T's, bends, reducers, and other fittings common in metal duct can also be implemented in a fabric duct run.

SAN ANTONIO - Richmond Enterprises, one of the oldest franchisees in the Pizza Hut restaurant chain, has discovered a low-cost air conditioning solution for its new 5,500-square-foot maintenance center.

In an effort to cool the newly-built maintenance center, which is connected to the 33-year-old franchisee's 9,500-square-foot, San Antonio, Texas headquarters/warehouse, Steve Richmond, director of maintenance, opted for cost saving fabric ductwork manufactured by FabricAir Inc. of Louisville, KY, combined with ridge venting, a trendy building design technique that allows heat escape through manually controlled dampers.

The design, which also includes three 5-ton split system air conditioning units by York International Corp. of Norman, OK, generates an estimated 30-percent operational cost savings versus conventional systems.

"Pizza Hut's design format doesn't include exposed ceilings so we can't use it in our restaurants, but several of my independent restaurateur friends now like the fabric duct concept so much that they're going to use it in their next restaurant expansions," said Richmond, whose firm operates 30 restaurants, one of which is the oldest continually operated Pizza Hut in the 9,000-location chain.

The operational savings is generated from design's heat load reduction. Heat continually rises and escapes through the ridge vents in the maintenance center's 20-foot high-pitched roof, which in turn lowers the building's cooling demands. Meanwhile, the 300-linear feet of 14-inch-round fabric ductwork, suspended at 16-feet high, enhances the convection process by evenly spreading cooler, heavier air down to the bottom 75 percent of the structure. On cool days during winter months, electric heaters in the hvac system are thermostatically activated and the vents close to retain heat.

Restaurateur, Richmond Ent. saved 30% in hvac costs by choosing fabric duct over other duct materials.
Richmond had originally considered other ductwork materials such as fiberglass and metal. En route to specifying the air conditioning system he stumbled upon the concept of fabric ductwork, a new high-tech alternative that's just beginning to surface in the U.S. after 3 0 years of success in European restaurants, natatoriums, office buildings, food processing plants and other industrial applications. Fabric is more attractive than fiberglass, according to Richmond, and offers a 25 percent and 75 percent cost savings in materials and installation labor, respectively.

The fabric duct installation took a two-person crew three hours to install for Alamo Mechanical, San Antonio, a six-year-old mechanical contracting firm that specializes in light industrial applications. "Basically all we did was put some anchors in the wall for the suspension system and mounted the fabric duct onto the plenum collar and then strung the holders through the cable similar to hanging a shower curtain," said Doug Hefford, president, who plans to suggest fabric duct as an metal duct alternative on future bids. "The fact that sections were zipped together and ladders were used instead of labor intensive scaffolding sped the job along quickly."

Aesthetically, Richmond's choice of yellowish-orange duct brightened the drab industrial atmosphere created by the metal building's white walls and exposed steel joists.

Comfort-wise, Richmond likes the low velocity airflow produced by fabric duct. Instead of a draft-producing register every several feet, which is standard with conventional metal duct, two custom-ordered linear outlets run the length of the ductwork and disperse an even, gentle airflow. "I have several trunk lines above our offices and there's absolutely no draft, all that's felt is the temperature I've set on the thermostat.

The best has yet to come, according to Richmond. When the duct needs periodic cleaning, Richmond's own crew can take it down and either clean it in-house or have it dry-cleaned.

For more information, contact FabricAir, Inc., 1400 Envoy Circle, Suite 1616, Louisville, KY 40299; 502-493-2210; 502-493-4002 (fax).

Publication date: 05/14/2001