61 ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | SEP. 14 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
The Lauderdale Electric team—front row, from left: Bob Ross, Beau
Lauderdale and Zeus Conejo; back row, from left: Denny Butzow,
Steve Lauderdale, Lon Chanthalansy, Devin Daufenbach, Joey
Sountala, Jeff Kowal, Jon Novak and Bill Lauderdale.
The company landed the contract for the installation—which
included electrical wire and pipe, control and the wind-turbine
systems and related connectivity—based on its reputation for
quality installations and its strong, established network within
the contracting community.
“We have a great relationship with Weis Builders Inc., Minneapolis, that dates back nearly 10 years,” said Bill Lauderdale. “They
reached out to us to bid the project and informed us after they won
the contract that we were their preferred electrical contractor.”
Chicago O’Hare International Airport,
opened in May, while the location in western suburb Naperville opened in July.
The installation included the deployment of SkyVenture-manufactured,
ninth-generation wind-tunnel technology, including four 10-foot,
350-horsepower [hp] fans that send air
through concrete chambers from the building’s perimeter and
into the fly tube, located at the structure’s center.
There was no room or time for error during construction.
“These projects were unforgiving,” Bill Lauderdale said.
“Every floor box had to be precisely installed in the proper
location, or it would create a multitude of problems that would
require additional electricians and complicate the installation.
The working partnership we developed with Weis Builders and
iFLY was a key factor in the success of these projects. Through a
thorough preplanning process with Weis Builders, we were able
increase our efficiency and complete these projects on time.”
The thrill of flight
Wind tunnels that create a vertical air column in which a person
can safely float have become a popular form of entertainment,
according to Bill Adams, SkyVenture vice president. Founded by
professional skydivers, the company manufactures a complete
range of patented and trademarked wind-flow tunnel models
and flight chambers. The first tunnel was built in Orlando, Fla.,
in 1998; today, there are some 32 iFLY and participating iFLY
locations across the country.
Industry estimates for the global market for indoor skydiving
are expected to exceed $1.6 billion in annual revenue by 2025.
SkyVenture’s Adams said visits to its entertainment venues
across the country have risen from an annual average of 50,000
to almost 100,000. SkyVenture has company-owned stores in
North America and franchises its international tunnels, sells
equipment and continuing services,
and licenses the technology around the
Project challenges in the Windy City
The challenge for a typical iFLY building is its small size yet huge electrical
“Our footprint is only 150 feet wide
by 50 feet deep and three stories tall
with 3,000 kVa [kilovolt-amperes] service at 2, 100 amperes
[A],” Adams said.
Typical February weather in Chicago also tested technicians.
“Weather was absolutely a challenge as we were roughing in the floor slabs when it was minus- 20 degrees outside at
50-feet up with open walls,” Lauderdale said about the Rosemont location, which was completed first. “I bought heated
socks for my electricians, so they could actually feel their feet,
and they used portable heaters to keep their hands warm, but
huge gusts of wind kept blowing them out.”
The building footprint was so tight that it led to some difficulty in constructing staging to reach the third floor and
penthouse areas. There were some 80 stairs to climb and an
18-inch-wide ladder to the penthouse. The penthouse houses
four 600A variable frequency drive units required for the four
350-hoursepower motors that create the wind for the flight
tunnels. The basement, some 18 feet below grade, was accessible by a small ladder. Here, Lauderdale Electric installed
“We’ve all had some flight time. It’s
really amazing and a bit harder than
you think. The flight time is only
five minutes, but trust me, you are
exhausted when you’re finished.”
—Bill Lauderdale, vice president
The wind tunnel