LAS VEGAS, NV — If the new Suncoast Hotel & Casino had been built anywhere else but here, it would have been a three-year job. Not so in Sin City.

“We had to complete it in 14 months,” says Jack Arnold, MEP coordinator for general contractor J.A. Tiberti Construction Co., Inc. “Always in Vegas it’s the demand for the short time frame. I’m always dealing with very strict time constraints.”

Arnold should know. Tiberti served as the general contractor for many of Vegas’s mega-projects in recent years, including The Orleans, Sunset Station, Palace Station, Gold Coast, Barbary Coast, Union Plaza, The Las Vegas Club, Texas Station, and The Fiesta.

When asked if his latest accomplishment was a challenge, Arnold teases, “Oh, my God! You don’t have enough paper to list all the challenges this project presented.

“Just think about it — a casino, seven restaurants, a childcare facility, a race and sport book (where bets are placed), banquet hall, arcade, bowling alley, bingo parlor, two parking structures, a 16-theater cinema and a hotel. Then there’s the support for all this. Think of all the hvacr you have for one restaurant, but this is seven, plus all the rest. It’s its own little world.”

Quality Mechanical of Las Vegas, a division of Bracknell, was the contractor responsible for hvacr installation in all areas of the complex, except the cinema. Senior project manager Bill McBrayer said it was “a good job for us, once all the changes were made.

“The changes, as usual, were owner-driven: change this room to a restaurant, change this to an office. Not a major thing for the owner, I guess, but major for us.”

McBrayer now knows what Arnold already knew.

“It’s always fast-paced in Vegas,” says McBrayer. “We had only nine months to do all the hvac work.”

Stringent Codes Ensure Fire/Life Safety

“The MGM Grand changed the world in smoke management,” says Arnold, referring to the November 21, 1980 fire that claimed the lives of 76 guests and nine hotel employees. “Since then, there’s been a tremendous burden placed on compliance. No one wants what happened at the MGM to happen again. Safety’s the biggest thing, and that means testing, testing, testing. These hotels have to be the safest buildings in the world.”

McBrayer adds, “Fire/life safety is always a big deal in Vegas, and it’s time-consuming.”

According to Mike Schwob, the mechanical engineer for JBA Consulting Engineers who served as project manager, the making of Suncoast involved a fair amount of complexity.

“A number of issues came up, including an opening between the first and second floors that required separate smoke control systems. We ended up adding smoke barriers,” says Schwob.

JBA and Schwob are hardly newcomers to hotel and casino work. The company has worked in this field since 1964, and Schwob worked on portions of such high-profile projects as The Paris, Mandalay Bay, The Palms, The Borgata (Atlantic City), Harrah’s Shreveport, and The Rio.

“I was largely responsible for the mechanical design of the Hilton Grand Vacations Timeshare and the Rio Palatzo Suites,” he adds.

Regarding the Suncoast project, Schwob says, “Every space had to be considered individually. We couldn’t find one global solution to fit all the scenarios. There was no typical situation from a smoke control standpoint. Because of architectural factors, there are always things that aren’t considered in the original design.”

The architect and the owner “want things a certain way — in this case, a pleasing environment for gambling,” Schwob says.

“Smoke control is at the bottom of their list, until it’s time to open a building. It becomes very important when you have to show that your system works the way it’s supposed to work.”

RESULTS? Finished On Time

Challenges for hvac designers and installers arise because “contractors are not accustomed to building to meet smoke control requirements,” says Schwob. “There’s a very complex system that needs to be applied to a building that wasn’t designed and constructed to accommodate that system.”

Complicating this, Schwob says, is that “what we have is really a performance code. It doesn’t specify exact requirements, so the code can be interpreted in a number of ways.” In the end, though, he says, “Everything came together very well, and the hotel opened on time.”

This report provides information for contractors living in the West/Pacific region of the United States. This includes California, Hawaii, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. If you have information from this region, please contact Mark Skaer at 248-244-6446; 248-362-0317 (fax); or (e-mail).

Sidebar: Facts and Figures

Here are the stats for the new Suncoast Hotel and Casino:

Owner: Coast Resorts Inc.

Architect of record: Leo A. Daly, Los Angeles, responsible for the management and coordination of construction documents.

General contractor: J.A. Tiberti Construction Co., Inc., Las Vegas.

Hvac design: JBA Consulting Engineers, Las Vegas.

Hvac installation: Quality Mechanical, Las Vegas, a division of Bracknell.

Cinema architect: Fehlman Labarre, San Diego.

Cinema’s mechanical engineer: McParlane & Associates, San Diego.

Overall cost: $180 million

Building contains: 432 rooms in the hotel; 921,900 sq ft of building area; 10 stories high; 65,300-sq-ft cinema.

Mechanical equipment involved:

  • Four 700-ton centrifugal chillers (including one standby).
  • Two 8,500-MBH-input gas-fired hot water boilers.
  • Seven chilled-water pumps (primary and secondary), total of 10,850 gpm.
  • Four condenser water pumps, total flow rate of 8,400 gpm.
  • Four hot water pumps (primary and secondary), total of 1,900 gpm.
  • 25 built-up air-handling units, total supply airflow rate of 566,610 cfm.
  • 22 small packaged air-handling units, total supply airflow rate of 122,560 cfm.
  • Approximately 334 fancoil units.
  • No DX split systems or packaged units.
  • Six water-source heat pumps.
  • 132 individual fans for ventilation air, general exhaust, grease exhaust, vapor exhaust, and smoke control.
  • 285 vav terminals

    Construction notes:

  • 18 field sheet metal technicians during peak installation (Dave Coyner, sheet metal superintendent; Ann Pratt, sheet metal detailer).
  • 14 field piping technicians during peak installation (Charles Poff, piping superintendent; Don Menke, piping detailer).

  • Sidebar - Vegas Growth: No End in Sight

    “In the last 10 years, the growth in hotel rooms has been phenomenal,” says Kevin Bagger, senior research analyst with The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

    Phenomenal may just be an understatement. Between 1995 and 2000, more than 34,000 hotel rooms were built to accommodate some 34 million annual visitors. In the 30 years since statistics have been kept, the number of rooms has increased nearly five-fold, from just over 25,000 in 1970 to more than 124,000 at year-end 2000. Last year alone, 4,219 motel and hotel rooms, and 109,116 sq ft of convention space, were added.

    Plans for the next few years project even more growth: 2,972 rooms this year, 2,267 the next, and more than 3,000 in 2003.

    You’d think that with all these rooms, some hotels might be empty, but that’s not the case. The current average occupancy rate in Vegas exceeds 90%.

    It seems the only thing in Vegas that outstrips hotel construction is population growth. Since 1970, the greater Las Vegas area has seen more than a ten-fold increase in residents — from just over 125,000 31 years ago to almost 1.5 million today.

    Publication date: 03/19/2001 Web Date: 06/18/2001