Design Build Saves the Day

Design Build Saves the Day

An unexpected fire caused construction to start early. The Lee Company jumped to action, made the necessary changes and had the facility up and running the next day, with no disruptions to daily activities at Alliance Health Center throughout the entire project.

Alliance Health Center is located in Meridian, MS and houses 134 psychiatric patient beds. The six-story facility is owned and operated by Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. PSI is the largest operator of owned freestanding psychiatric inpatient facilities with approximately 11,000 beds in 32 states.

The central energy plant's (CEP’s) existing equipment had far exceeded its life expectancy. As a result, the plant was terribly inefficient, in danger of critical systems failure, and required constant attention by the facility maintenance staff.

PSI approached Lee Company to provide a complete turnkey Design/Build project to upgrade their CEP. In turn, Lee Company partnered with three local contractors to oversee the required electrical, fire sprinkler, and general trades work.

A major challenge Lee Company faced was in keeping the facility operational throughout the renovation process. This was achieved by working countless hours of off-peak shifts, constant communication with the facility’s staff, and diligent planning. Installation time and shutdowns were minimized through prefabricated, modular piping assemblies that were built at Lee Company's manufacturing facility in Nashville, TN. With the prefabrication method, the piping would be shipped to arrive on site just in time for installation, thus eliminating the need to store materials on site.

Not everything goes according to plan. The project start was expedited due to the unexpected failure of the existing, wooden cooling tower serving the water cooled chiller, to help reduce the strain from 90F+ summer heat.

Lee Company replaced the existing water-cooled chillers with two 300 ton air-cooled chillers, and installed two new boilers of 110 BHP each, two new gas-fired domestic water heaters, and a new storage tank.

As a result of the newly installed equipment, the owner gained a reliable and more efficient mechanical system. Lee Company also provided energy calculations to predict the utility cost savings associated with the new, more efficient equipment.

The energy study was based on comparing a year of monthly energy bills (electric and natural gas) to a computer-generated energy model of the proposed new central plant equipment.

The study revealed that the potential energy savings could be as high as $102,000 per year.

Lee Company also evaluated the facility's energy consumption by comparing it to buildings of similar function. The Energy Use Index (EUI) was compared to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building Energy Consumption Benchmark.

"This allowed us to recognize that this facility was a very high energy consumer, relatively speaking. This also helped the owner justify the replacement of the existing equipment with more efficient equipment," says Andy Sweeney, project manager at Lee Company.

This project ranks high in the "unique" category due to a variety of special challenges the team had to tackle:

  1. All major mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems in the CEP were replaced, while maintaining a fully occupied, operational psychiatric facility in extreme summer and winter temperatures.
  2. The failed cooling tower was replace in mid-summer.
  3. The need for close coordination and use of prefabricated piping sections, which allowed the installation to occur much more rapidly than if it were installed in-field. This minimized facility systems downtime. In addition, the great reduction in energy usage is an environmental plus.

The $2.7 million dollar project began in July of 2009. It was wrapped up in March of 2010. To upgrade the domestic hot water system, the existing steam-powered domestic hot water system was replaced with two new Lochinvar packaged, natural gas-fired water heaters, a new storage tank, and an appropriately-sized mixing valve. This allowed the domestic hot water system to operate independently of the existing hot water boiler.

Lee Company removed and replaced the existing chillers, boilers, cooling tower, chilled water pumps, heating water pumps, and mechanical piping, along with the associated hyrdonic specialties.

The two existing water-cooled chillers were replaced with two packaged air-cooled chillers. Two natural gas flex-tube hot water boilers were installed to replace the existing steam boilers.

Therefore, a new flue was required. Lee Company installed the new boiler flue inside the existing chimney, thus eliminating its view from the exterior. The team also installed new ventilation fans, louvers, and unit heaters.

The firm's Technical Services Group designed, programmed, and installed a DDC control system to operate the new energy plant equipment. The DDC system provides more efficient operation, and notifies the staff by telephone of any irregularities that need to be corrected remotely via the Internet.

With a new comfort system came the need for an overhaul of the entire electrical feeds. Woodall Electric, a local electrical contractor, demolished existing feeds to the old HVAC equipment, and installed a new transformer, switchgear, breakers, disconnects, and power feeds to serve new HVAC equipment. The CEP was also retrofitted with brighter yet more efficient lighting.

Lee Company employed and managed Creel Development, in the building a new electrical room. Additionally, an egress stairwell and sidewalk were installed.

In addition to the renovations in the central energy plant, Lee Company teamed up with McIlwain Fire Sprinkler, to oversee the installation of a diesel-powered sprinkler pump, a pre-action system, and a sprinkler system throughout the central energy plant and six-story tower.

Lee Company was the prime contractor on this multi-disciplined project, yet was able to perform about 65% of the project.

"We maintained and operated a system for future comfort," Sweeney concludes. "We did some serious renovations with limited down time or interruptions to the facilities daily activities. We responded to their needs and maintained our schedule."

Timing, attention to detail, and an acceptance of "real life" challenges helped Lee Co. excel on this critical systems project. Congratulations to Lee Co. for keeping their cool in the name of comfort.

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