Strong Partnerships

Key to Meeting Modern-Day Challenges
– by Kevin Sides

Contractors often turn to partners to collaborate in the design of hydronic HVAC and plumbing systems.

Strong partnerships are the key to meeting modern-day challenges
of the commercial buildings market.

Improving efficiency continues to be a priority in the commercial buildings segment, from the design and construction process to operation and maintenance activities. On the MEP front, contractors often turn to partners to collaborate in the design of hydronic HVAC and plumbing systems, to ensure reliability and timeliness during the project delivery process and to help upgrade existing systems.

Commercial construction markets in Florida and Texas remained strong going into 2020. Florida growth is driven by booming metro areas in Miami, Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg where live-work-play developments, airports, theme parks and educational facilities are among the types of commercial projects leading the pack. High-profile condo projects in Miami and Tampa are changing skylines and filling demand for urban luxury living options. Schools are gearing up for a busy summer season of upgrading mechanical systems with newer, more efficient equipment.

North Texas is a growing financial hub with companies like Charles Schwab, JPMorgan Chase and Liberty Mutual expanding operations in the last few years. In addition, corporate headquarters, data centers, hospital and educational facilities, and a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team are fueling commercial building growth.

As such, priorities for mechanical contractors include designing high-performing systems that meet project goals such as sustainability, budget and timeline. The desire among building owners for buildings that use resources efficiently and achieve LEED certification is by extension a priority for mechanical contractors. Manufacturers that have invested in R&D to improve product efficiency and expand product line offerings are helping to meet that demand.

Collaborative relationships with manufacturer’s representatives also are an important part of the process. Contractors rely on their systems knowledge to troubleshoot in the design phase as well as solve problems that might arise in existing systems. A rep well-versed in system design and online specification tools can recommend a range of product selections that best meet the heating and cooling demands of a building, eliminate any redundancies in system design and offer value engineering options to keep budgets in line.

Collaborative relationships are an important part of the process. A rep well-versed in system design and online specification tools can recommend a range of product selections to contractors and engineers.

Relationships Fueling Success

When Toyota relocated its North American headquarters to a 100-acre site in Plano, Texas, the strong reputation between the manufacturer’s representative and the installing contractor resulted in Bell & Gossett pumps being selected across the LEED-Platinum seven-building campus. Booster systems for each of the seven buildings, along with two campus-wide booster systems for recycling gray water, are among the Bell & Gossett products at the facility.

The new District Cooling Plant #3 in downtown Austin presented a unique challenge for designers due to the crescent-shaped sliver of land allocated for the project, along with the fact that it was located in a residential area. Finding solutions that fit within the small footprint of a unique three-level mechanical room, met ASHRAE and Hydraulic Institute standards and kept decibel levels to a minimum was accomplished through a rigorous selection process conducted by the manufacturer’s representative.

Assisting contractors involves working directly with the project engineer. During the planning stage of the luxury development Eighty Seven Park, an 18-story high rise on Miami Beach, the mechanical contractor connected the engineer and manufacturer’s rep to spec the hydronic HVAC system. Bell & Gossett Series e-80 inline pumps fit the project parameters, preserving pump room square footage and allowing for more salable space within the building.


Meeting the Demands of Modern Commercial Trends

As in the projects noted above, the shrinking mechanical room is an ongoing trend in commercial buildings, requiring creativity on the part of HVAC and plumbing system designers to meet the demands of building occupants with efficient and space-saving products.

As virtual reality (VR) technology becomes more widely used, it has the potential to assist in MEP design by providing a more true-to-life vision of a project. This can help discover potential problems and solutions before construction begins, avoiding project delays or downtime on the job site.

The Florida and Texas markets are very competitive from a product price standpoint, but it is not the only factor mechanical contracting firms consider in the decision-making process. Product availability engenders loyalty among contractors for both new construction and retrofit projects when delivery timelines are tight. School building retrofits are a good example, typically done during the summer months when classes are not in session. Replacement pumps that are reliable, high performing, easy to install and easy to service check the boxes, along with price and availability.

Product availability came into play when, just months before the new 150-room DoubleTree by Hilton was set to open in Miami, the plumbing contractor needed a booster system for the hotel plumbing system. A Bell & Gossett Technoforce Duplex Variable Speed Packaged Pressure Booster System was selected and kept the project on track.

Domestic water pressure boosters like the Technoforce are in high demand in high-rises along the East Coast that were built in the 1980s and 1990s. Water pressure is no longer meeting demand and building owners are seeking updated and reliable solutions to keep systems performing and tenants satisfied.

Whether it’s an upgrade to an existing system or one that is newly designed, contractors have come to rely on the expertise and systems knowledge of partners like manufacturers and their representatives. Technology has and will continue to evolve system design as both contractor veterans and the next generation of contractors remain committed to learning new ways of doing things to meet the needs of building owners and occupants.

Kevin Sides is sales manager at George A. Israel Jr. Inc., a Xylem Bell & Gossett manufacturer’s representative based in Jacksonville, Florida. He has more than 25 years of experience in the hydronics industry.

Mike Barnett is owner/business development and marketing at Oslin Nation Co., based in Arlington, Texas. Barnett has more than 20 years of experience in the hydronics field.