When the decision was made to close McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA, county officials faced an enormous challenge: secure both governmental and public support to transform the Air Force base into a successful corporate community. Today, McClellan Park leases over 3.5 million sq ft to over 90 tenants, creating over 3,000 new jobs for the Sacramento area, a success unmatched by any other base conversion in America.

Air Force To Workforce

Once Sacramento County acquired the Air Force base from federal closure and began the conversion to a business park, the determination was made that the steam central plant was much too costly to operate. Installation of individual boilers and chillers in the various buildings was contracted and begun, but to keep costs down, the existing piping and other HVAC equipment was not changed. Almost immediately, this caused numerous rust and dirt problems for the new boilers, chillers, and control valves.

To help alleviate these problems, McClellan Park's vice president and construction manger, Taryn Breen, looked to Greg Schnable of Clyde Equipment Co. Inc., Spirotherm's manufacturer's rep in the northern California area, to provide a solution. Schnable met with Breen and showed him a working demo of the Spirovent® combination air eliminator/dirt separator manufactured by Spirotherm. The separator employs the patented Spirotube® coalescing/barrier medium to scrub air and dirt from hot and chilled water systems, allowing it to break free of the flow path. The air is released through a patented air release mechanism while the dirt falls to the bottom and collects in the dirt chamber where it can be blown down through a manual or automatic blow down valve.

In March of 2002, after viewing the product demo, the first of 20 Spirovent dirt or combination air/dirt separators was purchased and installed at McClellan Park.

The seventeenth unit was installed that summer at Surewest Broadband, a McClellan Park tenant since 2001. A subsidiary of Surewest Communications, Inc., Surewest Broadband offers a full range of voice, data, and high-speed Internet services to McClellan Park tenants as well as the greater metropolitan Sacramento area through a sophisticated fiber optic network.

Maintenance Costs Down By 95%

Surewest's high-tech McClellan facility occupies a two-story, 187,000-sq-ft building originally built in 1985 as an aircraft hangar that was used for rebuilding generators. It currently houses a 24/7-customer service and call center for Surewest and employs approximately 250 employees. As part of the hangar's conversion to state-of-the-art office space, two 1,999,999-Btu boilers and Belimo three-way control valves replaced the original shell-and-tube converter that was used with the central plant system to supply heat to the building. During the winter of 2002, however, major problems became apparent. The hot water HVAC coils were plugging once a week, resulting in numerous no-heat calls and maintenance bills totaling hundreds of dollars.

To protect the temperature-controlled network operations center, Kelly Flynn, property maintenance and administrative manager for Surewest, knew the problem must be solved before the next heating season began. He had several options including replacing the existing tangential air separator which had no dirt removal capabilities with a combination air/dirt separator. Breen recommended the Spirovent, so Flynn decided to give it a try. He purchased the VDT600FL, a 6-in. Spirovent combination unit, and it was installed in July by Air Systems, Inc.

Said Schnable, "The results were immediately evident, because at first, the dirt had to be blown down from the unit daily, and then weekly. Blowdowns are now done routinely on a monthly basis, and there have been no problems since."

Breen is very pleased with the Spirovent's performance. "Our maintenance costs to clean the hot and chilled loop coils have dropped by 95% since the Spirovents were installed," Breen remarked. Flynn added, "Last year we spent a lot of money to flush our HVAC coils, which clogged once a week. No plugged coils this year."ES