by CB staff
Competitors sometimes make for strange bedfellows. How would you like to go into a negotiated project with a former employee who had committed mutiny and raided the ship's galley?
Kahn Mechanical Contractors had provided service to the Prince of Peace Catholic Community for approximately two years when a long-time Kahn employee resigned. When he left to start his own HVAC service company, he took the Prince of Peace Catholic Community account with him. Though an unpleasant turn of events, Kahn Mechanical handled this professionallyand kept open the lines of communication with all parties.
When the need for a complete modernization came to the attention of the Prince of Peace parish, the renegade service company wasn't in a position to handle a task of this size. The past employee recommended Kahn Mechanical Contractors as a trusted, qualified contractor to negotiate this Design/Build project, and cooperated
in the successful award of the project. This was truly a case where acting professionally in a tenuous situation really paid off.
According to Josh Kahn, vice president-service of Kahn Mechanical Contractors, it was an interesting beginning to an extremely challenging project. During the early stages, Kahn Mechanical fended off alternative design plans of competing bidders. The company answered the challenges with meticulous attention to details; something the competition often lacked in their proposals.
In true Design/Build form, Kahn Mechanical utilized their specific advantages over all other bidding contractors:
- Kahn's prior experience with the facility's design and operation. Many design ideas that were presented by competing contractors were easily dismissed as impractical.
- Kahn's professionally prepared, bound documents far outclassed the competitions' Design/Build proposals.
- Comfort solutions were key: The competition was selling chillers, boilers, and pumps while Kahn focused on selling dependability, comfort, energy efficiency, and lower cost of ownership.
Time and Budget Considerations
Prince of Peace Catholic Community serves about 7,000 members. The entire facility consists of a church that begins each day with a 6:30 a.m Mass and four Mass services each Sunday, and a private school and gymnasium serving more than 600 students. Time and scheduling were the greatest challenges. All phases of the project had to be performed in a manner that didn't disrupt operations and create any downtime for the facility.
New systems were built over the top of the existing mechanical plant, and then the existing plant was slid out from underneath the new equipment. "This is like pulling a tablecloth off of a fully dressed table. The single 24-hour shutdown window made us seriously consider how much work could be performed in such a short period of time," says Kahn. A carefully orchestrated plan came together during discussions with the church's chairman of the building committee, Ken Bullock. The company worked closely with Bullock to provide solutions to some vexing problems. Some of the issues were:
- The facility had exceptionally high maintenance and service costs with the original gas absorption mechanical plant — especially troubling for a plant that was only nine years old. Even more disconcerting to the owners, the original design had won an Architectural International Association award.
- System design flaws resulted in poor hydronic flow, causing discomfort in many areas of the facility
- The proprietary control system was ineffective.-Program changes and any repairs to the controls were expensive.
- The existing absorption plant's primary energy source was natural gas. The existing electrical system had to be completely upgraded "on the fly" to allow for any alternative cooling source.
How To Win in Design/Build
The initial budget was naturally a concern for the building committee. Bullock, and the entire committee, wanted to know that the total cost of ownership and reduced operating expenses could justify the initial capital investment.
Kahn Mechanical worked to understand the needs and long-term goals of the Prince of Peace. Kahn says, "They understood what they wanted, and then it was our job to design systems to meet those goals. We used proven designs in place of cutting-edge technologies. We also worked closely with manufacturers to be sure that each component we selected would work well with the other design elements. The electrical and the pipefitting team were critical partners. Their innovation was key to the success of the project, as we often had to design on the fly to adjust to the schedule.
"Along the way, we communicated to the client the advantages of stepping up to higher quality designs," says Kahn. Although the client didn't purchase every upgrade that was offered, they did consider every suggestion. The final design choices of this project were a true contractor/client partnership. The finished design was a result of Kahn Mechanical's design experience and the client's consideration of all the choices.
Kahn Mechanical takes the approach that any project of this type is a minimal two-year commitment. They believe it takes two cycles of the seasons to adequately adjust a mechanical plant. Here is their approach to commissioning:
- Assume how things are going to work, then set up all controls and equipment to respond to our best-laid plans
- Commission all new equipment following the manufacturers recommendations
- Discover all the improper assumptions we made during each seasonal change and adjust the equipment and control systems to account for these changes. This is also the time to discuss any operational changes at the facility, and to investigate further opportunities to serve the client.
- Finally, evaluate the affects of all the assumptions in the second year of seasonal changes, and make additional adjustments as necessary.
The comfort of the facility was improved significantly. Water flow to the facility was modified by designing primary/secondary headers for the central plant. The secondary was divided into four loops to deliver the appropriate volumes and pressure to each segment of the facility. All secondary pumping is now variable speed to better mate with the two-way valves in use throughout the facility.
The open protocol system was a high priority. The new controls operate chiller staging and boilers and provide lead/lag redundancy. The system also provides control for the zoned variable speed secondary pumping to the facility.
Though energy use and operational costs were positively affected, more important is the dependability of the mechanical plant. Nobody wants to send children to a hot school, or sit in a hot church on Sunday morning. Thanks to Kahn Mechanical Contractors, nobody has to any longer.
In the words of Josh Kahn, "Win, lose, or draw on this award entry, we've already won. We win daily, by providing an excellent place of employment for a team of skilled workers who deliver top quality solutions for our clients."
To that we say, "Congratulations. Nice Design/Build job." But, they already knew that.
Retrofit/Renovation less than $500,000
WINNER AT A GLANCE
THE PROJECT TEAM: At Prince of Peace:
At Kahn Mechanical: