Renovated Office Space Requires Rooftops

June 18, 2003
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Tenant Ken Jones (in red) confers with Brubaker HVAC sales representative Dave Rupp (in green) and HVAC installation mechanic Randy Zendt (in blue).
LANCASTER, Pa. — In early 2002, Godfrey Advertising Inc. needed to find a new home, fast. The company’s lease was up that November, and partners in the firm had been looking in vain to acquire a building that could house its 60 employees.

Godfrey’s president, Valerie Moul, says they were looking for something that had a more creative and innovative look to it. “A lot of these cookie-cutter-type office buildings weren’t very conducive to our work-flow processes or the style of building we were looking for. We also really liked the idea of using an existing structure, particularly a historic one.”

Three dilapidated buildings located at 40 N. Christian St., part of the Christian Street Court complex, filled the bill. Built around 1900, these buildings sat vacant for 50 years. Godfrey partners felt these buildings would be perfect for their agency. Still, with only nine months to whip them into shape before their lease expired, Moul knew the company was in a race against time.

Nineteen York Predator and Sunline Ultra rooftop package heating and cooling units, rating in cooling capacity from four to 10 tons, were installed atop Christian Street Court.

Historical Meets HVAC

The Christian Street Court buildings have stunning architectural elements. Contractor Stephen P. Mitrani, president of Devcon Services Inc., appreciated their aesthetic value. But he also recognized the challenges they posed; as historical elements, he would need to preserve them even as he helped breathe new life into the 27,000-square-foot structure that would house Godfrey employees.

That structure is actually a combination of three of the five buildings Mitrani purchased with partners John T. Meeder (president, Meeder Development Corp.) and David L. Woolfenden (technical manager, Bearingpoint/KPMG Consulting). The buildings comprise the $4.3 million Christian Street Court project, which encompasses 58,000 square feet of renovated commercial/retail space and a new, two-level parking garage.

“The fact that these five buildings were constructed separately, at different times and on different levels, without the idea of ever being hooked together or interconnected, presented the biggest challenge to us as the contractor,” recalls Mitrani. “We had to find a way to marry all these different buildings together into one state-of-the-art, code-compliant building while preserving their architectural and historical integrity.”

That required cooperation and flexibility on the part of Godfrey, and skill and ingenuity on the part of the HVAC contractor, Brubaker Inc. It was up to Brubaker to decide which type of HVAC system could meet the one main criterion of Godfrey.

“I had one specific requirement,” says Moul. “I wanted an HVAC system about which no one would ever complain. We moved from a building where it seemed like there were always hot spots and cold spots, and no one was ever comfortable, all at the same time.”

The contractor looked at various types of systems, including a chilled-water system, before deciding on rooftop units. The main reason was that the developer wanted flexibility — nobody knew at that point who would be occupying the other retail and office spaces. With rooftop units, Brubaker was able to provide an efficient way to zone the project — in effect, providing tenants with individual HVAC systems.

Architectural elements often interrupted pathways for ductwork and limited the space where ductwork could be installed.

Smooth Installation

Brubaker ended up installing 19 York “Predator” and “Sunline Ultra” rooftop packaged heating and cooling units, ranging in cooling capacity from four to 10 tons, atop Christian Street Court.

“It was really fun to watch,” says Moul. “Because we’re in a downtown urban area, blocking the streets for a long time with large cranes just wasn’t going to be tolerated. So they brought in a crane and I believe they had all the equipment on the roof in one day.”

Ease of installation was also important to the contractor. The Predator units are self-contained, installed on a common-sized roof curb, and assembled on a rigid, full-perimeter base rail that allows for three-way forklift access and overhead rigging.

Brubaker was able to order one curb that fit every unit, regardless of unit capacity. As a result, there was no confusion matching units to curbs when the new rooftops were delivered and placed on the roof. Every unit came completely charged, wired, and piped for a quick and easy installation.

Ten of the Predator units serve Godfrey, carrying conditioned air to the building through more than 1,000 feet of ductwork. Snaking that ductwork throughout the complex was the challenge for Brubaker’s Randy Zendt, HVAC sales representative, and Dave Rupp, the installation mechanic.

“Many, many times I found Dave Rupp scratching his head, because we had to maintain a lot of the historical features of the building and that meant he couldn’t just come in and put ductwork wherever he wanted to. It really took a lot of creativity on Brubaker’s part,” says Moul.

Those features included large wooden window frames, tin ceilings, woodwork, staircases, an atrium, and a fourth-floor mezzanine. All of these elements interrupted pathways for ductwork and limited the space where ductwork needed to be installed.

Rupp notes that in one area, two windows look out onto a brick wall. “Because the wall is almost against the windows, the windows will never be used as windows. But the window frames have historical value, so our ductwork had to be offset around them and soffits built so that the windows could be preserved and exposed.”

Another big concern was making sure the building could support the rooftop units. “Devcon reinforced the beams to provide additional support for the units,” says Zendt.

Christian Street Court was ready by November for Godfrey personnel. Moul couldn’t be happier. “The HVAC has been really wonderful. Our people were trained and found the control panels easy to use, easy to program, and easy to alter. There really haven’t been any complaints at all.”

Publication date: 06/23/2003

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