HEALTHCARE AIR CONDITIONER REPLACEMENT TURNS INTO SIMPLE OPERATION
New York City is certainly renowned for the quantity and variety of tall buildings towering over the Manhattan skyline. Many of these structures are at a point where age has taken its toll on mechanical systems and now require replacement. Even if they are still operational, today’s new air conditioning systems are more energy efficient, making it cost effective for change-out.
You might not think this is a big deal beause it’s done every day but New York City, like many large metropolitan areas, is a little bit different from a smaller city like say White Plains, NY where mechanical systems are generally easier to access. In New York City, replacing a large system often requires demolition, cranes, rigging and a lot of extra work.
We were hired for a project at an EmblemHealth facility located in mid Manhattan around 35th and 7th avenue. The building was erected in the early 1970’s and the mechanical systems have been running for over 25 years. Since it is a hospital, maintaining ideal comfort conditions is critical. The air conditioning system had to be replaced quickly and with the least amount of disruption to the patients, service providers and staff. Like many tall buildings, space conditioning is done floor by floor rather than large central units. Many of the systems were installed during the building construction where access was not an issue. Removing the old systems is generally not a problem because the units are disassemble by whatever means available and scrapped. Getting the new units to their installation location is where the fun begins.
The EmblemHealth building had four existing units spread out from the basement, main floor and at an upper level. Sizes ranged to 45 tons and the replacement units would be the same size. MWSK Equipment is a manufacturer’s rep located on 7th Avenue in lower Manhattan. They service the five boroughs and have had a lot of experience in squeezing air conditioning systems into tall structures.
“Often the HVAC contractor has to do a lot of preparation work in order to fit an A/C system through small passageways. Larger units may have to be raised by crane to upper floors and require rigging, permits and building modification. If they take it through the building, the unit may have to be delivered partially disassemble and reassembled on site, or walls and doorways opened to allow access,”said Freddie Taruc, Sales Manager at MWSK. Regardless of the entry method, the installation cost can easily exceed the unit’s cost when you measure man hours and special equipment necessary to complete the job. And of course there’s the additional time needed for demolition, installation and final repairs.
Taruc said they needed to get the replacement units in quickly and with as little building modification as possible. They naturally selected their best candidate for the job—United CoolAir. “United CoolAir makes cooling equipment uniquely designed for our market. They manufacture a class of air conditioners with many flexible features that not only allow negotiation through narrow doorways and halls but also require no evacuation and charging after installation,” said Taruc. Tareq Batarseh, PE, LEED AP Associate for Robert Derector Associates Consulting Engineers (RDA) is the specifying engineer for the latest EmblemHealth project and is no stranger to these kinds of retrofit installations. “Each room has its challenges, some rooms have height restrictions and width restrictions,” said Batarseh. “United CoolAir units have the ability to connect to existing piping and ductwork with minimal modifications”. He likes the flexibility in United CoolAir’s system design and their ability to modify the cabinet sizes as needed, two major reasons why they are an approved manufacturer for EmblemHealth.
Unlike most commercial buildings, Healthcare facilities are generally active 24 hours each day. The retrofit was scheduled for two weekends with two units replaced each weekend. John McBride, Design Engineer for JFK & M Consulting Group made sure the replacement work would not interrupt the facility’s busy weekend schedule.“The old equipment was removed on a Friday and the replacement units were brought in with minimal interference with the hospital’s operations. The modular sections were quickly reassembled and connected to the existing hookups. Since the units were pre-charged at the factory, brazing, evacuation and charging in the field were eliminated saving many hours of valuable labor. The units were operational by Monday morning at the start of the new week,” said McBride. This latest installation went smoothly much to the credit of the easily-handling modular units, resealable refrigerant connections and factory charged sections. This came as no surprise to Joe Ptak, Chief Building Engineer for EmblemHealth, who was first introduced to United CoolAir air conditioning systems. They installed the first units in his building and have not looked back since. “I was very pleased with the performance of their units then and I recommended using United CoolAir systems for all the other EmblemHealth mechanical system replacements,” said Ptak. He said they have other facilities ready for the same treatment in the near future.