The 21-story Research Institute building at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, IL, was constructed in 1963. Naturally, its hvac systems were designed and installed based on the needs of the time.

With 37 years gone by and a new tenant moving into at least two floors of the building, updated systems were in order.

IIT officials began by contracting Air Comfort Corp., Broadview, IL, to replace one of the building’s air-handling units and install a new exhaust-return air fan and rooftop condensing unit. In addition, the project called for two new duct runs (one supply and one return) to be installed in a vertical riser shaft from the 20th-floor mechanical room to the 12th- and 13th-floor tenant areas.

Timing is everything

“The project was a particular challenge because of the complexity and timing of the work,” said Patrick Golden, Air Comfort’s project manager. “We received the order just after Thanksgiving,” he recalled, adding that the contract included “a substantial completion clause” with a target date of January 15.

Because of the short turnaround time, some of the major equipment was pre-ordered, according to Bill Casica, IIT’s plant manager for facilities operations. However, it was up to Air Comfort to order the remaining equipment and coordinate all deliveries and installation in order to meet the deadline.

“Normally, a project of this scope would be scheduled to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion,” stated Golden. But “because of the compressed time schedule, several aspects of the work were occurring at the same time.”

Subcontractors working under Air Comfort’s direction were demolishing an old air handler and associated ductwork to make room for the new equipment; they were also removing portions of brick and block walls to allow for moving the new air handler into the building and in position on a newly poured concrete pad.

Piping crews were kept busy relocating existing pumps and temporarily removing a large section of piping to allow the new equipment to be moved through the crowded equipment room.

Operation airlift

The Sunday before Christmas, three weeks after receiving the order, Air Comfort took delivery of the major pieces of equipment at the jobsite.

A helicopter was used to hoist the equipment and set it in position. The air handler was moved in sections, with each section lowered onto a temporary wooden platform and taken from there into the building.

“The helicopter hoisting operation was started shortly after dawn and completed by noon,” said Golden.

In the weeks following, the air handler was assembled in place on its concrete pad, and piping and sheet metal crews completed their work. Electricians, control technicians, and insulators did their work as the target completion date approached.

Two of the last components to arrive were the drives that control the speed of the new air handler’s blower and exhaust-return air fan. The drives were shipped by air freight one week prior to completion, installed and wired by the electrical subcontractor, then test run on January 14.

Thanks to the timing and execution, there were no snags in the final installation. “A well-planned and coordinated effort by everyone involved helped us meet the targeted completion date,” noted Golden.