Announcement - Hilti Fire Stop Seminar, Feb 24th

Hello everyone,

I’m pleased to announce that I've managed to arrange a seminar from Hilti Canada covering fire stops and best practices.

The session will be held at the Comox room at the Westerly Hotel on Feb 24th 2016, from 12:00 to 3:00. Lunch is included. Please RSVP by email to me at Space is limited, first come first serve.

The primary audience of the session is design professionals responsible for specification or field review of fire stops, but we will also be inviting some folks from Defense Construction Canada, BSCA, and a few contractors.

Session details:

Hilti Canada is presenting:

Life Safety and Property Protection through Firestopping

Who am I?  My name is Doug King.  I am part of the field engineering team here in BC.  I have 30 years’ experience with Hilti; 10 of them in life safety and firestopping.  Owners, designers, inspectors, and contractors have relied on Hilti’s finished firestop solutions to provide safe applications to protect life and property from heat, smoke, water, and noise.  Please joint us for two hours to learn more how these solutions can be incorporated into your current designs and projects, and be installed in an economical, and efficient manner.

 During our discussions, we will look at building code excerpts concerning firestopping, gain an understanding of what actually is firestopping, what are the technical requirements for it, and how it can be installed efficiently.  At the end of the talks, you should understand the following…

Firestop Systems versus just Firestop Product

You will understand the importance of using a tested, listed system which incorporates good firestopping products. And more than just stopping fire and smoke, you will understand properly selected systems can also be easily re-penetrated, quickly installed, and meet the economic needs of the owner.

Great Design Documents help prevent Site Pitfalls

You will recognize how specifications and drawings can be used to effectively communicate your life safety needs for the project. The use of firestop system schedules, more defined firestopping specifications, and the demand for pre-construction meetings to coordinate all trades in firestopping will alleviate many potential problems.

Field Review of Installed Firestop Systems

You will start to interpret system requirements and recognize them in installed systems in the field. Along with the trained installers and approved, listed firestop systems you have specified, you should seek the required support in the field to make efficient, accurate reviews for your Letters of Assurance.


Patient Care Standards - Update

A while back I wrote about small medical clinics and a great deal of inconsistency in applying  standards for patient care wiring. After I wrote that blog I decided to submit a formal inquiry to the Association of Professional Engineers of BC asking for them to raise the issue with the British Columbia Safety Authority and the Building Officials Association of BC.

I now have a response, which I would like to share: 

  • The BC Safety Authority has stated that the Z32 is not an adopted standard and is not enforceable.
  • ·Some authorities having jurisdiction list Z32 as if it were a compulsory requirement but, since it is a voluntary standard, quickly retreat and only record the objection in cases where one is raised by an the owner|developer.
  • Some regulatory bodies will require their health professionals to comply to the Z32 in which case the owner|developer must comply or face the possibility of not being granted an operating license from the regulator.
  • For small-scale renovations, many municipalities do not even issue a building permit and rely solely on the trade(s) to carry out the work in accordance with their ticket(s). In such cases, Z32 is not even mentioned.

My takeaway from this as design professions we have discretion about when to apply this standard. I've decided to deal with this on a case by case basis, and unless there is VIHA oversight or use of medical monitoring devices I will likely give the owner the option to skip some of all of the requirements of that standard.


What I learned about pumps today...

I was involved in a conversation with a contractor this morning about small pumps in the context of sewage and water systems. He offered that in his experience small single phase capacitor start / capacitor run pumps are failure prone.  His preferred solution is to replace these with three phase pumps driven by variable frequency drive (VFD) which is supplied by a single phase supply. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the idea but I’ve always been a bit skeptical. This approach adds a fairly expensive and complicated component to an otherwise simple system.

My contractor friend referred me to a company that specializes in the supply and service of pumping systems, so I gave them a call. My question was quickly passed up the chain to Earl, who turned out to be very knowledgeable fellow.

I’d like to share a few things I learned from that conversation.

First, in his opinion single phase capacitor start / capacitor run pumps are quite reliable. Not an issue. This is based on their return/replace rate, which he feels is quite low considering the number of devices in operation.

His next point is quite interesting to me. He explained that the combination of grinder pumps and VFDs can be problematic. The issue is that when the grinder pump encounters material it needs to grind through then the supply current rises abrubtly. The VFD can pick up this spike as an overload and will react by slowing the pump down. When that happens the pump loses torque and can’t get through the material, and the end result is a clogged pump.

Earl advised me to try and stay away from variable drive entirely when driving grinder pumps if at all possible.  However, as we both realize, in some cases variable speed is a legitimate requirement, and then Earl recommended that I make sure the VFD is programmed to filter out short duration current spikes in order to give the pump a fighting chance to get through whatever crap it is dealing with.

I'd like to thank Earl for his time this morning. As the only electrical consultant in a small market I need to be quite diverse, and it is hard to be an expert on everything! It it really helpful to have folks like Earl than I can turn to when I need to dig in to a technical question.

I’ll conclude this post with an observation that I’ve seen too many RFPs come in where the municipality/ regional district is asking for a variable speed design but as far as I can tell hasn’t performed sufficient due diligence to about why that is necessary. It is true that variable speed designs have some merit and may reduce power consumption, but is it also true that these designs work against the KISS principal, with a corresponding penalty in reliability and expense.

I used to poke at this a bit during the RFP process but I've never won a job where I did that, so I've stopped doing that. 

Another great sunny day here, hope life is good wherever you are. Until next time...




Thoughts about Small Medical Clinics

Back in 2002 Section 24 of the Ontario Electrical Code was amended to reflect the changing nature of health care, and to recognize that procedures once reserved for hospitals are now being performed in medial clinics. The scope of section 24 was changed to include all types of health care facilities and not just hospitals. 

The Ontario Safety Authority issued bulletin 24-2-3 at the time. I expect a similar bulletin was released by the BC Safety Authority as well (but a quick search of the BCSA web site failed to uncover one).

Bulletin 24-2-3 contains this text

A '"Health Care Facility" is defined as a set of physical infrastructure elements that are intended to support the delivery of specific health-related services. Examples of Health Care Facilities include but are not limited to hospitals, rehabilitation facilities or group homes that provide extended, multi-level, psychiatric, or intermediate care, outpatient and surgical clinics, dental offices, doctors’ clinics, dialysis units, ultrasound and electro diagnosis (ECG, EEG, EMG) suites, chiropractic clinics, physiotherapy clinics, and physicians’ offices.

OESC Section 24 applies to electrical wiring and equipment within patient care areas of health care facilities and those portions of the electrical systems of health care facilities designated as essential electrical systems. Patient Care Areas are areas within the health care facility that are intended primarily for the provision of diagnosis, therapy, or care. The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) is responsible to ensure that all electrical wiring and equipment in the health care facility complies with the electrical code, and that wiring and equipment within the patient care areas also complies with the supplementary rules for electrical safety that are contained in Section 24.

So, this is all well and good. The Safety Authority will take responsibility for ensuring that a building containing patient care areas, regardless of size, will comply with the electrical code, including section 24.

But there is another set of standards that applies to patient care areas. This is "CAN/CSA-Z32 - Electrical Safety and Essential Electrical Systems in Health Care Facilities". This standard was initially designed as a handbook for electrical engineers designing hospitals, but it now applies to all patient care areas where CEC section 24 applies. The standard provides many rules about the layout of electrical wiring and conduit, bonding, and such. There is no need to go into the details, but it is worth mentioning that Z32 not only describes what needs to be done, it also lays out a procedure for testing the implementation, and furthermore mandates that such testing be performed by a licensed third party.

This means that when I work on a health care facility there are two "rulebooks" that I am working under - section 24 and Z32. This isn't a problem - I have the training and experience to see that everything proceeds appropriately. But what about a small clinic or tenant improvement ? In those cases the there is no requirement to hire a CRP or engineer. BSCA will be looking out for CEC section 24 but who is looking out to make sure Z32 is properly implemented?

I decided to dig into this. First I checked with our local BSCA electrical inspector. He explained that while he is fully aware of the standard, it is not in the safety authority mandate to enforce it the portions that do not overlap CEC.

Next, I checked with a BOCP inspector. He had not even heard of this standard!

So, in my opinion we have a problem, which I will try and summarize below

For small clinics, tenant improvement there is no requirement to hire a CRP or engineer. In this case there is no engineer or inspector overseeing that the Z32 standard is implemented. This presents a risk to the public, and it also exposes doctors who build small clinics to liability risks that most likely they are not aware of. (The Z32 standard cites the “administrator” as the responsible party, and in a small clinic this is most likely the lead physician (or dentist, or specialist...) 

The solution in my view is simple. All projects located in British Columbia which include a patient care area should be required to produce a declaration from an licensed member of APEG-BC certifying that the patient care wiring has been implemented to professional standards. 

I believe a dialogue is necessary between APEG-BC, BSCA, and BOCP to move this along, and wrote a letter to the association in this regard. I'll add a blog entry if there is some movement on the issue.

Revit and Mechanical Devices

I've spent some time recently working out how I will load up projects with HVAC and other mechanical devices, which become important elements on the electrical plan. Things like heat pumps, exhaust fans, and baseboard heaters need to show up in plan view and on schedules so the electrical contractor can connect power to everything properly.

I've built up a sandbox project, and if you are interested you can have a look in this directory:

There are some Revit files in there but also a PDF, so you don't actually need Revit to look at the outcome.

All schedules are dynamic. The two equipment lists are essentially the same, but with a few different columns displayed. The mechanical connection schedule filters out all items with mark field containing “BBH” and the baseboard schedule other one does the reverse. I think this gives a cleaner output than listing baseboards along with all the other items in one schedule, which is how I used to to it. 

All tags on the floor plan are dynamic. The panelboard schedule is completely dynamic also, and the circuiting is consistent from panelboard schedule to mechanical schedule (I used to maintain that by hand, what a pain). Another cool feature of Revit it how it automatically picks up the name of the space an item is dropped into and puts that into the schedule. That solves this problem that comes up a lot, where a bit of equipment is moved but the schedules still list it in the old location.

Driving this are some new families I build up. First is a family of baseboard heaters loaded with actual dimensions and part numbers from Oullete. It works really well. When I drop Baseboard _240V_1000W  on the floor plan then a 1kW heater shows up on plan to scale, and in the schedule with the corresponding part number. When this unit is linked to an electrical panel then the panel reflects the actual load of that unit and knows it is supposed to connect it to a two pole circuit. It seems pretty robust.  For example, we might decide to upgrade a heater to from 500W to 1000W. We can check the plan view to see if it actually fits in the space available, and the panel load automatically bumps up another 500W and will flag us if a circuit is overloaded, and also the baseboard heater schedule is updated to show one more 1kW heater and one less 500W heater. All of this occurs after few mouse clicks. Awesome. 

That covers baseboard heaters, but there are lots of other mechanical devices that need power. These are handled by my new family called “Generic Mechanical”. In there I have four main types - one generic type per voltage (single phase 120V, 208,240, and three phase 208). I'll add a few more to cover 480V and 600V systems eventually. These can be made into ANYTHING. There are two annotation symbols that can be toggled on or off in plan view (a motor symbol and a fan symbol). Also in plan the actual part dimensions can be toggled on and off, as it is in the case of EF-1 on the drawing. The electrical parameters support definition of a motor component and a resistive component, which will be useful for heat pumps with auxiliary electric heat.

For now I think this covers nearly everything the mechanical guys throw at me in a typical project. The next system might be to build up type catalogs for different kinds of equipment that turn this generic family into equipment specific items, such as Greenheck fans, maybe some Trane heat pumps or whatever.

I'd like to reach a stage where the mechanical engineers Revit file contains items with accurate electrical parameters, and I can simply circuit everything. This would leave the selection and placement of HVAC devices including baseboard heaters in the hands of those engineers, which is what we want.

(I tried to circuit a device in a linked file but I can't select it. Need to check out the "copy/monitor function" - another day.)

Pretty productive day. (Kicked off with a fun kiteboard session down at the spit early this morning!)