety of the building or its occupants!? Or even the survivability of their company.
Once the system was fully working and in use, the main panel blew up taking out the under-street vault cost 180k to put right, let alone the fines imposed on them, the cost of re-housing the students already in residence, to then correct and install the correct 1250 amp 3-phase supply and the correct equipment as we had shown and in our design breakdown and over 100k to bring the rest of it up to a safe standard!
For the engineers in my network, these were the Load calculations with all known equipment and motors connected.
We had already partially load-balanced the system as we were carrying out the design and were in the process of the final load-balancing at the time my client decided to walk away.
According to my client, the project ended up being delayed 4 months apparently, and all because they would not believe the evidence supplied by my client, over the larger consultancy they even asked him to come back and fix it; he politely declined.
Since then, I’ve carried out three more projects for this client and he has paid with a deposit on account in advance of the work, I may be a small cog as far as huge consultancies are concerned however I back my statements up with hard evidence and facts to protect my clients.
Getting us in early at the planning stages before you run at breakneck speed Basing decisions on spurious and inaccurate information can save you tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds and stop huge delays in your projects.
It does not matter if your project is a 1-bed property or a 30-story office block you must protect yourselves and by ensuring the design is done and having the full design calcs in your possession before you begin a project you not only protect your companies but the end users as well.