Tustin, Calif. — The El Toro Marine Corp Air Station was once the largest Marine Air Station on the West Coast, and home of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Decommissioned in 1999, after some legal wrangling, it was chopped up and parceled out in 2005, most of it becoming the Orange County Great Park.
Five acres, however, including a barracks, was donated to the Orange County Rescue Mission, a charitable organization that has been working with the poor and homeless to provide shelter, daycare, job training and health services for the last 40 years. The total value of the land and buildings was estimated at nearly $8 million.
But it wasn't an $8 million value free and clear. Before the mission could turn the area into its planned Village of Hope, the existing buildings had to be refurbished, and the heating system needed an upgrade.
Things hit a snag when it came time to repair the old military-issue Scotch boiler.
“The equipment in that place was out of compliance with the Southwest Air Quality Management District emissions requirements,” said George Hrebien, president of Porter Boiler, one of several companies that donated their time and expertise to the project.
Bringing the existing boiler up to code presented its own problems. A new burner would still be in the same room as the air conditioning equipment - another code violation. Moving the unit would require venting alterations and asbestos abatement, an expensive undertaking that was outside of the mission's working budget.
To solve the thorny problem the old system presented, Porter Boiler partnered with boiler manufacturer Raypak, and together they rounded up a number of local firms to contribute to the project.
Raypak coordinated the layout, equipment procurement and system startup. Tsuchiyama Kaino, Sun & Carter of Irvine, Calif., donated the system engineering, and PA Breen & Associates of Torrance, Calif., donated the structural engineering and earthquake calculations. Porter Boiler coordinated the subs and did the actual installation. All jobsite material and equipment was either donated or procured at cost.
Porter Boiler has been in business since 1958, serving mainly Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, San Diego and areas along the Nevada boarder, with extended service areas as far away as Mexico.
“Those areas,” explained Hrebien, “are usually by specific request of certain manufacturers.”
Hrebien has been with the company since 1978. Sixteen years ago, he decided to promote himself. Working with a partner, he purchased Porter Boiler from his employer, company founder Robert Porter, who was looking to retire. Now he manages a company with about two-dozen field personnel and six office staff.
“We don't do any new construction,” said Hrebien. “We primarily do warranty service, maintenance, repair and environmental replacement.”
The solution they came up with was a cost-effective, energy-efficient end-run around the problem.
“We pulled the heat-exchangers and re-conditioned the interiors of those old tanks,” explained Hrebien. “And then we abandoned the Kewanee boilers there on their pads. The new equipment was installed outside.”
The heating and hot water system was separated so that only the hot water boiler would be used during warm weather periods. A Raypak Xtherm boiler was installed, with Taco pumps and a demand-based Pro Temp Energy Savings DHW controller to manage the flow. The new installation is expected to produce energy savings of more than 80% in the summer months, and 40% in the winter compared to the old system.
Start up on the project began in October of 2007, and took a four-to-six man crew little more than three weeks to finish.
“We were lucky,” said Hrebien, “because the system had been shut down. All we had to do was find points of connection for the new equipment… The domestic water was already taken in and out of the storage tank generator. So, after relining it and fixing it, all we did was plumb out the heating loop through the tank.”
As for the space lost to the abandoned mechanical room, the Village of Hope has plenty of space to spare. It can provide housing for 192 people, with facilities for 36 families and 88 single adults. The complex includes 128 dorm rooms, a child development center, playground, parent education center, vocational training classrooms, health care facility, donation warehouse and support offices.
The managers at the Village of Hope have been so satisfied with the system that it has become a model — both for system design and community outreach. Raypak's local sales agents now use the site for training contractors and user-maintenance personnel.
And for George Hrebien, a job that never paid him any cash is still paying off in personal satisfaction.
“I really do believe that all the other vendors and contractors really stepped up to the plate so that the mission could get in operation,” he said. “It's a genuine God-blessing. I still drive by it every so often and just smile.“