The Crew Keeping The Lights On – Critical Maintenance Project
Snell Library, Curry Student Center, Ell Hall, Dodge Hall, and many more were in the dark, as a total of twenty buildings were scheduled to undergo massive maintenance requiring shutdowns on July 10th 2021.
The team of twelve Northeastern University Operation professionals led by Dean Miller, Electrical Supervisor at Northeastern University, was tasked with completing this colossal job in just a couple of days. The team had to take 14-19 hour shifts to deliver the results, and they successfully completed the task without a single complaint.
According to Dean, Northeastern has an extensive system that the suggested maintenance work continues almost non-stop every summer. To accommodate this, Dean and his crew started preparing for this job back in February 2020. To account for all the equipment and prepare a comprehensive plan of action, the team followed NFA 70B guidelines for electrical equipment maintenance. One of the most extended preparation steps was “bridging circuits” with lab equipment when the team had to connect the equipment to standby generators. This tedious task took them approximately a month and a half to complete due to the sheer number of equipment at Mugar Life Sciences Building. Once the plan was complete, a few serious hurdles appeared along the way, one of those being COVID – 19, but eventually, the date was set, and the project was set into motion. The primary goal was to test and maintain three 15kV substations and switches around campus that provide power for almost all buildings on campus. The equipment underwent a rigorous troubleshooting process, was cleaned, and connected back to the grid.
Paul Luzinski, HVAC and BAS Supervisor, and his team were the first in line to start systematically and safely bringing down all mechanical systems within buildings beginning at four in the morning. The goal was to make sure that everything was ready before designated locations would be completely powered down. When every location had to be disconnected from the grid and meticulously surveyed for any potential electrical malfunctions, Greg Geyer, Assistant Director for Life Safety and Emergency Generator shop crew, kept 22 generators running for up to 14 hours a day.
While the other teams were maintaining campus in an operational state, Dean’s crew was looking for any other troubling signs indicating possible damage to the system and its components. According to Dean, this was a much-needed maintenance project, and it required a vast amount of coordination.
Dean reminded us how important this maintenance work was by sharing the story of a major problem that was discovered during the testing phase. One of the 15kV cables at Robinson Hall, which supplies main power to buildings, was within weeks, if not days, of a catastrophic failure that would have caused a power outage that could have impacted almost an entire campus. The problem was caught in the nick of time, and a potential catastrophe was promptly averted. A few other issues were found, analyzed, and promptly fixed, thus concluding this project.
Dean also pointed out that this was the biggest project he and his team had to undertake throughout his twenty years at Northeastern. The project’s scope was simply colossal for a team of twelve. Still, they were certainly up for a challenge and excelled so that Dean and his team received accolades from the community about how well this work was planned, communicated, and executed.
Written by Alex Gritsinin – August 6th, 2021
Photo by Russell Zingler