The 21-story Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute building (Chicago) was constructed in 1963 and, naturally, its hvac systems were designed and installed based on tenant occupancy and needs at the time. However, with 35 years gone by and a new tenant moving into at least two floors of the building, new and updated systems were in order.

Working Through the Holidays

ITT officials began by contracting Air Comfort Corporation (Broadview, IL) to replace one of the building’s air-handling units and install a new exhaust/return air fan and rooftop condensing unit. In addition, the scope of work called for two new duct runs — one supply and one return — to be installed in a vertical riser shaft from the 20th-floor mechanical room to the 12th- and 13th-floor tenant areas.

“The project was a particular challenge because of the complexity and timing of the work,” says Patrick Golden, Air Comfort’s project manager. “We received the order just after Thanksgiving,” he recalls, adding that the contract included “a substantial completion clause” with a target date of January 15.

Because of the short turnaround time, some of the major equipment was pre-ordered, according to Bill Casica, IIT’s plant manager for facilities operations. It was up to Air Comfort, however, to place orders for the remaining equipment and then coordinate all deliveries and installment in order to meet the deadline. “Normally, a project of this scope would be scheduled to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion,” says Golden. But “because of the compressed time schedule, several aspects of the work were occurring at the same time.”

Down to the Wire

While this work was taking place, subcontractors working under Air Comfort’s direction were demolishing an old air handler and associated ductwork to make room for the new equipment; they also removed portions of brick and block walls to allow for moving the new air handler into the building and in position on a newly poured concrete pad. Piping crews were kept busy relocating existing pumps and temporarily removing a large section of piping to allow the new equipment to be moved through the congested equipment room.

The Sunday before Christmas, three weeks after receiving the order, Air Comfort took delivery of the major pieces of equipment at the jobsite. A helicopter was used to hoist the equipment and set it in position. The air handler was hoisted in sections, each section being lowered onto a temporary wooden platform, and moved from there into the building.

“The helicopter hoisting operation was started shortly after dawn and completed by noon,” says Golden. In the weeks following, the air handler was assembled in place on its concrete pad, and piping and sheet metal crews completed their work. Electricians, control technicians, and insulators also worked as the target completion date loomed.

Two of the last components to arrive were the pair of frequency drives which control the speed of the new air handler’s blower and exhaust/return air fan. The drives were shipped by air freight one week prior to completion, installed and wired by the electrical subcontractor, then test-run for the first time on January 14.

Thanks to a fine sense of timing and execution, plus quality equipment and on-site work, there were no snags in the final installation. “A well-planned and coordinated effort by everyone involved helped us meet the targeted completion date,” adds Golden.