2008/08/18 05:31:27

bbot's adventures in load shedding

So I was changing lightbulbs on floor 26, which is entirely taken up by offices of the Washington State Court of Appeals, whose court is on the lobby floor. It had apparently been a while since they had been graced by the presence of a lighting maintence technician, since I was seeing a ton of light bulbs, and people kept leaving post-it notes on my clipboard, asking me to change some particular fixture. I'm doing the whole floor, guys, you don't have to draw my attention to every single fixture with a dead bulb.

When but should we recieve an annoucement over the security intercom that PSE had experienced a series of transformer failures, and that we urgently needed to reduce power consumption by 40% or suffer a brownout. To wit: we would shut off all the lights. (Except for the emergency lights, which cannot be shut off, except via axe.)

Now, you would think that I, being a lighting maintence guy, and thus not an actual electrician, would have no duty to play in the "shutting off lights" phase, and, as a corrolary, would not be able to fufill my normal duties, since changing lights is hard if you have no way to determine which ones are dead. You would be wrong, because as a Union Square employee, I did have a valuable role to play in the "intimidating tennants" phase.

You see, the lights are shut off through the building automation system, which turns the lights on in the morning and turns them off at night. For the purposes of working late, an override switch is provided, to override the automatic shutoff and keep the lights on.

But this switch harbors a sinister secret, for it not only overrides the timers, but all commands from the management computer; say, if it was attempting to shut off the lights to prevent a brownout.

My job was thus: Track down these people, and gently point out that we had a contractual obligation to the city of seattle to shed load, and if they kept overriding management commands, we would unfortunately be forced to shut down all power to the floor; which included power to computers, critical servers, life-support machines, (also known as "coffee machines") etc.

This had the unfortunate side-effect of making me feel like a jackbooted thug.

After properly browbeating the offending tennats, I proceded to the One Union engineering office, where Don Wildes[*] and Mitchell (coming to us live by speakerphone) were manning the building management computer. I fielded calls on Don's phone while he resoved some alerts, then we proceded to 17 to clear a taped override switch.

*: My immediate supervisor for the filter changing and relief fan maintence project of 12/2007-03/2008.

Now, to me, the procedure to clear a taped override switch[**] is:

1. Remove the tape.
2. Leave.

But Don switched it up, and added a third item:

3. Stick around and tell the tennant how walking into their suite and shutting off their lights is good for them.

**: If you tape an override switch in the "on" position, then it'll constantly increment the timeout counter, and the lights will, as a result, never turn off. This is a fairly bad idea, since it means that the lights will never turn off, and thus, you know, remain on. So, removing the tape benefitted the tennant in three ways: It prevented a brownout, it saved them money on their power bill, and it saved them money on lamp replacement costs.

The person closest to the door took this as an oppratunity to point out that it was dark, that he didn't like it being so dark, and that he would rather it be brighter. At one point in his increasingly hostile rant he speculated that it "was bad engineering" for there not to be one light fixture per office. He, of course, couldn't know this, but Don is an Operating Engineer, and this is more or less a direct insult.

Don, remaining remarkably calm, replied that he should contact the architects who designed the building in 1982, and express his concerns to them, rather than the two people with the least possible ability to affect the situation. In response, he told Don that he was "tired of your sanctimonious shit", and told us to leave, which we did.

Nothing much of interest happened after that. The "crisis" ended a couple of hours later, just as I was leaving, and Mark got to turn all the lights back on. EXCITING

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