WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am responsible for maintaining anything in the building with wires – anything electrical – but not anything to do with audio. I maintain existing electrical systems, and I also provide power for shows or events – in the lobby or those outside, such as opening night. I also maintain certain pieces of equipment.
Ever since I started in 2004, things have become a lot “greener” in the facility. They put me on a mission to make the building more green and we have made great strides toward that.
Electrically, we’ve replaced roughly 900 light fixtures – the ballasts were energy hogs, and we went with electronic, as opposed to magnetic, ballasts. The new ballasts are friendlier to the environment.
WHAT’S A BALLAST?
A device in the fixture that takes electricity and distributes it to light bulbs.
In this building most of the ballasts were original – a lot of them 40 years old. One of the biggest improvement projects we did was in the lobby. I oversaw the process of replacing about 670 lights in the lobby that used incandescent light bulbs. We had a contractor come in and change the light fixtures to LED. We dropped our power consumption by two-thirds in the lobby. It used to cost $60,000 to light the lobby for a year. Now it costs about $17,000 a year.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
Many different things. For example, I make sure high-voltage rooms are clean. We have four high-voltage rooms, and I’m the only one who works here who can go into those rooms. Those rooms house the power that comes in from the street. It’s distributed to lower voltage that is usable for the building. We had a problem here last year when our parking garage went dim. All the lights went out, and the problem stemmed from the high-voltage room being dirty; dust caused equipment to (malfunction) and we lost power to one-third of the building. We ended up having to cancel shows that night. We worked for about 10 hours putting everything back together. To prevent something like that from happening again, a couple times a year I go in and clean those rooms.
HOW MANY OTHER PEOPLE DO YOU WORK WITH?
There are about 18 of us who work together. We have our own department called building ops.
DO OTHER BUILDINGS ON CAMPUS HAVE FULL-TIME ELECTRICIANS?
I think on campus there are 105 total electricians. Assembly Hall’s electricians are kind of like me because they are only in charge of that facility. In other areas of campus, electricians are responsible for five or six buildings in a certain area.
WHAT OTHER PROJECTS HAVE YOU WORKED ON AT KRANNERT?
In 2005, Krannert’s managers asked if we could install a stage (with electricity) in the lobby area, which had been just a seating area before. I told them it was possible. It (Stage 5) has been a very busy venue here.
DO YOU WORK WITH THE SHOWS AT KRANNERT?
Representatives for any event that comes in usually need to consult with me about what type of power we have here, especially the kind of voltage. Communications between those people and me will take place one to three months in advance. We don’t want them to show up and find out that we only have a (certain kind of voltage). Sometimes they have to have different power settings for lighting or sound equipment, or projectors take a certain voltage.
HOW DID YOU END UP AT ILLINOIS?
I graduated from Illinois State University and got married. I started doing electrical work in 1996. I was working construction on a parking garage here at the UI right before I got hired as a full-time electrician here. I started doing work for my dad when I was 13 – he also was an electrician at the UI.
DO YOU LIKE WORKING AT THE UI AS OPPOSED TO CONSTRUCTION SITES?
Definitely – it’s warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It’s a different kind of stress level, though. I can have up to 85 people that may have something coming up for me – it’s just a lot of different things. I try to make life easier for people here, which makes me feel good because I can make a difference.
JOE BUTSCH FAST FACTS
Family: Joe Butsch lives north of Mahomet with his wife, Michelle, and their children: Quinton, 15; Kami, 11; and Alexis, 8.
Family travels: The family loves roller coasters and plans a trip to Six Flags this fall.
Favorite places to eat: Red Lobster, Olive Garden
Favorite things to read: newspapers and anything to do with the last 200 years of American history
Favorite television show: “Seinfeld”