Alan Lott, president of the board of directors, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama; Ronald McDonald; and Bob Davis, southeast regional sales manager, Uponor, celebrate during the opening ceremony.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Alabama (RMHCA) recently paid special tribute to Uponor and more than 1,000 other corporate and private donors at a special grand opening ceremony to celebrate the completion of its new $7 million, 33,000-square-foot facility in Birmingham. The 41-room home for children represents one of the largest and most sophisticated applications of crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) tubing in a Birmingham project to date.

“We are a charity organization, so our facilities must operate as efficiently as possible,” said Roberta Shapiro, project manager and former RMHCA executive director. To that end, the new Birmingham Ronald McDonald House incorporates a number of energy- and cost-saving technologies, including PEX-based plumbing and heating. Working through its local distributor, American Pipe & Supply, Uponor donated roughly 9,000 feet of Wirsbo Aquapex® tubing to provide domestic water service as well as supply 63 ceiling-mounted, water-source heat pump units. The installer was Brown Mechanical Contractors Inc., also based in Birmingham.

Approximately 250 people - donors and long-time supporters, RMHCA board members, and local government officials - attended the reception, following a special ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new home earlier in the day. Contributors such as Uponor were cited for providing donations worth nearly $1.5 million, including building products, materials, and services to help create the new facility.

“Our overriding interest in evaluating each possible heating system was the long-term energy cost, while ensuring that the upfront cost was also feasible,” said Leigh Ann Speake, vice president, Brown Mechanical. “We considered everything from individual through-the-wall units and traditional split-systems to air handlers and fan-coil units. In the end, the water-source heat pumps proved ideal for this application and our moderate climate.”

In addition to the front-end savings and streamlined installation gained through Wirsbo Aquapex tubing, Shapiro estimates that the design of the plumbing, insulation, and heating and air conditioning systems combined will save roughly $7,000-$10,000 in annual operating costs for this project.

Publication date:09/17/2007