There are many old, energy inefficient, poorly designed, corrosive, and environmentally-unfriendly utility vaults that require high-energy and maintenance costs and are in dire need of improved design, maintenance, and efficiency upgrading. These vaults include: steam or district heating vaults, chilled water or cooling distribution vaults, telecommunications, electrical cable vaults. Liquid infiltration into the vaults can cause many issues such as pipe and insulation deterioration, cable faults and corrosion, electrical component corrosion and failure, etc. Likewise, a significant problem is to be able to identify and monitor these adverse conditions (since it is underground in vaults and tunnels).
There are currently no off-the-shelf, readily available solutions to this problem which imposes high resource management by IIT (office of energy and sustainability) and impact on urban facilities and people. This is a world-wide urban problem and impacts the environment, including water contamination. There are also a myriad of constraints to consider, including environment regulations, city codes, design, operations, and maintenance of the vaults, etc.
A cost-effective, creative solution is needed to address this social-technical complex problem. Working with the IIT Office of Energy & Sustainability (OCES), the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Chicago, Gurtz Electric Company, Contractor’s Power & Light, etc. we will continue to further develop the electronic monitoring system, started by the current IPRO group, along with addressing additional issues (vault design, environment safety, vault restoration, etc.) and make recommendations for cost-effective, improved energy efficiencies to sponsors. The aim for fall 2017 is to pilot test the system by installing it in an actual vault and develop a commercialization strategy and business plan for this product. Our sponsors will assist in the testing of this monitoring system.