Trade Coordination – The Key to Project Success

The key driving forces of construction are cost and schedule. As an owner or a general contractor, you want to maintain budget, maintain schedule and provide a quality project. Coordination is the key that will allow you to drive your schedule and define the success of the project.

While there are an endless number of items to be coordinated on a project, let’s focus on a few integral coordination items during the preconstruction, construction and commissioning stages of a project. Identifying and encouraging these coordination efforts will greatly improve the chance for a successful project for both client and contractors.


Who provides and installs starters/disconnects/VFD?

Starters and disconnects are often provided by the mechanical or electrical contractors, and in some rare cases, even the controls contractor. Typically, the plans or specifications do assign responsibility, however they tend to be unclear or overlooked and are often excluded by all trades. This potential scope gap can lead to late purchases and start-up delays.

Electrical Clearances on Mechanical Equipment

Confirm serviceability and code compliance of equipment being installed. It is important to confirm available access to control panels as well as 42” clearance in front of all VFDs, starters, and disconnects. If code violations are present, it will cause scheduling delays and lead to costly rework. Additionally, failure to provide means of access will haunt the building engineer for the lifetime of the facility.

UPS Power to Controls

UPS power to critical equipment has become a standard in data centers, but UPS power to the critical equipment controllers is often overlooked. When the power blips, the controllers lose power and can no longer command the equipment. This results in critical equipment failures and is often not noticed until commissioning. If coordinated initially, power to the controllers can be provided at a lower cost and without schedule impact.


Controls Instrument Installation Requirements

While it is a standard for controls devices such as sensors and flow meters to be shown on design drawings and PIDs, there are often important installation requirements that can be overlooked. Some devices will require certain lengths of straight pipe or duct upstream and downstream while others will require a specific insertion angle to prevent false readings or minimize the impact of dirt and air in a system.  During construction, it is important to coordinate that the controls and mechanical ports and devices are installed with their eventual accuracy in mind. If not coordinated, the data center will not function correctly and will lose efficiency and reliability.

Access Floor Install

The access floor installation date needs to be coordinated with the underfloor work without impacting project completion. On many projects there is a push to install the access floor as soon as it becomes available.  When installation of the floor starts prior to underfloor completion, it significantly increases the difficulty of the remaining work under the floor. Installing underfloor work after the access floor is installed increases the safety hazards and causes schedule delays as well having an effect on overall quality.


Providing Power for System Cleaning

Timeframe for pipe cleaning and initial chemical treatment needs to be considered in the schedule. This work occurs two to three weeks prior to equipment start-up – usually before system pumps are supplied with permanent power. Generator powered temporary pumps are an option for cleaning the piping system, but require time to procure and install and can be a large cost impact that is typically not covered in the scope. This extra work will delay start-up if not coordinated in advance.

Permanent Power Timeframe

Final start-up, check-out and test and balance cannot start until permanent power is available to equipment. Allow time for this work between permanent power becoming available and the commissioning kick-off date.

Though these items are spread out between different parts of the schedule there is a common thread through all of them. The earlier and more thorough the coordination effort between the engineering, construction and even the owner team, the more schedule and cost impacts can be mitigated. Remember these common coordination oversights as you plan and execute your project and you will be the driving force for its overall success.

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About Collin Barfield


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Collin Barfield is the Operations Manager in the Critical Systems group at McKenney’s, which specializes in data center projects ranging in size and complexity with a focus on renovations, expansions and greenfield projects. Collin oversees a team that works with owners and contractors to ensure their project is turned over on time, under budget and fully commissioned.

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