Building A Niche With Fabric Duct

September 24, 2003
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Tri-City Mechanical also installed fabric duct at The Natatorium in Kayenta, Ariz. This project (shown above and below) used two 80-foot runs of 66-inch-diameter Sedona DuctSox, which are designed to allow 15 percent of the air to flow through the fabric, eliminating surface condensation and dust buildup in indoor pool applications.
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Right now construction budgets are tight due to tough economic conditions. Nonetheless, Tri-City Mechanical continues to win its share of design-build projects because of value-engineered strategies that cut costs and retain clients.

One example is the Bill Luke Chrysler Service Center project in Phoenix. This 100,000-square-foot building is part of a multiphase project to remodel the 75-year-old car dealership. When the design stage had surpassed its total construction budget by 20 percent, all trades were asked to rebid the two-level auto service phase. Tri-City looked for cost-cutting HVAC alternatives.

Without sacrificing already thin profit margins or the client’s indoor air comfort, Tri-City came back to the negotiation table with 15 to 17 percent savings from the original mechanical portion of the bid.

What changed? Tri-City’s bid switched from individual exhaust to a central exhaust system for the service bays. It also changed to duct-reducing Carrier split systems chosen for the 8,000-square-foot office area’s air conditioning. However, it was the substitution of fabric duct for rectangular fabricated metal duct that garnered the largest savings.

“The savings are in fabrication and installation labor because fabric duct comes ready to install and on-site installation requires considerably less man-hours,” recalls Steven Mullins, preconstruction services, Tri-City.

Besides this, Mullins said the fabric duct’s linear diffusers result in a more gentle, even air distribution above the 280 service bays. Metal duct registers are often more drafty due to higher velocity airflows. Two 78,000-cfm evaporative coolers from United Metal Products will be used on each level. Conditioned air will be distributed through 12 runs of 46-inches diameter, 180-foot-long white TufTex DuctSox fabric duct when the project is completed early next year.

Although it has only one job completed and four current projects with DuctSox, Tri-City sees the potential of developing fabric duct into a niche. Mullins expects to use DuctSox on six to 10 projects in 2003 because it gives the contractor a competitive edge. “We provide clients with design solutions, and fabric duct has proven its value with budgetary challenges,” Mullins noted.

“The fact that Tri-City has a 51,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sheet metal fabrication shop and still specify fabric duct on situations where it’s the best economical choice proves they’re really looking out for their clients,” said Rick Davis, sales/engineer for Air Specialty Products, a Mesa, Ariz.-based manufacturer’s representative.

Little training is needed for fabric duct because installation involves sinking anchors similar to hanging piping and either stringing cable or H-Track suspension systems. Hanging the duct on the suspension system is similar to putting up a shower curtain. Because fabric duct is 90 percent lighter than metal duct, smaller installation teams are needed.

The new technology has gotten a boost during the economic downturn. “We provide solutions for clients,” Mullins said. “Lately, solutions have revolved around economics. Fabric duct is just one of many economic solutions we can pass on to clients.”

Publication date: 09/29/2003

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