Sometimes you might walk past the same construction site multiple times and wonder why there hasn’t been any visible sign of progress happening. There is a good chance the project has been delayed or put on hold.
There are several reasons why a project could be delayed or on hold. Some projects depend on a certain piece or pieces of equipment to be installed before any other work can be completed, while other projects might be waiting only on that last piece of equipment before the project is complete. Equipment lead times have been causing a lot of schedule delays. The procurement of many electrical- and mechanical-related equipment is a problem for construction teams around the world. During almost every project there is the question of “what is the lead time for that?” It can take around 1-2 years or more for generators, utility transformers, and other large power distribution equipment, such as switchgears, to be delivered. Some mechanical items, such as chillers, have also been pushing into that range for lead times.
As a design engineer, doing mostly design work on the computer, it can be easy to overlook these issues especially once the project has mostly been handed over to contractors during the construction administration phase.
A solution that helps to alleviate this problem is to get approved submittals for equipment with longer lead times at very early stages of the project. Of course, this will only work if the owner seeks an MEP firm’s help early enough. Purchasing equipment early can become stringent for a project. Performing load calculations correctly will be extra important when it comes to pre-purchasing equipment. You don’t want to find out something is wrong while working on the construction documents and realize the equipment you preapproved does not align with the rest of the design. Pre-purchasing equipment might also leave owners with fewer opportunities to change their minds on certain aspects of the project during the design phase.
The idea of getting preapproved submittals before putting any actual work onto the drawings might sound like a lot more work than the norm, but the work has just been shifted over to the head end of the project. You are still going to be running the same load calculations and those same submittals you were supposed to review during construction administration are not there anymore.
In some cases, it might not be very practical to go through the whole process of pre-purchasing a piece of equipment when the entire scope of the project is just the replacement itself. It would be a better idea for the owner to start the project earlier to avoid an aggressive schedule. Problems may come up during the design phase that could cause a project to veer away from its anticipated completion date so having some leeway in the schedule is always a good idea.
To sum it all up, don’t wait until your building systems fully fail before looking for replacements. The equipment that needs to be replaced could potentially take many weeks or months before it can be delivered, and this does not factor in the time it takes to get through the MEP engineering if that route needs to be taken. You may need to temporarily rent equipment to keep the building operable, but that may come with a huge cost.
Electrical Design Engineer