Anything could happen – a fire, an explosion, an equipment malfunction. The dangers to personnel and property are high. No one knows this better than Klaus Meyer, product manager of Schenck Pegasus Corp., an engine testing company in Troy, Mich.
“Bear in mind, assemblies are tested to see if and under what circumstances they fail and how long they will last.
Imagine the damage done if a flywheel breaks loose from its shaft while rotating at high speed. And when testing fuel-related components, there is always a danger of fire and explosion.”
Schenck Pegasus – whose customers include the Big Three automobile manufacturers – needed a safe testing environment. Haz-Safe Buildings by Design in Sarver, Pa., had the solution. “It was not economical to add a hazardous testing area inside our existing building,” said Meyer. “Local building codes and insurance were a problem. The hazardous testing area would have to be completely sealed off with explosion panels in exterior walls. We found out that it was actually less expensive to install a good quality prefabricated building than to construct a building of the required utility using brick and mortar. We were just better off with a separate testing area.”
Protecting the environment was a major concern in the decision to purchase a Haz-Mat building, Meyer said. “Considering the potential cost of a fuel spill cleanup, we certainly wanted to make sure our test cell was built to prevent the spill of hazardous liquids.”
Haz-Safe Buildings by Design prefabricates systems of liftable steel modules for mixing, dispensing, storing and enclosing manufacturing areas using hazardous materials. Although considered to be a small quantity hazardous-waste generator, Schenck Pegasus wanted to be sure that any hazardous waste produced was contained properly. If a spill occurs, it flows through an elevated floor plate down a sloped sump, activates a detector and triggers an alarm.
With a tough tubular skeleton covered in 10-gauge plate steel, they can be custom designed and made to “plug” into existing utility connections. They are safe and durable – exactly what Klaus Meyer was looking for.
“We test engines for a variety of reasons,” Meyer said. “One application might require durability testing of drive train components. Another might require emissions compliance testing. There are instances where engines are used just to produce the hot exhaust gases needed to test catalytic converters.”
The air emissions generated by engine testing – hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide – are handled by a complex ventilation system. Since engines running at full power generate a tremendous amount of heat, large fans are installed to carry the heat away.
The buildings can also withstand intense temperatures and blasts. Should an explosion occur, the pressure in the building is safely released by lightweight explosion panels that open outward under pressure. In case of fire, a built-in sprinkler system activates, an alarm sounds and fire dampers in the fan ducts close. The building itself is fire-rated for two hours, and a fire can be contained inside the Haz-Mat building without spreading to the rest of the plant.
Meyer had found his solution. Schenck Pegasus purchased its first Haz-Mat building four years ago and has added another one since.
The first building was designed with an additional room for a control area or operator station. The second building was specifically designed and modified as a dynamometer test cell and required a different floor arrangement, coolant pipes, fuel lines and a crane.
“We looked at the design and the quality of execution of the building, and we knew we were getting an excellent value,” Meyer said. Haz-Safe buildings exceed all federal, state and local regulations. Marion Petty is associate editor with Environmental Protection magazine.