Sunday, October 25, 2009

Permanent Power

The biggest hold up at CityWalk right now is getting the permanent power turned on. God willing, the power will finally get turned on Tuesday, but it’s been a difficult process.

We need the power on not just because every building needs electrical power, but also because some of the work in the building can’t be completed without power. Without electrical power, the elevators can’t run. No elevators means the hoist on the outside of the building has to stay in place, and that means we can’t close up the 14 doors where everyone enters and exits the hoist through the skin of the building.

No power means no air conditioning. Some of the work we need to do can’t happen until CityWalk is air conditioned. For example, ceiling tiles will warp if exposed to wide temperature swings. In short, the electrical power needs to be on—right away—if we’re going to keep the construction schedule.

For some reason the electrical power has been a problem right from the start of the project. Originally the specs called for using 480 volt power at CityWalk. Our electrical engineer checked with the power provider to make sure 480 volt power was available, and it was.

Unfortunately, apparently the electrical provider didn’t tell the engineer that there would be a $750,000 extra charge for 480 volt power, and the engineer didn’t ask. So less than a month after we started, we were looking at an extra charge that would use up the entire contingency for the construction on the project.

Our lenders were not going to be happy—0% completion and we’d used 100% of the contingency. Rather than try to explain that eventuality, we worked to redesign the system to run on 240 volt power, which was available without an extra charge, and after several months of work finally succeeded in finding a system that only cost us about half as much extra—and I did what the owner has to do, go find some more money.

The electrical system for a high rise building isn’t something you can buy off the rack. It’s all custom built. So even though we ordered the equipment last winter, it wasn’t due until this summer, and then the last of it didn’t arrive until the beginning of September. It was late.

Then the equipment took longer to assemble than planned, but finally last Saturday was set as the day to turn the power on. After a week of rain, however, we had another problem. We had a leak.

Now, I’m not a technical guy, but even I understand that water and electricity are not a good mix. So we had another delay while the leak got fixed. The only way to find out whether the leak was well and truly fixed was to test it with water. Last Tuesday when I went up to the building, someone was standing in front of 511 N. Akard watering the concrete. I’m sure passersby were baffled, but I knew he was testing for the leak.

The leak seemed to be gone, and after a pretty heavy rain on Wednesday, we were still good. Everyone was relieved. We had to be almost only the only people in Dallas happy to see yet more rain in one of the wettest falls in history, but without the rain there was no way to be sure about the leak.

If only there are no more problems, then finally, on Tuesday, October 27, permanent power will be restored to 511 N. Akard.

Then we can start using the elevators and air conditioning, and finish some of the work that’s been delayed while we wait for electrical power.

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