Luxury Condo Gets an Upgraded Boiler in the Gold Coast of Chicago

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

When F.E. Moran Mechanical Services (MMS) was called to install a new boiler at a Gold Coast luxury condo complex, the work was like building a ship in a bottle.

state of the art boiler

Luxury Condo Almost Has It All

The luxury condo in the affluent Gold Coast neighborhood was built in the mid-1960s and still had the original boiler, which took up approximately 75% of the mechanical room. The high-rise almost has it all, a ballroom with caterer kitchen, indoor swimming pool, exercise facilities, rooftop decks, valet parking and more. What it didn't have was an updated boiler, and it was time to change that. The old boiler was massive, but only had an output of 6 million BTUs with 80% efficiency. It was time to make a change.

MMS' bid was accepted to build boilers and rough in plumbing. F.E. Moran Plumbing was brought in to complete the heat exchangers, domestic water pumps, and pipes.

Small Spaces and Sediment

With 40 floors of condos, having an energy efficient boiler is important. The cost of heating and hot water can be astronomical with one bedroom condos having 2,000 square feet. It was necessary to replace the new boiler; however, it would also be a very difficult task. The boiler was put into the basement of the building before the building was erected. The building was built around the giant boiler. The contractors considered getting an external boiler that would pump in heat from an external source (the project took place in the summer, so comfort heating wasn't an issue); however, it would save $200,000 to work around the existing boiler. It was ultimately decided to work in the small space of the mechanical room rather than get an external boiler.

Because of the decision to work around the boiler, contractors couldn't work at the same time. This caused an obstacle in scheduling work for HVAC. Plumbing, electrical, and demo, and insulation contractors needed to coordinate a tight schedule, made tighter because the water could only be shut off between midnight and 6am.

An added issue was with the fifty year old boiler and pipes, whenever the water was shut off, sediment would run through the pipes clogging showers and sinks. F.E. Moran Mechanical Services needed to find a solution.

Everything Falls into Place

When F.E. Moran Mechanical Services bid on the project, they already had a team compiled, making the project infinitely easier. They brought on Dan Yungerman from F.E. Moran Plumbing, McWilliams for electrical, FCI for GC work, Falls for insulation, and Nicholson for demo. Because the team was already established and familiar with each other, they were able to coordinate and schedule seamlessly. A schedule was determined that allowed for each contractor to have time in the 30x20 room (with 20x20 of the room used by the boiler) on their own to complete the work.

To ease the space issue, eventually the mechanical room was demoed and an older, unused boiler was used in another space and tied into the water system. The mechanical room was then re-designed and ready for the new boilers.

To resolve the sediment issue, F.E. Moran decided to do a pipe freeze. When a pipe freeze is conducted, a jacket is added to the pipe and liquid nitrogen is pumped through. The nitrogen quickly freezes the water in the jacket and blocks the water. This allows work to be done. When the water was shut down without the pipe freeze, 50 condos complained of clogged drains. After the pipe freeze water shut down, only 16 units had sediment issues.

In the end, the project was completed on time and within budget. The new boiler was a success. Instead of having a large, low efficiency boiler, the condo now has 4 small boilers at 2 million BTUs each, totaling 8 million BTUs. It was also 95% efficient, so the building got more heat allowance, more efficiency, and more free space in their mechanical room.

Mike Maloni said, "When MMS collaborated with F.E. Moran Plumbing, it made this project not only turnkey, but also so much easier. We were able to coordinate with each other easily. It was like a ship in a bottle, but it all came together because of careful coordination."

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