February 2020

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F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 0 | 33 Electrical & Communication Systems P H OTO G R A P H Y CO U RT E SY H O U L E EL EC T R I C;W E S T ER N PAC I F I C EN T ER P R I S E S The future is bright for electrical and communication systems by NATALIE BRUCKNER L ike so many industries, the electrical and communications sector is becoming more connected, automated, and efficient. 2019 saw various technologies begin to have a larger role in the industry such as robot- ics and automation technologies, the smart grid, and of course the Internet of Things (IoT), which saw a network of devices connected to the internet exchanging data. The sector is also seeing rapid integration, so whether it's utility and building generation power input sources, energy management, communica- tions, or building automation, these days you can't talk about one without the other. But there are other changes happening in the sector that is putting electrical systems in particular on the map as one solution to meeting our future energy needs. Derek Fettback, district manager at Western Pacific Enterprises Ltd., says one of the biggest changes he is seeing in the electrical industry is the use of 3D modelling. Revit, for example, is quickly becoming more desirable in the electrical realm as projects become more complex. It helps engi- neers and contractors quickly check the electrical design of a building for things like clash detection, as well as circuit loading to check breaker size, wire size, and load classification with all the information exactly as it is currently modelled. "We are currently working on a project that has an extremely complicated bridge structure and one of our drafters is modelling out what it will look like to put our conduits through the structure, and if it will indeed fit," explains Fettback. In fact the value that electrical contractors bring to a project is demonstrated by the fact that an increas- ing number of owners and general contractors are bringing electrical experts to the table earlier on. "It is a chance to point out and address issues before they actually become issues," says Fettback. One state-of-the-art project that Western Pacific Enterprises Ltd. is currently working on is the Vancouver Post Office redevelopment with PCL. By working closely together earlier on they are able to streamline parts of the design, thereby saving the owner money and simplifying the installation methods. As for what to expect this year, Fettback says that the popularity of smart buildings and integrated systems will continue to grow, while challenges with electric vehicle (EV) installation and in particular retrofits will continue as that market grows. Over at Houle, one of the main changes they are seeing is the increasing demand on energy from build- ings. This is resulting in a greater proportion of a total building's cost being set aside for electrical systems. "As buildings become smarter they require more controls, more systems, and essentially more inte- gration. B.C. is on the adoption curve for integrated buildings, which are becoming standard in the com- mercial world. Another factor affecting electrical is the rising demand for EV charger provisions," explains Jonathan Lashin, director – estimating at Houle. The team at Houle is excited about the increas- ing focus on energy efficiency, the role that electrical has to play, and the positive impact it is having on the environment. "Sensors and building controls, as an example, are being used to help manage energy use with everything from lighting to climate," says Lashin. One project that Houle is working on that show- cases this is the Clayton Community Centre in Surrey that uses state-of-the-art electrical systems to help maximize energy efficiency and protect the natural ecosystems. "This will be one of the first community centres in North America to achieve Passive House certification and we are proud to be bringing all our specializations together for one Houle delivery," says Lashin. As an industry leader, Houle has made it their mission to provide the best in integrated services for their customers. With teams specializing in elec- trical, security and life safety, networks systems, building automation controls, audio visual, commu- nication, power quality, and 24/7 video monitoring, Houle works together as a team to serve the custom needs of its clients. Michael Ablang, principal engineer, electrical at Williams Engineering agrees that one of the big- gest changes affecting the industry right now is the growth of the EV charging infrastructure. "One of our biggest concerns currently is the prevalence of EVs and the requirement by certain cities to have 100 per- cent of all parking spaces for residential units capable of handling electric vehicle chargers," says Ablang. While the number of EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) is, at present, low compared to internal combustion engine vehicles (2.5 per cent of all vehi- cles sold in Canada), the switch-over is accelerating and the International Energy Agency outlook predicts there will be 130 million EVs on the road by 2030. To meet the demand, in 2018 the City of Vancouver updated the Building Code Bylaw 10908 to increase the percentage of EV-ready stalls in new multi-unit residential buildings from 20 percent to 100 percent, and other municipalities are rapidly following suit. "This poses challenges for electrical designers because these chargers require quite a bit of power, especially when we are talking about high-rise resi- dential towers. The load that these chargers impose on the electrical system means we need to provide larger unit substations and in Vancouver, where real estate is expensive, we have a hard time locating space to accommodate this," says Ablang. Williams is working closely with BC Hydro and FortisBC to ensure these newbuilds have the capacity to provide the necessary power. Looking ahead, Ablang is excited about this shift, as well as the shift away from natural gas to electric, but says the challenge will continue to be meeting demand, while balancing costs. "It comes down to how much owners can invest in sustainability and how much the end-users are willing to shoulder," he says. "It's an ongoing education." At BC Hydro, one of the most significant trends the experts are seeing is the growth and impact of the group of technologies collectively referred to as distributed energy resources (DERs). "These include technologies that customers can use to generate their own electricity, like solar photovoltaic and wind. It also includes energy storage technologies, like batteries, flywheels, hydrogen fuel cells, and active [for example phase change] and passive [for example water heaters] thermal storage," says BC Hydro program manager Graham Henderson. The challenge of storage is growing in impor- tance due to the intermittent energy generating characteristics of renewable resources like solar and wind. Henderson adds that DERs are funda- mentally changing the nature of the century-old utility business model in some jurisdictions, as A Whole New World Modern building control systems maximize energy efficiency. Electrical conduit install at the Vancouver Post Office redevelopment. 2:55 PM

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