Creative contractor heats small N.Y. college

SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR TROY, N.Y. When FPI Mechanical replaced the boiler system at Russell Sage College here, it really put on its thinking cap. The contractor replaced aging boilers in separate boiler rooms with a central plant with new boilers, controls, steam header, condensate return and condensate pumps. Russell Sage College is a college for women and a member of The Sage Colleges, which includes

SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR

TROY, N.Y. — When FPI Mechanical replaced the boiler system at Russell Sage College here, it really put on its thinking cap. The contractor replaced aging boilers in separate boiler rooms with a central plant with new boilers, controls, steam header, condensate return and condensate pumps.

Russell Sage College is a college for women and a member of The Sage Colleges, which includes the coeducational Sage College of Albany.

The job was done as a performance contract by Carrier Corp.'s Commercial Service Division of Middletown, Conn., which financed the project and did the engineering. FPI Mechanical, Cohoes, N.Y., handled the installation in the school's complex of four adjoining buildings with a central courtyard.

Each building had its own mechanical room, but FPI consolidated that into one larger boiler room housing three boilers — two big 17-section H. B. Smith 28HE steam boilers and an eightsection H.B. Smith boiler for low-load use.

The old boilers were abandoned in place. One was a Continental brand from the 1950s and a "newer" boiler was a Cleaver-Brooks from the 1960s.

Joe Herkenham, FPI's project engineer, and his crew of four pipefitters and two electricians had to assemble the boilers piece by piece, but they had to bring the cast-iron sections down a set of stairs and through a 30-in. doorway. They solved their material-handling problem by building a monorail.

Even though there are four separate buildings they have adjoining walls. The contractor ran a 6-in. steam distribution header that connected all the old boiler rooms in the buildings and tied into the existing steam header in each boiler room.

"One of the biggest challenges was running a 6-in. low-pressure steam supply line to all of the buildings in a way that prevents line loss and delivers the right pressure level to all the buildings," Herkenham said. "It was a tricky job."

Part of the trick was trying to run piping unobtrusively in old buildings.

"We tried to run the piping in such a way that it blended in or was hidden to the best of our abilities in order to maintain architectural atmosphere or architectural look of the old buildings," Herkenham said.

They encountered some tight spots where they had to leave the pipe exposed, but they ran the pipe tight to the ceiling and corners and covered it with white insulation so it "didn't stick out like a sore thumb." They built soffits for the pipe in some spots for architectural reasons.

Then they ran into a conundrum. In one location there was no headroom to run the pipe anywhere — except through a 24-in. steel beam. FPI discussed its options with Carrier and the college, and the college made the decision, Herkenham said, that for aesthetic reasons the pipe had to go through the beam.

A structural engineer designed the penetration through a sleeve in the web of the beam with stiffener plates reinforcing the web and connecting to the flanges in three locations on either side of the beam.

FPI installed new Bell & Gossett condensate return pumps and a 2-in. condensate return line. Typically only one building, or occasionally two, would be returning condensate at a time, Herkenham explained, allowing for the small return line. The condensate flows into a 500-gal. return tank in the boiler room.

The steam lines tie into existing loads, including the central kitchen and heat exchangers for domestic hot water tanks of 700-gal. capacity in the old boiler rooms.

FPI installed a new Carrier-designed control system to control operation of the boilers and monitor steam consumption. The boiler controls are based on steam header pressure, which is a basic way of handling it, Herkenham noted. The contractor installed strategically located control valves so the college could isolate various wings during spring and fall or during breaks and vacations in order to save energy.

The eight-section boiler likewise was installed for spring and fall heating and domestic hot water production. It also handles summertime DHW and the kitchen load. The customer is pleased with the results of the eight-month project.

"We initiated this project in order to gain energy improvements," said Bob Pattee, director of facilities, planning and management at The Sage Colleges. "We anticipate a payback for the new boiler system in terms of years, not decades."