When considering what type of generator set features and components to select for a particular application, specifying engineers probably don’t immediately think of seismic certification and wind load requirements. That is, of course, unless their project happens to be in an active seismic zone. But they should.
Few places, if any, around the globe are immune to natural disasters. Whether it is earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or anything else, they threaten the ongoing operations of any business or mission-critical facility. In turn, increased scrutiny is being placed on ensuring that standby generator sets will perform in any type of emergency situation, regardless of location.
In North America, we are seeing a sharply focused market for seismic certification, especially in mission-critical facilities like hospitals. This is being driven primarily as a result of California’s OSHPD (Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development) Seismic Compliance Program, a building standards plan designed for hospitals. This voluntary program for review and preapproval of Special Seismic Certifications to be used in health facilities construction in California was initiated because of the loss of life incurred due to the collapse of hospitals during the Sylmar earthquake of 1971.
The ultimate public safety benefit is to have general acute care hospital buildings that are not only capable of remaining intact after a seismicevent, but can also demonstrate continued operation and provision of medical services after a seismic event.
In parallel, the International Code Council publishes the International Building Code (IBC) as part of a mission to develop a single set of national model construction codes. These codes specifically address the design and installation of building systems – including emergency power systems – with an emphasis on performance.
The IBC certification is required for the entire electric system including generator sets, ATS, transformers, motor control centers and other onsite power gear. It also requires that all equipment must endure expected acceleration levels set by the U.S. Geological Survey where the equipment is installed, whether it is located below ground, at ground level, or on a roof top.
The only way for a building to remain operational after wind and seismic events is to design the critical equipment to withstand the same impact as the building itself. Regarding flooding, specifying engineers need to ensure critical equipment is not located in areas of the building that could be damaged by floods. Additionally, snow loads need to be considered in certain regions of the country for equipment installed outside.
Wind and snow certification, along with enclosure and sub-base tank certification, can be done through analysis, whereas seismic must be done primarily through shake table testing.
The IBC clearly provides that it is the responsibility of equipment manufacturers, suppliers, installers, design team managers, engineers and inspectors to ensure their respective component remain “on line and functional” after the emergency has occurred.
While IBC and OSHPD seismic certifications are primarily required in North America, an increasing number of regulatory agencies around the globe are referencing these standards as well. These certifications are becoming a required standby electrical generation specification, especially at mission-critical facilities, as they provide a quantitative proof of quality and a standard that has been measured and tested.
In a natural disaster, engineers and customers alike take great comfort knowing the standby generator sets specified to provide backup power for administering emergency services will have the ability to continuously runtheir operations. Generator sets that have met the strict criteria set forth by the IBC and OSHPD certifications offer a greater value proposition by providing an energy solution that has been tested to have a high-level of quality, and has been documented to perform to exact test specifications.
We have found that whether our customers are located in an active seismic zone or not, they appreciate the effort that we, as manufacturers, have gone above and beyond in supplying just a standby power solution. Providing a wide range of diesel generator sets that have been certified to meet the seismic provisions of all published editions of the IBC and OSHPD seismic preapproval, offers customers an added peace of mind and - in our opinion - makes good business sense.