Sinai High School will be the first Silver LEED-certified building in Detroit.
By Robert P. Madar
Of Contractor's staff
This month, students in the Detroit area began attending the first day of classes at Sinai Renaissance High School. The unique, three-story high school building will be part of a $100 million campus accommodating 2,500 students from kindergarten through high school. A separate special education school on the first floor will provide services for 330 students.
In addition to the benefits it will bring to its students, the opening of the school also represents a significant achievement to the community and the building team behind its design and construction.
Early on, the building's planners decided to seek the environmental recognition of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. This goal required careful planning, expert design services and reliable mechanical products. To accomplish this, the site's planners assembled an expert team of experienced providers capable of bringing Detroit its first Silver LEED-certified building.
A nationally recognized system of standards determines the level of LEED certification that is appropriate for a construction project. The Sinai High School's certification goal was determined to be Silver certification — the level awarded to projects that achieve at least 50% of the core credits available. Points are earned for certain efficiencies in categories such as Indoor Environmental Quality, Building Materials and Resources, and Energy and Atmosphere.
"This will be the first Silver-certified building in Detroit," says Anthony Fritz, senior project manager of Heights Heating and Cooling, the project's mechanical contractor. "The completion of the building and achievement of the Silver will be significant for the city and for everyone involved in the project."
Solar and more
The high school meets all the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for buildings of its type, and features solar collectors, a rainwater harvesting system and use of daylighting.
One of the greenest features is that the high school is an infill development on the former site of Sinai Hospital, so land isn't used for "greenfield" development, notes Brad Wood, LEED consultant for Padia Consulting. Wood is assembling the certification package that will be sent to the U.S. Green Building Council.
The building reuses the existing infrastructure and is along existing bus lines so public transportation is available. The hospital had a fourstory parking deck with 540 spaces that the school system has decided to keep, minimizing the need for new surface parking.
The HVAC portion is conventional for a building of this type, although it's tightly controlled, Fritz notes. The building holds two McQuay chillers, a double-cell Evapco cooling tower and three Cleaver Brooks boilers, all feeding 18 McQuay air-handling units placed in five mechanical rooms. Bell & Gossett supplied the pumps. The building also contains Liebert air conditioning units for spot cooling.
GE variable frequency drives control the McQuay air handlers that supply a variable air volume system. The VAV system is controlled by both occupancy sensors and by time of day.
The lighting system uses light sensors in the classrooms and begins shutting off rows of lights as the amount of daylight increases. Nevertheless, consultant Wood says he is not going to try to get LEED credit for that because a daylighting credit requires a lighting consultant during the design phase. In order to get a lighting credit, a building has to use sloped ceilings, light shelves and light louvers and other arcane techniques to reflect daylight that aren't employed here, Wood says.
The building includes a rainwater collection system that's used exclusively for toilet flushing. It can also be used for landscape irrigation, although the Detroit school board has a noirrigation policy so it probably will not see that application.
Rainwater is collected in a 60,000-gal. underground cistern, says Padia Consulting mechanical engineer Jim Harris. The system is controlled so it does not begin collecting water until after it has been raining for five minutes in order to flush particulate matter off the roof.
A submersible pump in the cistern pumps the water-through filters to a buffer tank in a mechanical room inside the building. The buffer tanks allow city water to be used for the toilets if the cistern is empty. Duplex pumps move the water from the buffer tank into a bladder tank that pressurizes it to about 70 psi. High and low limit pressure controls are on the bladder tank. The water is chlorinated, Harris says, so that it won't give off an unpleasant stagnant odor if it sits around too long.
The roof of the building holds 35 solar collectors that are used for preheating domestic hot water, via a doublewall heat exchanger inside a large storage tank. The building also has a conventional boiler/storage tank water heating system for the times when solar isn't enough.
The green team
To achieve the prestigious goal of Silver certification, Heights Heating knew that assembling the best team was vital. The mechanical contractor set about putting together a team that would provide the work quality and operational efficiencies necessary for this project.
Heights Heating, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., was established in 1940. Since then, the mechanical contractor has provided expertise in engineering, design, project management and installation for commercial and industrial applications, including highprofile jobs such as Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions
Of about 20 bidders on the Sinai project, Heights Heating was chosen to run the project and assumed the responsibility of finding the other companies to complete the service team. Pursuing Silver LEED certification would require mechanical partners that were flexible and responsive. Heights Heating contacted Warren, Mich.-based Satterlund Supply, which had the parts for the job and a reputation for dependable service.
"I've worked with Satterlund on other large-scale projects," Fritz says. "I trust their service, and I trust the products they provide. I knew they would be a significant asset to this project."
Satterlund specializes in piping products and connections. For this project, the building team decided to use the Anvil line, including Gruvlok couplings, fittings and valves.
In addition to its product line, Anvil also offers piping design services. This custom design capability provided the project with an advantage in planning and cost-savings as Anvil representatives met onsite with other team members to determine the most effective and cost-efficient piping solutions for their system, Fritz says.
A rainwater collection system is used exclusively for toilet flushing.
Because the Sinai project was new construction, design played heavily into the process. Instead of working around an existing system, the team was able to design from the ground up, with an eye on the considerations that would help facilitate the LEED certification.
A primary concern was cost. While LEED construction can be more expensive than a non-LEED project, the right team can make a big difference for the project owner, Fritz says.
"If you have a collaborative approach, you can deliver a green building for the same or even less than a similar building," he notes. "Done right, it can actually become a cost-effective undertaking. As more builders go for green, they'll see their costs drop. The energy and water savings over the life of the building will be enough to outweigh the initial costs."
The main objective for the Anvil Design Services team was to use the least amount of piping to satisfy the engineers' flow requirements, while making sure all the valves were accounted for and design specs were met, Fritz says.
The building's central plant filled two mechanical rooms on separate floors. This created a number of additional physical challenges. The spatial issues of the small rooms and low ceilings made it difficult to maintain non-turbulent flow for proper operation of flow measuring devices. With these challenges, early routing of the pipe was critical to ensuring overall coordination.
One of those solutions was to offer a mixed product line — a combination of the Gruvlok grooved product line and welded systems for greater flexibility. This enabled a number of design and installation efficiencies, Fritz says.
The overall number of fittings was reduced, and using mixed products exceeded the system requirements, he notes. This type of adaptability was critical to the project.
"The buzz words were 'production'and 'flexibility,'" Fritz says. "For any mechanical contractor, ease of application translates to efficiency in the field."
Satterlund's responsiveness provided key efficiencies in the field, he notes. Delivering pre-packaged products on time saved money in the long run. Any delay in getting the right product to the site would have meant a significant holdup — in both time and loss of money — for the team.
Now that the project has wound down, even the cleanup is green. A recycler picked up all construction waste and sorted it off-site. At least 50% of the waste will be recycled and the total may end up being as high as 75%.
Sinai High School opened in time for 2,500 students to make their way down the beautiful hallways (finished with sustainably harvested wood) to their classrooms. Most will be unaware of the many behind-the-scenes efficiencies that went into the design of their school, but members of the building team say they are proud to have been a part of the project.