Aquatherm enables Illinois high school to go from 'H' to 'HVAC' with PP-R, Part 2

Nov. 12, 2013
In only 63 days the $6 million retrofit project is completed. School district saves more than $40,000 due to reduced pipe insulation. The safety benefit of heat fusion.

D. Edwin Lind, P.E., engineering manager with Farnsworth, explained that the safety benefit offered by heat fusion was “definitely a consideration in a building of this age and the confined spaces where the piping was being installed.” Additionally, when installed by Aquatherm-trained and certified technicians (all PIPCO plumbers and pipe fitters were certified), the pipe and fittings carry a 10-year, multi-million dollar warranty covering product liability, labor, personal injury and property damage.

With 6,000-plus linear ft of Aquatherm Blue Pipe installed on the HVAC retrofit at Peoria central, PIPCO Executive Vice President Greg Cicciarelli reported minimal leaks When the system was pressure tested.

Lind said the warranty, which is basically an insurance policy issued by Zurich Insurance, was a factor in Aquatherm being used on the job since the piping installed in the vertical pipe chases could not be easily repaired or replaced. Aquatherm Blue Pipe (formerly Climatherm) was used in diameters ranging from 10-in. mains (with 4-, 6- and 8-in. branches) in the boiler room down to ½-in. lines running to ClimateMaster heat pumps in varying sizes.

“One challenge was with the bigger sizes of pipe and getting the welding machine up into those,” said Cicciarelli. “We basically figured out ways of getting more access to the space and had to move stuff out of the way or had to use additional manpower and extra muscle, but it would have been challenging with metal too.”

A benefit of using the lighter weight PP-R, Cicciarelli said, was that one installer could pull or lift 3-in. or 6-in. pipe through small tunnels that were between four and five feet high. Also, the smaller pipe could be maneuvered through small chases and around beams in walls due to its flexibility compared to metal.

Using Aquatherm pipe to connect the heat pump system allowed PIPCO to offer the school district $30,000 in overall value engineering savings.“These savings included the additional costs associated with enclosing any exposed piping,” explained Cicciarelli.

Don’t forget domestic!

Peoria-based Tobin Brothers Mechanical, a full service plumbing company specializing in general plumbing and drain systems, irrigation, and sewage, won the bid for the domestic water system upgrade and performed the entire installation. According to Lind, using Aquatherm for the domestic plumbing system saved the district $22,000, and another $28,000 was saved due to reduced or unneeded pipe insulation on the domestic cold water system.

The mechanical and plumbing installation crews working on the plumbing and HVAC retrofit at Peoria Central discovered that Aquatherm allowed the pipefitters to do things such as one man pulling or lifting 3-in.-6-in. pipe through 4-5 ft. high tunnels, and maneuvering smaller pipe through small chases and around beams in walls.

Also, since the operating temperatures of the loop system fell within Aquatherm’s recommended tolerances, insulation was unnecessary except for aesthetic reasons. These insulation labor and material savings factored heavily into the overall savings on the project.

Training, installation

Columbia Pipe served as the distributor on this project, with PVF Solutions serving as a facilitator. With close to one million square feet of warehouse, Columbia Pipe has 20 mutually supporting locations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and has carried Aquatherm since 2010.

Columbia and PVF Solutions’ Newton set up an Aquatherm factory training session for the PIPCO superintendent and foremen, who were certified at the PIPCO shop prior to the start of the job. The foremen then trained and certified the journeymen under them on the jobsite. “The training was pretty quick and easy,” Cicciarelli recalled. “The learning curve was not as steep as I thought it would be. After a couple of days of using it, they were pretty proficient at it.”

The heat fusion welding of PP-R pipe and its lighter weight helped to make it easier to handle in confined conditions, such as the mechanical room.

At the peak of the installation, PIPCO had five foremen each overseeing a crew of between five to 10 installers. Cicciarelli said that the when the 6,000-plus linear feet of Aquatherm was pressure tested there were minimal leaks. “And those leaks had more to do with the craftsmen not being familiar with the system than poor workmanship. They were standard problems and they were minimal,” he explained.

Tight time frame

The tight time frame of the job made things very interesting. According to Cicciarelli, the key aspect of the PP-R system that fit so well on this job was that this was a $6 million retrofit that had to be completed in two and a half months.

“We felt the labor time savings with the product would help meet that schedule,” said Cicciarelli. “And, yes, it did bear that out. Our superintendent felt the use of the system was definitely beneficial. If we’d used copper and steel [soldered copper up to 2-in. and welded steel 2½-in. and above], we’d have gone over in labor because of overtime.”

In only 63 days, the entire job was complete and the team had the systems operational for the start of the 2012 school year. “They were working two shifts and sometimes three. And they met the deadline. With this new piping system I was surprised how fast it could go versus welded iron or galvanized. It was amazing,” said Peoria Central’s Powers.

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