Case Study Air Handling Unit Retrofit

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Contributor:  Mike Maloni,  Service Project Executive of F.E. Moran Mechanical Services
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

When a fully-staffed office decided they needed a new air handling unit without disrupting business, they called F.E. Moran Mechanical Services for their ability to think outside the box to solve unique issues.

Commercial Facility with Unusual Layout

A Lombard, IL commercial building plagued with high energy bills chose to upgrade to a high efficiency air handling unit on the fourth, sixth, and seventh floors of the high-rise building. The problem: the mechanical room was in the center of an office filled with employees on the sixth and seventh floors. With the need to upgrade the system, but without disrupting business, this commercial business chose F.E. Moran Mechanical Services as the lead contractor to coordinate the difficult task.

Numerous Hurdles Conquered over Holiday Weekend

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Due to the location of the mechanical rooms, this project was certain to have obstacles. The first, F.E. Moran had to install a new air handling unit in the center of two occupied floors without disrupting business or disturbing the facility. To solve this problem, the installation was scheduled over the Thanksgiving holiday, to avoid disturbing employees. However, this tight timeline posed its own difficulties. The F.E. Moran Mechanical Services crew now had to tightly coordinate the installation and all sub-contractors scheduled work to ensure all work was complete before employees arrived Monday morning.

The dismantling of the old air handling system posed a new problem. The old air handling unit was built in 1982. It was so large it needed to be dismantled piece by piece to remove it, and the mechanical room needed to be re-structured. The original air handling unit was obtrusive, providing only a foot of space for service personnel to work. Additionally, a vestibule was inside the already small mechanical room, and needed to be taken down without disturbing employees or blemishing the building.

The final hurtle was moving the new air handling unit onto the sixth and seventh floors without disturbing the building. With the issue of moving a large air handling unit and an additional problem of only having passenger elevators to move it in, the team needed to think outside of the box.

Creative Thinking Provides Solid Solutions

F.E. Moran Mechanical Services was hired as the lead contractor, putting them in charge of coordinating all sub-contractors. Mr. Maloni made a color-coordinated schedule for all contractors, detailing when and where each contractor needed to be. Mr. Maloni worked around the clock the days before the project began to ensure perfect coordination and set-up, ultimately resulting in only two hours of sleep between Tuesday and Thursday. Contractors worked from Tuesday morning to Sunday evening, working straight through Thanksgiving. The crews celebrated Thanksgiving together with turkey chili delivered the morning of Thanksgiving by Mr. Maloni's wife.

To move the air handling unit into the building, three foremen built a custom dolly that angled the pieces of the air handling unit into an arrangement that fit into the passenger elevator without scuffing walls, floors, or ceilings. The team built mock up equipment to test paths and angles to ensure the interior remained flawless. In the F.E. Moran shop, the air handling unit was dismantled for passage. The custom dolly seamlessly transported the unit without issue.

Now, the team had to rebuild the air handling unit in the tight mechanical room. To do this, the team added temporary structural beams above the actual structural beams and used them to hoist the 3,000 pound equipment using chain falls into the air to piece the air handling unit together like a puzzle. Mr. Maloni described it as, "building a ship in a bottle."

Mission Accomplished in Six Days

F.E. Moran completed the project in six days. By Monday morning, employees entered their offices without incident. The sixth and seventh floors were clean and back in working order.

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Now the commercial facility had a new, energy efficient air handling system with a smooth, non-disruptive installation. The new air handling unit had many benefits. It was much smaller than the original, providing usable room in the mechanical room for service. An added bonus was the energy efficiency. ComEd gave the facility an $8,900 rebate, to be taken directly off their energy bills, as a benefit of having an energy efficient system. While the old system had 2 compressors, the new air handling unit had scroll compressors with a variable frequency drive that gave a smaller electrical pulse when the unit wasn't needed, reducing energy bills and usage.

F.E. Moran Mechanical Services has been providing HVAC mechanical services for commercial facilities for more than twenty years. They were the first US Star Certified mechanical services contractor in the country, installing, maintaining, and repairing complex HVAC and building automation systems for a variety of markets.

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