"I spent 20 years in the Navy, managing shore facilities," recalled David Hathaway, project manager for Sodexho Marriott Services (Avon, CT). "So, being in the service, I changed jobs every three years. As the new guy on the block, it didn't take long to figure out that you couldn't just come in and change things. You had to come in, observe, and try to figure out what's workable."

That basic principle flowed through this year's winning entry like a breath of 100% outdoor air. Hathaway's "participatory management style," as described by The Ritchie Organization's application (TRO, Newton, MA), set the tone for an impressive degree of cooperation by a multitude of companies working toward a common goal at Saint Mary's Health Services (Grand Rapids, MI).

Key personnel from Sodexho Marriott Services (left to right): Steve Terrano, vice president of Asset Management Solutions; Tony Alibrio, president of Sodexho Marriott Services' Health Care Division; Greg Verone, senior vice president of brand management for Sodexho Marriott Services' Health Care Division; and Allan Gleason, vice president of sales for Sodexho Marriott Services Asset Management Solutions.

Prelude to Phase 2

As it turns out, the seeds for this project's success were sown earlier in the decade. When Sodexho Marriott Services was hired to be the hospital's plant operations and management contractor in 1995, the managers it sent to this Western Michigan facility in 1996 found a number of basic operational functions were in decline.

These managers worked with the hospital's administrators and identified a need for a comprehensive master plan supported by a detailed infrastructure study. Phase I projects, seen as the top priorities, included: emergency generator capabilities and the operating suites' air-handling units (AHU).

Sodexho Marriott Services hired TRO and put together a fast-track proposal to accomplish this work, which the hospital bought as Phase I. As a result, the architectural/engineering firm, which specializes in healthcare facilities, was brought in to perform the infrastructure study and deliver the engineering master plan.

TRO's vice president for engineering, Mark Jussaume, P.E., recalls this stage of the proceedings.

"The client was looking for a long-term plan, to be able to go back to corporate and say, 'OK, here's what we need for the next ten years, and this is how we justify it.' I think we did a good job of providing him with that; with the comprehensive study, plus support of the architect and the planner, he had a lot of backup, which allowed him to get what he needed." That support amounted to multimillion-dollar commitment to do more work after Phase I.

Phase I went well despite the restrictions inherent in working in an operating room (OR) environment. "Surgery goes 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.," Hathaway notes. "We'd been experiencing 30% duct leakage between mixing boxes. We fixed that in the middle of the night," he recalls, doing one room per night, one week apart to get the next room's diffusers ready.

Harry Shanley, P.E., senior hvac project engineer for TRO, summarizes the gain on the AHU side. "We, Sodexho Marriott Services and TRO, converted from two dual-duct units to a dual-fan, dual-duct system with a hot-deck and cold-deck unit, with the hot-deck unit able to function as a backup cold-deck unit, so they had 100% redundancy." The new system also increased air changes in the OR from 15 to 25 air changes per hour. At the same time, the system was converted to a returned air system, holding the line on energy cost.

That success in a delicate environment set the stage for Phase II, which is the project covered in the winning application. Phase II, included the task of new AHU replacements, a variable air volume (VAV) retrofit, and replacement of the entire electrical distribution system.

Saint Mary's Mercy Medical Center (Grand Rapids, MI) is the site of multiple phases of infrastructure improvement over several years. Pahse II won this year's Engineering Team Award. (photo by Fred Kleiboer.)

Match Game

Feeling like they had found a good working philosophy balancing creativity with long-term operations, Sodexho Marriott Services set about an interview process, assisted by TRO, to help it find the right team for the job.

"We talked with each (potential) contractor to see if they were capable and willing to join in a flexible agreement," recalls Paul Konz, P.E., a senior associate with TRO and its director of electrical engineering. "I thought that was important, because the decisions from those interviews are really what contributed to the project's success."

Jussaume adds that those interviews "happened on the schematic level, so the door was open for their ideas on constructability. And that gave us a chance to evaluate their thought processes as well." The pre-construction meeting brought all of the participants together for the first time, and shortly thereafter, work on Phase II started.

The existing system included a 56,000-cfm dual-duct AHU and a 15,000-cfm single-duct constant volume AHU. The dual-duct unit was located on the 4th floor, with air feeding up through the upper floors of the hospital to serve patient floors 7 through 9. The smaller unit was located on the 11th-floor penthouse level. Shanley recalled the objective. "The original design concept linked AHUs directly to certain departments. They had the same filtration and temperature requirements, so there was no reason we couldn't tie them all together. We tried to have a more cost-effective take on the air-handling systems, without taking away the redundancy of the original system"

Onsite, a variety of people and companies kept things moving: (front row, left to rigt) Ken Newman, president of Target Construction, Inc. (Rockford, MI); David Hathaway, project/construction manager for Sodexho Marrtioo Services' Asset Management Solutions (Avon, CT); Tom Jasper, president of Andy J. Egan Co., Inc. (Grand Rapids, MI); Sam Pinto, plant operations manager at St. Mary's for Sodexho Marriott Services; Steve Hansma, project electrical engineer for Allied Electric, Inc. (Grand Rapids); (back row, left to right) Jim Miller, vice president for support and ancillary operations, St. Mary's Mercy Medical Center (Grand Rapids); John Vander Wall, president of Midwest Air Balancing Corp. (Grand Rapids); and Harvey Adams, head of facilities services at St. Mary's for Sodexho Marriott Services. Not pictured: Mike Mercier, projects and engineering manager for Palen/Kimball Company (St. Paul, MN). (Photo by Fred Kleoboer.)

A Successful (Heat) Recovery

The supply air system remained operational while the air-handling unit was replaced. This was achieved by installing the replacement unit in a penthouse area that was previously used for storage. Once the new unit was installed, supply ductwork was routed to the vertical duct shafts and connected to the top of the risers. The old unit on the 4th floor was removed and the ducts were capped at the bottom.

"The beauty of the plan, for the hospital, is that it allowed us to get the new AHU up and running, blowing air onto the roof for testing," says Hathaway. "So we'd know that it was completely functional; it just wasn't hooked up yet."

The layout fed the three upper floors of the hospital from the top rather than the bottom, creating a vacant space in the 4th-floor mechanical room to allow for the next phase of air-handling unit replacement, currently under design.

The old saying about even the best laid plans is true enough, though, and what initially looked like the best strategy for those upper patient floors had to shift along the way.

"As we found it," remembers Shanley, "The patient floors were conditioned by 100% outdoor air, which was more commonly done before the energy crunch in the 1970s. This maximizes indoor air quality, but with a large energy penalty.

"Our original recommendation after the infrastructure study was to implement return air wherever possible. The interaction between design air volume and ventilation requirements in perimeter patient rooms made this unworkable. While we were trying to take those two approaches - return air and VAV - for energy savings, our hands were going to be tied by the patient rooms' ventilation requirements. Out of this realization arose a real test of the team's adaptable engineering ability.

"During an onsite brainstorming session, it was decided that we'd try to take a heat recovery approach instead. We looked at a few different methods there - heat wheels, plate heat exchangers and such - and where to put them, and what exhaust stream would be available," Shanley states.

TRO decided on a plate air-to-air heat exchanger. The heat recovery unit recovers heat from 30,000 cfm of general space exhaust. The unit preheats and precools outdoor air and recovers approximately 80% of the available energy in the exhaust airstream.

Shanley says that "this way, we were able to deliver more savings through the heat recovery than we would have been able to using return air, achieving the same intent and maintaining the 100% outdoor air. So for IAQ reasons, I really think we made the right choice."

This new tactic brought up another design challenge. With all four airstreams now having to get back to the heat recovery unit, the designers ended up having to use one of the walls of the mechanical room as part of the AHU.

"This creative solution minimized exterior ductwork on the roof," Shanley explains.

"It was a complicated sheet metal design," adds Jamie Newton, a senior associate and the director of mechanical engineering for TRO. "The fear is, you'll draw it, and it's not constructable." However, because of our excellent working relationship with Target Construction, we were able to communicate the hospital's requirements and to build this cost-effective solution."

Target also hit the mark when it came to an outdoor return duct, necessary under the revised plans. The hospital was fairly sensitive to maintaining its clean exterior look, and as Newton says, it was a "real accomplishment" for Target to build around existing diagonal cross-braces, creating an accessible but airtight duct with building structure penetrating it. The end result, according to Jussaume, is basically invisible.

The team at The Ritchie Organization (Newton, MA) produced the deisng for the project's hvac and electrical components; (left to right) Paul Konz, P.E., senior associate and director of electrical engineering; Jamie Newton, senior associate and mechanical department head; Harry Shanley, P.E., senior hvac project engineer; and Mark Jussaume, P.E., vice president for engineering. (Photo by Jim Lundell of Jim Lundell Photography.)

A Cool Change

Meanwhile, Hathaway was building his rapport with the hospital staff and getting ready for the system switchover. The challenge was to maintain system operation, while decommissioning the old AHU and connecting the new AHU to the system.

"To turn over from old to new, we had to shut down, cap off where it fed from below. We also had to increase the duct size on the 8th and 9th floors, since the ducts now have to go from bigger to smaller instead of smaller to bigger. So people are hanging off safety lines in the mechanical shaft working on that, and we have a 48-hr scheduled turnover."

Fortunately, since the perimeter rooms have fancoil units under the windows and only receive ducted air for ventilation, temperature could be maintained very well. "But the center core of the nurses' stations would have gotten very warm in about an hour," Hathaway points out. The neonatal and labor areas would have been susceptible to unwanted heat, too.

Complaints were avoided by renting portable coolers in advance. "To exhaust the heat, we took over the waiting areas, opened the windows (it was summer), and ran the flex duct right outside," says Hathaway. "The nurses were kept informed; the worst problem for them was the humidity. Sometimes the portable coolers' condensation tanks would overflow." In a perfect illustration of the staff's cooperative attitude and the resourcefulness that marked the overall project, the nurses joked about putting diapers around the coolers to absorb spillover water. And in fact, Hathaway says, that's exactly what they did.

Thus, the switchover took place effectively and without incident. As a sidenote, one other last-minute improvement cropped up: there was so much lint in the ductwork, that the system actually operated differently as a result of administering a good cleaning.

On to the VAV

Representing the other hvac-related part of Phase II, the VAV conversion for floors 7 and 8 required a bit more juggling and even more teamwork. The existing mixing boxes were mechanically regulated, dual-duct boxes with pneumatic temperature controls. The retrofit goal was to use DDC-controlled inlet collars, removing the mechanical regulators. This would reduce the pressure drop at each terminal by an estimated 0.5-in. wg, while allowing air volume to be modulated in response to room loads.

In application, the unique nature of a working in a hospital became more prominent.

"The whole VAV replacement took about six months. We did one floor at a time, while the floor was occupied," Hathaway says. "We had to shut down zones, close fire dampers, work in the hallways, and still keep it clean. Also, some places had no room for retrofit collars, with so many cables and gas lines in the way. So it was, where can you work at this particular moment?"

One real challenge was to coordinate the work with the controls contractor, Palen/Kimball Co. (St. Paul, MN); they had to be ready to power up DDC controllers on short notice, since patient areas couldn't be left without controls. Often, Hathaway says, sheet metal would have to work in the morning, then controls in the afternoon, hooking it up when it's ready to go.

The necessary but halting process continued. "Meanwhile, the pipefitting contractor (Andy J. Egan Co. of Grand Rapids) was replacing fancoil units, so we have to schedule rooms to be empty for half a day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon, as they became available."

They often had to work between vacancies performing electrical work before the next patient was brought in, leaving those rooms under pneumatic controls until the DDC team could get in. Eventually, the sheet metal workers could come back in and disassemble the old pneumatics when the new system was up and running.

With so many professionals on the job and a somewhat unpredictable schedule, Hathaway's goal was to "keep enough little things available for them to do. You had to stop what you were doing, though, and go do a room when it became available."

He used e-mail extensively during the project to keep contractors and facility staff up to date. This was an especially effective tactic for minimizing misunderstanding while reaching the hospital's overnight shift in his absence.

"Both the mechanical and electrical contractors were very responsive to Dave's direction as far as working with the staff and patients," Jussaume says "It was a little different than the traditional delivery process, where we get a call from a contractor, generate a bulletin, do the subsequent paperwork, etc. Instead, we'd bounce ideas off of them, and they'd come back to us saying 'we can't fit that, how about this

Inside Sales

This is a good time to finish the thought by Hathaway that opened the article.

"I learned early on," he continued, "that the people who have been operating a system for 15 years are the ones to go to first, so I've been working very closely with Harvey Adams (Saint Mary's manager of facilities services) and the maintenance guys. If they're happy with it, everyone else will be tickled." Shanley can vouch for this. "The same time we were interviewing contractors, Dave (Hathaway) had Paul Konz and I come out, get in front of the maintenance staff to describe the project, and answer any questions they had. It was an important chance to get their input and buy-in."

Enlisting the support of the hospital's O&M staff turned out to highlight the role of a group of people not mentioned in even the most progressive design-build cases: the manufacturers' representatives. Shanley explains an example.

"The staff was unfamiliar with the style of axial fans we designed around, but a factory representative walked the head hvac mechanic through the process, took it apart in front of him to help him better understand the technology, and he was sold."

The manufacturers' representative also helped to bridge the distance between Massachusetts and Michigan. "We worked closely with the representatives from this area, in coordination with the ones in Grand Rapids," Newton reports, "to make sure the delivery went smoothly. We had to shut down the main drive of the hospital to rig the air handler. If the trucks weren't there and on time, we would've heard about it." To their credit, the hospital's administration was hardly sitting around waiting for things to complain about. As Jussaume says, they were "unusually generous in creating options about where to put equipment," citing the penthouse (AHU project) and an unneeded vertical conveyer shaft (new electrical system) as prime examples. "It took some flexibility on their part to give up those spaces, but I think the owner realized there was a benefit to it." The rearranging included putting mechanical equipment in the penthouse, which had been the home for, among other things, the bed repair shop.

Good Long-term Health

All in all, TRO projects that the improvements in Phase II will yield significant savings. No precise figures were set, but TRO estimates savings may exceed $90,000 annually. However, it's worth remembering that long-term success and growth were the primary objectives.

"As far as the most important thing about the project," Jussaume observes, "I think it centers around being strategic. Schedule wasn't quite the driver; we weren't in an emergency situation with any of this. It was more about maintaining perspective and making sure that anything we did had the best value and fit in with their long-term plan."

That attitude, of course, is more likely to generate more savings in the long run and continually enhance the reputations of those involved, although both parties are quick to shine the light elsewhere.

According to TRO, Hathaway's presence and performance made the experience different. "By having a single contact in Sodexho Marriott Services, who held the contract for the work with a guaranteed maximum price, (Hathaway) was able to bring all of the team together and make sure everyone was filling in as they needed to," says Jussaume. Another benefit is that if anything does arise down the road, someone familiar with that facility and the previous projects is already there.

Meanwhile, Hathaway emphasizes the role of others.

"Contractors get along better here than in other places," Hathaway surmises. "In Western Michigan, there's a very hard work ethic, and that's just the way it is. Target led the show," he says, referring to Target foreman Dale Fish, who contributed to onsite coordination of the project. He also points out that although some contractors were union-affiliated and others were not, "they worked hand in hand, regardless." Modesty aside, two points seem certain. One was that the objective of every company involved was to finish the job successfully and not place blame. If there was something missed, the focus was on possible solutions, not fingerpointing.

The other objective will hopefully evolve from being noteworthy to becoming commonplace in the hvac environment.

"Many of the benefits will be realized when they renovate those spaces in the future," Newton points out. "The hospital won't have to start replacing air handlers 5,000 cfm at a time. In many hospitals you see that - a 10,000-sq-ft renovation that comes in at $300/sq ft because you have to go back and deal with emergency power issues, etc. Saint Mary's will not have this problem. This work will benefit the hospital when they renovate their next department," he concludes. "This project improves their position in the healthcare market, and will do so for the next 20 years."

And that's certainly worth a salute. ES