BY STEVE SPAULDING Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
CHICAGO — While Chicago’s Loop — the downtown area bounded by the tracks of the city’s elevated train system — is famous around the world, the current buzz in the local real estate market is all about the South Loop. The area just south of downtown’s high-rises has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to a city-sponsored renovation program begun in the late ‘90s.
The area now boasts shops, restaurants and has begun attracting residential development, a prime example being the new Museum Park Condominiums. Located on Michigan Avenue just across from Soldier Field, the 21-story high-rise is named after a showpiece of the local refurbishment, the Museum Park a few blocks to the north where the city’s planetarium, aquarium and museum of natural history are located.
International Piping Systems of Schaumburg, Ill., faced several challenges when the mechanical contractor was hired to do the plumbing and heating installation for the Museum Park Condos. They included budget constraints, tight deadlines, and a lack of storage and fabrication space.
IPS, a member of the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, has been in business more than 25 years, serving customers from Indiana to the Wisconsin-Illinois boarder. Kevin Simek, general superintendent for IPS on the Museum Park Condos job, has been with the company for two years, but he has been a contractor the last 26. Simek said he knew from the outset that meeting the project’s goals would involve extensive pre-planning.
“I’ve never seen pre-planning as good as on this project,” he added.
That pre-planning utilized value engineering for reducing costs while meeting the job criteria, Simek explained. For example, five pumps were replaced by three larger pumps at a reduced cost, without loss of efficiency.
IPS partnered with Anvil International’s Design Services Group to value engineer the job — reviewing mechanical drawings, approved submittals and specifications for economy, accuracy and compliance. Then they made modifications in equipment arrangement and construction with an eye toward simplifying fabrication and installation while gaining overall efficiency.
The end result was a detailed set of drawings that included a bill of materials with tags referencing the components. Piping was color-coded by service and rendered in 3-D with isometric and elevation views.
Working off the plans, 90% of the fittings and pump components for the mechanical room were sorted as a complete packages and delivered to the site just in time by S&G Supply of Calumet Park, Ill.
“Basically they did [the main mechanical room] like a puzzle,” Simek said. “They labeled each pipe and bagged all the fittings per sizes, per heating or cooling system, and then it’s just a matter of putting the whole thing together. It’s great to work with such coordination. We saved a lot of time and money.”
Between April of 2002 and June 2003, IPS installed 477 stacked units, three air-handling units, eight Taco base-mounted pumps and four Taco in-line pumps.
“We used Miller-Cooper copper tubing throughout our risers,” Simek said. “Those sizes varied from 34-in. up to 3 in. We made the transition to black carbon-steel piping up at the 20th floor, and there we installed Bornquist circuit centers.”
A part of the value engineered approach called for using Anvil International’s Gruvlok grooved piping system. Space constraints in the mechanical room and elsewhere meant that a welder might not be able to physically get all the way around the pipe.
“With traditional welding, you’re always going to be stuck with position welds, no matter how you figure it,” Simek said.
The Gruvlok system also freed up manpower. Simek estimated that welding the piping would have needed another six people on that portion of the job to complete it in the same amount of time. “For every welder you need at least one guy to help him set up welds and possibly two, depending on the size of the fittings,” he said.
The grooved piping system, along with just-in-time delivery of pre-packaged components, was essential on a job where no one seemed to have enough room to work.
“You’ve got the sprinkler fitters, you’ve got the electricians, you’ve got the plumbers and the sheet metal workers, and everybody needs space to work in,” Simek said. “By going to the Gruv-lok system it freed up a lot of room for everybody because we didn’t have to set up a fabrication area for welding.”
Despite all the challenges, Simek called the job, “One of the smoothest ones I’ve ever been on. You’re going to run into situations where there’s a mistake here or there, but for the most part this job went flawlessly.”
The Museum Park Condos are now 75% occupied. So far, all the extensive pre-planning has shown its value where it really counts, with the occupants.
“The service department has only been there a few times, and what they’ve found is maybe a thermostat that’s not working correctly, or a control valve that’s sticking,” Simek said. “Everything is very minor.”