Salt Lake City – Layton Construction was tasked with overseeing a $85 million-dollar electrical distribution system upgrade at the University of Utah, which began in January 2013 and took nearly five years to complete.
The purpose of the upgrade of the electrical distribution system was to bring an older, outdated and not-as-safe system in line with current and modern electrical distribution systems. The system serves approximately 320 buildings on the 1,500-acre campus, such as University of Utah Hospital, Huntsman Cancer Institute and Primary Children’s Hospital as well as major research facilities, student housing, and athletic, academic and administration facilities.
“The campus was experiencing many power disruptions, which were becoming more and more difficult to troubleshoot and fix,” says Porter McDonough, senior project manager with Layton Construction. “The goal of the project was to replace the medium voltage system and upgrade the three substations servicing the campus to prevent any further electrical disruptions, all while minimizing the impact to a very busy campus during the duration of the project.”
The electrical distribution system provides power to the campus through an underground network of duct banks that originate at three different substations on campus. Approximately 10 miles of duct bank were placed to assist with distributing 134 miles or 707,000 feet of electrical wiring. The medical center and Red Butte substations receive 46 kV each, and the Rice-Eccles Stadium substation distributes 138 kV from Rocky Mountain Power, which is stepped down to the new common voltage on campus of 12,470 volts. The upgrade of the substations was done in a way that two substations can provide the necessary power to the campus in case one goes down or one needs to be shut down for maintenance purposes.
The older and unsafe oil-filled electrical switches, which were located underground in manholes, were replaced with new solid dielectric switches and are now housed in enclosures above ground throughout the campus. New manholes were also installed and many of the much older existing manholes were restored and utilized to connect and splice the new electrical wiring.
“The electrical distribution system upgrade required a significant amount of coordination with university officials and department entities. We scheduled over 300 smaller planned power outages as well as six campus-wide power outages during the length of the project,” says McDonough. “It was critical to make sure everyone knew when the outages would occur, especially when we were dealing with the hospitals and research facilities.”
In addition to Layton Construction overseeing the upgrade project, Probst Electric was the electrical contractor and Spectrum Engineers provided the electrical engineering.