How to engineer manufacturing, industrial buildings
Manufacturing and industrial facilities can be particularly complex projects, involving large facilities containing behemoth machinery, hazardous chemicals, and a range of other concerns.
- C. Erik Larson, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Principal, Industrial Systems, Wood Harbinger, Bellevue, Wash.
- Ronald R. Regan, PE, Principal, Triad Consulting Engineers, Morris Plains, N.J.
- John Schlagetter, NCARB, PMP, CSI, CCS, CCCA, LEED Green Associate, Senior Architect, Process Plus, Cincinnati
- Wallace Sims, SET, NICET Fire Alarm Level IV, Lead Life Safety Engineer, CH2M Hill, Portland, Ore.
CSE: Please describe a recent manufacturing/industrial facility project you’ve worked on.
C. Erik Larson: The majority of our work in manufacturing involves adjustments and the reconfiguration of large assembly lines in one of the largest enclosed buildings in the world. Support spaces, including shops, offices, and equipment rooms, go along with every adjustment of these lines. Utilities, including power, communications, compressed air, hydraulic power, specialized exhaust, and communications are routed to the work positions via underground tunnels and/or utility trenches. Industrial facilities include central heating/cooling plants, such as the central heating plant at the University of Oregon, as well as aviation maintenance facilities such as the Aeroman hangar in El Salvador.
Ronald R. Regan: We are presently designing the electrical infrastructure for a 350-acre industrial/research/agricultural complex in Ohio. The site will be diverse and multi-use with manufacturing sites, a research park, and automated greenhouses and fish farms all powered from energy developed from waste products. The site and operations are quite unique. It will be a world-class biogas/biomass facility, the largest in the United States, including a 40,000-sq-ft business and education center; 10,000-sq-ft expo welcome center; two 10-acre climate controlled domed buildings for organic vegetable products; a 14-acre climate controlled greenhouse for fish and plant products; a 30,000-sq ft waste-to-energy plant and a plastic-to-oil facility; office buildings; four 25,000-sq-ft light manufacturing facilities; four 50,000-sq-ft waste sorting facilities; a 3-story, 150,000-sq-ft cogeneration facility; a 35,000-sq-ft solar farm (5 MW); and ancillary roads, bridges, ponds, and on-site sewage facility. The challenge, of course, is to plan the growth of the landfill gas generation facilities to support the site growth in a “green manner” with little to minimal participation in energy supply from the local utility. This meant rearranging the owner’s construction phasing to bring on green power—the landfill gas generation and solar farms earlier in the construction planning.
Wallace Sims: I have most recently completed a project for the 200,000-sq-ft expansion of a cleanroom to an existing semiconductor facility in the Pacific Northwest. My role in this project was the life safety and security systems lead. It was essentially a copy of the existing cleanroom space with the greatest changes in the support areas. This was a fast burn project that demanded a great deal of concentrated effort on the part of the design team.
CSE: How have the characteristics of such projects changed in recent years, and what should engineers expect to see in the next 2 to 3 years?
John Schlagetter: There will likely be less time to execute, more restrictive codes and regulations, increased need to build around operating environments as customers can’t afford to shut down for construction, and fewer customer personnel experienced in construction (i.e., younger employees with less time on the job).
Larson: The biggest changes have been in the different tools that we use for collaboration. With the mainstream acceptance of Autodesk Revit and other BIM tools, we’re taking full advantage so that everyone on the design team can see how we’re going to coexist when things get built. The other concept that is catching on is to have an on-site presence at the owner’s facility to enhance communication and collaboration. The level of engagement and information sharing you can get by actually working side-by-side in the owner’s building is an experience you should try for on every project. Learn how to work on a mobile platform and how to be effective and efficient even when you’re outside your own office.
Sims: Semiconductor manufacturing is an evolutionary process. As the technologies for semiconductor manufacturing change to encompass larger wafers and the tools increase in size and complexity to produce them, the utility demands become higher. The energy consumed and the space needed to route the necessary support piping and conduit continue to increase and require closer coordination among all engineering disciplines and trades.
Regan: Projects have become more technically intense. Corporations want greener facilities and are willing to spend and take a chance on bleeding-edge technology to advance this effort. That means, as engineers, we need to quickly review and qualify such technology as reliable, responsible, and safe. Owners and developers are looking for the next new thing, whether it is a resort, high-rise office building, power plant, or manufacturing facility. More time is spent by staff on webinars, lunch-and-learns, and factory visits than 5 years ago just to stay ahead of the technology curve. I believe this constant need to investigate, endorse, or debunk new technologies will continue for the foreseeable future.
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Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.