New McCormick Place West Demands Complex Electrical System

McCormick Place West

Contractors represented by NECA Chicago and IBEW Local 134 electricians played a key part in the newest addition to McCormick Place, Chicago’s premier convention and exhibition facility. McCormick Place West, which was completed six months ahead of schedule, added 2.5 million square feet to the complex’s already existing 5 million square feet.

Owned and operated by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), McCormick Place is the official site of the wildly popular Chicago Auto Show, considered by many to be the largest convention of its kind in North America. Currently, the center hosts close to three million visitors per year at various trade shows and conventions.

The new addition was designed to achieve greater flexibility and functionality, enabling the site to host more simultaneous and back-to-back shows. The building includes 61 meeting rooms and one of the largest ballrooms in the world, equaling the size of a football field at 100,000 square feet.

"This monumental achievement would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication and creativity of thousands of people. This 'can do' attitude proves the City of Big Shoulders is also the City of Grand Achievements," stated Juan Ochoa, chief executive officer, MPEA.

McCormick Place West required a complex and sophisticated system of wiring, including a total demand load exceeding 50,000 KVA. Incoming redundant ComEd service is provided at 12 KV by six separate lines supplied from two substations. Those feeders land on 32 contractor-installed substations within the building, including 4160 V for the HVAC system, 480 V for power and lighting, and another 120 V for other lighting and receptacle use.

Electrical workers installed branch power and lighting as well as the fire alarm, audio visual, public address, telephone, data, security, snow melting, lightning protection and emergency distribution systems. In addition, union teams were responsible for the street lighting along Indiana Avenue, 22nd Street, Martin Luther King Drive and 24th Place, as well as the five traffic signals in the area.

Rather than putting the piping overhead in the building’s high ceilings, however, much of the power and communications distribution system was put underneath the floor. Contractors from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) collaborated with engineers to dig trenches, place the PVC conduit in the ground and encase the piping in concrete to make installation much easier.

For the lighting, more than 290 different types of fixtures were installed to ensure the system met McCormick Place’s design needs. Plus, the team put in a sophisticated dimming system for the whole building, allowing all lighting to be computer operated from the central operations hub in the South building. The new system requires fewer people to turn on and off the lights and is set with an energy savings program that automatically manages the lights based on the time of day.

The electrical project consisted of 32 substations, 643 panels, 16 motor control centers, 10 transfer switches, three 1500 KW generators, 21,000 feet of busduct and roughly 23,000 lighting fixtures. When the project was finished, workers placed more than 55,000 linear feet of PVC conduit, used three million feet of steel conduit and threaded approximately 10 million feet of wire throughout McCormick Place West.

Maron-Divane Mc4West Electrical Venture LLC, a joint partnership of Divane Bros. Electric Co. and Maron Electric Co., was responsible for building the electrical system for McCormick Place West. The venture also provided design assistance to the project’s electrical engineers, a joint venture between A. Epstein and Sons International and Globetrotters Engineering Corporation named Take II.

Quote requested from Divane.