Last summer, the Facilities Management Division (FMD) learned that the bus ducts in the King County Courthouse were well past their service life and needed to be replaced immediately.
Bus ducts contain large metal bars that conduct electric current through a building. The ducts are used in large commercial buildings because they can carry far more energy, and are easier to install, than the wires used in a typical home’s electrical system.
The Courthouse bus ducts, which were more than 50 years old, had areas where electric current had jumped across the bars, known as arcing. This arcing could have brought down the entire power system in the Courthouse, or worse.
If the old bus ducts had failed, “it could have been catastrophic,” said Joe Lagonoy, an electrician foreman for FMD. “We could have had an explosion or fire.”
As FMD Director Anthony Wright explained, “Arcing, crossing over the bars, for those of you who are not electricians, is kind of like crossing the beams on ‘Ghostbusters.’ It’s a really bad thing.”
While there was no imminent danger, the risk of a failure was enough of a concern for FMD to ask the County Council for emergency funds to replace the bus ducts. The project was estimated to cost $11.6 million and take more than a year to complete. FMD crews would need to work closely with contractors to complete the project, and it could have had a major impact on operations at the Courthouse.
On August 7, Executive Constantine and Wright brought the project team together to celebrate the successful conclusion of the bus duct replacement project.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing remarkable work that just exemplifies the things we talk about, whether you’re a contractor or whether you’re a county employee, when we talk about Best Run Government,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Thank you so much for everything you did.”
“Usually when you do emergency projects, you talk about how much more you’ll end up spending,” said Wright. “But we delivered this one ahead of schedule and below our budget.”
The project team “made it possible for us to continue operations to the people of this county without even a bit of a hiccup,” the Executive added. “There’s an awful lot going on here, and to be able to minimize disruption and keep this workplace functioning was a huge achievement.”
Most of the work took place in the evening and on weekends, meaning long hours for FMD crews and the contractors working on the project. However, those extra hours paid off, as there were fewer shutdowns of the Courthouse power system than originally anticipated. Throughout the bus duct project, FMD kept Courthouse employees informed through tenant alerts and a project page on KCWeb.
With the bus ducts replaced, now Lagonoy and the team of FMD electricians and other professionals are turning their attention to replacing electrical panels throughout the Courthouse.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Lagonoy. “To know [the bus ducts] have been replaced, a great cloud lifted. I’m elated. We pretty much have a whole new electrical system here. It’s great.”