An E-House is a prefabricated power distribution substation that is deployed to site as a fully assembled and integrated unit; they are designed, engineered and manufactured by Shaw Controls – part of the Zest WEG Group – at their facility in Johannesburg.

“A major advantage of an E-House over a brick-and-mortar substation is that it can be installed and commissioned without the need to establish a complex civil infrastructure,” says Richards. “This saves on the costs of planning and managing civil works – especially in remote areas where the cost of civil and infrastructure construction tends to be higher.”

He highlights the cost advantage of dealing with a single supplier – which will free up many hours of project management and allow for a seamless process from design through to fabrication, with all these activities undertaken at one location.

“This means a smaller team for the project’s engineer or consultant managing the project, leading to better productivity and resultant cost savings,” he says.

A further cost advantage is achieved by the time saved through combining all the related disciplines when engineering and producing the E-House. When constructing a brick-and-mortar substation, a structure is first completed before a number of separate elements – mostly prepared off-site by a number of different suppliers – have to then be integrated into the building.

“This undertaking is complex and often involves numerous sub-contractors – so it is often open to human error,” he said. “With an E-House, on the other hand, this integration is carefully co-ordinated at the facility of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), where any teething problems can be immediately addressed.”

Shaw Controls’ extensive manufacturing facility of over 12 000 m2 is manned by a team of skilled technical personnel; having the whole construction take place in one facility also makes it easier for customers to do all their quality and functional checks in one place.

This ensures that the final power distribution solution is delivered as a ‘plug-and-play’ to site; the construction of an E-House as a single source OEM supply option removes the difficulties associated with managing multi-disciplinary contractors on site.

The cost-saving factors are making E-Houses an increasingly attractive choice, as the economic climate places further pressure on project costing and forces contractors to look for ways to achieve savings in project expenditure.

There is also a weather-related risk which the E-House avoids; rain and other poor weather conditions frequently delay construction time of built projects, particularly in regions with high rainfall. Being built off-site obviates these challenges and ensures on-time project completion.

Beyond the advantage related to setting up and commissioning the E-House, Richards points to the portability and self-contained nature of this electrical power solution. While it can be easily installed on site – with just a simple foundation – it can also be re-located without difficulty; this is particularly useful if the project expands and a substation is required to move to another working area.

“The modular design gives a great deal of flexibility while reducing the overall footprint of the structure,” he says. “On most sites, space is an important factor to consider, and the E-House allows the best possible use of the available space.”

The internal configuration of the E-House – which is usually equipped with medium voltage switchgear, low voltage switchgear, transformers, instrumentation and auxiliary equipment – can be upgraded when necessary. In applications where required, multi E-Houses can be used, again leveraging on the flexibility that this option provides.

“An E-House is also a perfect interim solution where electrical power needs to be provided prior to the balance of the operational infrastructure,” he says. “As a scalable solution, it minimises project lead times and reduces on-site construction requirements.”

Founded in 1981, Shaw Controls has built a reputation as one of South Africa’s foremost suppliers of E-Houses, mobile substations and motor control centres (MCCs). The company’s product line includes MV switchgear and LV withdrawable MCCs – locally manufactured products that are independently certified in accordance with the IEC 62271-200 and IEC 61439-1/2 standards. According to IEC specifications, LV covers applications up to 690 V, while the MV range is from 1 kV up to 52 kV. All products carry ISO 9001 accreditation from Bureau Veritas.

Being part of the Zest WEG Group gives Shaw Controls access to the substantial technical database and engineering resources of parent company WEG Brazil. WEG itself has numerous references in terms of pre-manufactured substations – and Shaw Controls’ access to the expertise and experience of the Group gives it the ability to share technology and ensure best design practice.