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April 2005 IBEW Journal

When JP Morgan Chase was looking for technicians skilled enough to maintain the heart and soul of its nationwide operations—the critical data cache of investments, credit card and ATM transactions—they sought the expertise of the IBEW members who had the right mix of today’s electrical technology and good old construction know-how to get the job done.

"Initially the bank did float job ads in local papers and we received resumes for engineering-type people, but the skill set and knowledge level of the people responding were not of the caliber that we wanted," said Rich Werner, JP Morgan Chase senior vice president and facility manager. "We made a conscious decision to approach Local 313 to staff the centers."

Today, approximately 30 members of Wilmington, Delaware, Local 313 are working at the two new data centers they helped build for the financial services company. Their employment is part of a long-term operations and maintenance contract negotiated early in the process, Local 313 Business Manager Steve Horgan said. "That was a first," he said. "Usually we would help build the buildings and then walk away."

Local 313 members employed by Battaglia Electric install conduit below grade at the Bear site.

Employing the latest in high-speed telecommunications, data storage and retrieval, the two centers support JP Morgan Chase’s nationwide network. They are mirror images of each other, and function as the critical core data centers of the bank. Among JP Morgan Chase’s approximately 300 data centers across the country, the two Delaware centers were built to the highest level of redundancy possible—meaning there are so many back-ups and contingency plans built into the system, that no amount of power or equipment failures are statistically likely to bring down the network.

To maintain the high level of operations, the buildings—more than 10 miles and an electrical grid apart—are staffed at all times by Local 313 members employed by EMCOR Facilities Services. They operate and maintain the supporting infrastructure of equipment, like the uninterruptible power supplies, generators, chillers and batteries that support the information technology servers and telecommunications devices.

Constructed under a Delaware Building Trades project labor agreement and completed in 15 months, the two 250,000-square-foot buildings were built at a cost of $180 million apiece. At the projects’ peak, around 700 members, including travelers, were on the two sites, Brandywine in Wilmington and the other in Bear. In all, it took 16 electrical contractors to complete the job. The buildings opened in September.

Below, miles of underground conduit house low voltage wiring,
telecommunications and fiber optics wiring.

"Anybody would love to have one of these facilities," Horgan said. "We had two at the same time. It’s like having twins."

The centers reflect the increasingly complex nature of new building construction today. More than the standard commercial components necessary to power a building, the projects required the laying of miles of high-tech cabling and conduit.

Furness Electric Co., of Wilmington, helped install the underground conduit system at the Brandywine facility. Tight deadlines forced them to install 600,000 feet of conduit, over 113 miles long, in 12 weeks. "With perseverance, excellent craftsmanship and team oriented project management, this portion of the project was completed on time, under budget and virtually to perfection," said Furness Vice President Daniel J. Hahn, Sr., project manager.

Furness, which received a construction excellence award from the state of Delaware and the Delaware Contractors Association for its work on the project, employed nearly 90 IBEW members during that 12-week period in 2003. To meet the tight deadline, the contractor staffed the project 20 hours a day, seven days a week. A hot, wet summer presented challenges, as did the necessity of seamlessly transitioning from the day shift to the night shift, Hahn said.

Conduit and duct banks were layered 20 feet below ground. The moment of truth came when the switchgear was set. They did not miss their mark once, Hahn said.

"To the best of my knowledge and those who have been around a lot longer than I have, Delaware has never seen an electrical project of this magnitude and difficulty," Hahn said.

Fiber optic connections

He credited Local 313 members Joe Hazewski, project manager, and Ron Cichocki, general foreman, as well as the rest of the IBEW crew for the success of the project.

"It was an outstanding team effort," Hahn said. "They are the best at what they do and they persevered through the challenges."

Because of the critical nature of the equipment, the data centers maintain a "clean room" environment, meaning workers wear special cloth booties over their work shoes, and floors are lined with special adhesive mats to trap dirt. To keep the equipment constantly cool, the buildings are air-conditioned year-round.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who lobbied to have the centers built in the state, toured a center when they opened last fall. "It knocked the governor off her feet," Horgan said. "It’s so huge and it’s all computers."

The data centers were contracted by Bank One in 2001, which was acquired by JP Morgan Chase last November.

IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill said of the project, "We talk about the excellence and skills of IBEW members and this project was a great showcase for our talents. We want our customers to know that the union electrical industry can meet any challenge in today’s high-tech world."

Above Far Left: Local 313 member Jim Kerrigan installs
a piece of the vast telecommunications network
at JP Morgan Chase’s
Brandywine center.