People may not know it, but Jackie Robinson, Elvis Presley, former President George H. W. Bush, and EC&M magazine’s Art Director David Eckhart have something in common. All four served in a branch of the U.S. military, and each possesses a file at the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA’s) recently opened National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), situated on 29.5 acres near St. Louis.

Employees of St. Louis-based Guarantee Electrical Co. install conduit at the site of the National Archives and Records Administration’s new National Personnel Records Center, also located in St. Louis.

Currently the nation’s largest national archives facility outside of greater Washington, D.C., the $115-million concrete structure covers more than 7 acres and serves as a storehouse for 56 million military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans during the 20th century, subsequent to World War I. The building also houses civilian and other related records.

By the numbers, the NPRC comprises a 250,000-sq-ft warehouse, which boasts the capacity to hold 2.3 million cubic ft of records stored in a multi-bay stacking system nearly 30 ft tall, along with an approximately 250,000-sq-ft, 3-story office building that houses 14 different federal agencies. Employing a staff of 800, the NPRC also contains a state-of-the-art preservation laboratory for records conservation, two large research rooms, and a multipurpose room for meetings, exhibits, and public outreach.

“Our company provided and installed two independent 13.2V to 480V electric utility services, a 600kW emergency generator, and 16,200 warehouse, office, and site luminaires,” says Steve Kellenberger, director of construction for St. Louis-headquartered Guarantee Electrical Company (GECO), the NPRC project’s electrical and communications systems contractor. “We were also responsible for installing, inspecting, testing, and energizing the lighting, power, fire alarm, data, paging, security, and electrical distribution systems,” he adds. “This included more than 1 million ft of data cable to support the installation of some 5,000 workstations, 600 paging speakers with 10,000 ft of fiber-optic cable, and 70,000 ft of data feeder cable.”

Kellenberger says the sheer scale of the project as well as the large quantity of materials and various electrical systems that needed to be installed, tested, and made functional in a very limited time frame tested the company.

“We rose to the challenge, managing to place much of the electrical conduit into the slab, which got the electrical installed early, allowing us to complete 80% of the required work in just 12 months,” he notes.

To simplify the installation of the more than 16,000 luminaires, the contractor employed continuous rows of fixtures that operate with electronic ballast in a master/slave arrangement.

“The master fixtures contained the ballast that fed the slave units,” explains Kellenberger. “This reduced the number of ballasts needed by more than half, feeding as many as three single-lamp fixtures with one ballast. We laid out and determined the required location of the master luminaires to ensure the ballast control wires would drive the lamps in the slave units. This approach allowed us to reduce the overhead branch circuit wiring as well by routing the wiring through the fixture raceways.”

Most of the office space and each row of the warehouse record storage area are controlled through occupancy sensors to reduce energy costs and help the NPRC achieve LEED certification. In addition to the project’s enormous scope and tight deadline, heightened security measures added to the demands faced by GECO.

“In part, this was due to the tremendous pent up demand for space; the owner’s personnel were moving in almost as soon as our work was done, making it difficult to address any warranty or repair issues that often arise with brand new equipment,” notes Kellenberger. “We found this required additional front-end planning and coordination to ensure, wherever possible, that the systems running through an area were fully completed on the first pass so as to reduce the impact of access restrictions. Badging and the scheduling of work in areas that were either restricted access and/or in the process of being occupied by the owner took additional time, effort, and proactive communication with the customer to coordinate the work remaining in punching out these spaces.”

In spite of these challenges, GECO completed its portion of the project on time for the NPRC’s formal dedication ceremony on Oct. 15, 2011.