PP-R piping shaves six figures at Florida football stadium

Feb. 1, 2012
Right Way Plumbing and Hill York complete fast track project on time thanks to pre-fabbed piping

Last fall, Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus became home to a new 30,000-seat football stadium. It will be used as a mixed-purpose facility for everything from intramural sports and campus center activities to convocations and graduations. It consists of a press level, a suite level with 25 luxury suites, a club level with 1,000 club seats, a catering kitchen, locker rooms for two teams, numerous common areas and 15 concession booths.

The project’s mechanical subcontractor, Right Way Plumbing Co., Sunrise, Fla., handled all the plumbing systems and fixture installations, while Hill York, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., oversaw the installation of the mechanical system’s chilled water piping. Hill York also assisted with value engineering during the bid phase and offered HVAC solutions to help the college save money. The stadium was designed by HKS Architects and Schenkel Shultz and was constructed by Balfour Beatty Construction and James A. Cummings Inc.

As modern and luxurious as the school wanted the stadium to be, it also had to be cost effective. One of the construction aspects of the project emerged from the value engineering of the mechanical systems after the local office of Ferguson Enterprises recommended polypropylene-random piping by Aquatherm for the domestic hot and cold water and chilled water for the stadium.

Duane Hettich, Ferguson’s business development manager, Florida & International Commercial Business Group, says that Ferguson quickly identified that Right Way Plumbing, which he says has “a reputation for being able to handle the largest jobs with flawless workmanship,” would be an ideal contractor for this project, as would Hill York, “a long time customer with similar values.”

Prefab training
The entire MEP team spent a fair amount of time learning about Aquatherm. Daniel Rourke, vice president of Right Way Plumbing Co., even traveled to a large PP-R piping installation at a liquor distillery to see the product up close and in action.

According to Rourke, since the piping system is much lighter, it facilitates pre-fabbing large sections of the piping system on the ground where it is safer and more efficient to work with.

Both the Hill York and Right Way Plumbing teams were fully trained on both socket and butt fusion systems over a two-day period.

“This was the first time using Aquatherm, but not the first time using polypropylene pipe products,” explains Rourke. “Training went well and was an easy, straight forward process.”

Rourke adds that Right Way Plumbing has used fusion welding with other types of plastics for years on gas and water mains.

Right Way Plumbing purchased both the large and small fusion welding machines necessary to handle connections ranging from ½-in. to 4-in. However, for the 6-in. fusion welds, Aquatherm’s butt fusion welding machines were required, and the company rented them from Ferguson. Hill York, working in 3-in.-and-below pipe diameters with Aquatherm Climatherm, bought the fusion welding equipment.

Mark Sullivan, project manager with Hill York, explained that his company’s team was trained both at the Hill York office and also at the project site for real world conditions.

“We felt this would train our personnel in a comfortable setting in using this product for the first time,” says Sullivan. “There seemed to be no learning curve whatsoever, our fitters and installers picked up the installation process quickly.”

Water mains, branches
During the project, Right Way Plumbing had eight men working on the piping. They started the project the week after Thanksgiving in 2010 and had majority of the stadium done by Sept. 1, 2011.

“We had one team doing water mains and the other team doing the branches,” says Rourke. “Some pre-fabbing was done inside the building and some was done in a work compound.

“There were multiple bathrooms, one was 300-ft. long, it was wall after wall of bathrooms,” adds Rourke. “We fused together runs up to 250-ft. long on the floor and then lifted them and installed them up into the ceiling.”

The branches for individual fixtures were prefabbed in the trailer where everything was set up.

“When you are mass producing piping it’s easiest to produce the branches in the trailer and then move them to a specific area of the building to be installed,” says Rourke.

Thanks to pre-fabbing the majority of the piping, Right Way Plumbing stayed ahead of the jobsite schedule.

“The day we got the contract I started ordering all materials in bulk and before they poured the concrete for the bathrooms and the floor we were already pre-fabbing and building the plumbing that went on the floor,” explains Rourke. “The morning after they poured the concrete, we set all the pre-manufactured and pre-fabbed toilet groups in place.”

1,000 + fixtures
The project was so large that there were more than 1,000 plumbing fixtures to install. Right Way Plumbing installed all of the fixtures, including Zurn carriers, flush valves, toilets, urinals and faucets. Charlotte Pipe & Foundry PVC was used for the sewer and waste piping.

“When working with over 1,000 plumbing fixtures total in the building, we knew it would be a challenge to get that amount done in the short amount of time we had,” says Rourke.

“All the prefab we did was a key to getting the job done on time,” adds Rourke. “The only problem on site was a shortage of materials. It was across the board because of the economy. A lot of distributors had limited stock. Aquatherm pipe came from a half dozen distributors because we needed that much and that quick.”

According to Rourke, engineering and material savings for the larger sized water piping systems resulted in a six figure savings for the client. He added that Aquatherm’s heat fusion process cut the installation time for the water mains and branch piping substantially.

“That helped us to not only meet the fast schedule, but to beat it,” Rourke says.

Rourke adds that Aquatherm eliminated wasted pipe and concerns about metal theft that have been a problem on numerous other projects.

Chilled water piping
Approximately 10 to 15 United Association Local 630 Pipefitters for Hill York were onsite at various times throughout the project and installed five chilled water air handling units, three in the main tower and three in the main mechanical room.

Climatherm was used on all chilled water piping 2-in. and smaller. It was used for the floor mains and branch lines that run to the multiple McQuay air handling units (AHUs) and fan coils throughout the football stadium. Hill York installed approximately 3,000 linear feet of Climatherm piping, including roughly 855-ft. of 2-in. piping, 330-ft. of 1 1/2-in. piping, 470-ft. of 1 1/4-in. piping, 920-ft. of 1-in. piping and 420-ft. of ¾-in. piping.

“We also installed approximately 70 FCUs above ceilings located in the main tower, in the electrical rooms and other various locations in the lower concourse sections,” says Sullivan. “Our main challenge was the unit tie-ins from Aquatherm to copper, but that was achieved with the proper fittings supplied by local vendors, Ferguson and Aquatherm.”

Hill York also installed an underground loop piping system with a new pump system that connects directly to the stadium from the main chiller plant on campus.

“We installed multiple residential style DX Split systems throughout the concession areas, including the team stores, elevator and electrical rooms, ticket booths and other areas on the lower concourse,” says Sullivan. “We also installed all the ventilation systems thought the building including restrooms and stairwell and elevator pressurizations systems.”

Regarding the chilled water piping, Sullivan says that the installation went extremely well for a new application for its crews and company.

“Our challenge was getting to know the product with hands on and overcoming the thought process of ‘this is how we always do it’ philosophy,” he says.

About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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