When the Texas and Pacific Railroad built its Dallas headquarters facility in 1918, they probably couldn’t have imagined that almost a century late, the building would be converted into a hotel to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors to downtown.
The railroad left the building to a bank in the late 1950s, and since then the building has endured several facelifts and remodels until it closed in early 2000. A decade later, Irving, TX-based Lowen Hospitality management bought the office building and began to convert the building into a Homewood Suites by Hilton. Lowen Hospitality hired the Dallas architecture and engineering design firm of Aguirre Roden, Inc. (ARI) and Aguirre Roden Building Solutions (ARBS) to fill their needs for a design-build format.
ARI and ARBS worked hand in hand to design a state-of-the-art project while keeping costs within the desired budget range. In fact, when bids from local contractors came back unacceptably high, ARI searched for value engineering solutions where cost savings are sought without compromising quality or design.
One of the main savings for the project came about when an ARBS employee attended a seminar conducted by Uponor on radiant heating and cooling. Intrigued by the potential savings and the opportunity for a non-metallic piping system for the hotel’s plumbing system, the ARBS team moved quickly to learn more.
Aguirre Roden reached out to the local Uponor rep firm, Pepco Sales in Dallas, for further education and insight into the advantages of using PEX-a for the plumbing and hydronic distribution. Pepco was able to introduce the team to the possible material and labor savings by using PEX-a over metallic and traditional CPVC piping systems, and Kevin Parham with Pepco worked closely with ARI during this process.
“When Aguirre Roden came to us, the project was vastly over budget, and they were intrigued by how PEX-a could potentially provide savings in both product and labor,” Parham said. “They studied our proposal, met with the design technicians at Uponor, and visited the factory before they decided to write Uponor into the specifications. In fact, to this day, they attribute Uponor and PEX-a as the biggest reason this project came to fruition within the confines of the budget.”
Parham said Aguirre estimates a total savings of 30% by switching their specifications to Uponor and PEX-a.
S&K Plumbing of Fort Worth was brought onto the construction team by ARBS as the plumbing system contractor. Unfamiliar with PEX-a, S&K employees attended week-long series of training classes at the Uponor factory in Apple Valley, MN.
“They found Uponor’s system to be more reliable than other products they have used in the past,” Parham said. “They told me that they were used to seeing a handful of dry-fit blow outs in projects the size of Homewood Suites. When they went with PEX-a from Uponor, they did not experience one single blow out.”
S&K Plumbing also told Parham of a recent project similar in size to the Homewood Suites project where the company had to spend $10,000 to clean up and repair dry-fit blow outs. S&K Plumbing was impressed with how quickly and easily they made connections, and since the Homewood installation they have continued installing PEX-a in projects whenever possible.
“In particular, ProPEX® Copper Tub Ells were a huge hit,” Parham said. “The installers loved how easy it was to terminate out-of-the-wall for the faucet hot/cold water and toilet water supplies.”
When it came time to install the HVAC hydronic distribution system, the local installer, City Wide Mechanical of Dallas, was also unfamiliar with Uponor’s connection and installation methods. Uponor’s trainers got the crews up to speed with on-site training classes. City Wide Mechanical was pleased with the labor savings and the ease of installation on this project to the point that they, too, have continued using Uponor on every subsequent job, according to Parham.
The new hotel includes a basement-level swimming pool and gym, meeting rooms, and three 1,500-sq-ft apartments along with 130 guest rooms. Those involved in the project believe the renovated facility stands as a testament that a building can serve many purposes over the course of a century.
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