February 23, 2021
By Martin Hawrysko, Metropolitan Industries, Inc.
The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System in Chicago serves as an important institution to the people of Illinois and beyond. In addition to being a world-renowned healthcare facility, it also is home to the country’s largest medical school. The multi-building infrastructure is reliant on a variety of processes that makes the healthcare, education, and research within its confines possible. With so much on the line when it comes to supplying urgent medical care, there is virtually no time to spare when a problem occurs in any of the building’s processes.
When the availability of hot water started to become a noticeable problem, building engineers anticipated that the water heaters in both the north and south pavilions needed replacing. Based on the success that Metropolitan Industries recently had correcting issues with the hospital’s storm and sewage water equipment, UI Health asked us to review their hot water heating applications with the expectation that we would recommend replacing their existing semi-instantaneous steam fired water heaters.
While Metropolitan has become known for our complete system design and manufacturing, we are also often called upon for our strong expertise in retrofitting antiquated systems.
Uncovering the Underlying Problem
After reviewing applications in both pavilions of the Outpatient Care Center, Metropolitan was quick to identify that an installation error was the likely cause of the problem. According to Matt Brickey, a commercial sales representative at Metropolitan and the point-of-contact for this project, the original installation of the heaters had caused gravity flow issues of the discharged condensate from the units.
“The way that the existing steam fired water heaters were currently setup, they didn’t allow condensate to gravity drain back to the condensate pump system,” he said. As that condensate backs up into the water heaters, it becomes very corrosive, can cause water hammer, and will eventually lead to premature failure of the equipment. Upon a more thorough inspection, certain deposits and buildup was found around the heaters, confirming the initial suspicion.
From an equipment standpoint, a replacement of the old would solve their hot water generating capabilities in the short-term, but the same problem would eventually resurface. The recommendation by Metropolitan was not only new equipment as originally planned, but a complete re-piping of the application so that the new heaters would be correctly installed.
“Without our recommendations, they would have taken out the old equipment and simply replaced it with new equipment without addressing the underlying problem, leading to the new equipment having a shorter shelf life,” he said. Brickey added that the same premature failing of the equipment would happen all over again within a few years. With Metropolitan’s recommendation, the new heating equipment would be correctly installed, allowing for the systems to last their full life expectancy, an average of 15 to 20 years when properly maintained.
Metropolitan was tasked with the redesign and engineering of the new semi-instantaneous steam fired water heating systems for both pavilions. As part of the initial design process, Metropolitan met on-site with Althoff Industries, the hired contractor based out of Crystal Lake, Ill, multiple times to walk through the planned installation. Althoff played a vital role in ensuring that the fabrication drawings by Metropolitan were practical for the respective spaces and would be further instrumental when it came to the successful installation of both systems.
Manufactured Per Unique Project Specifications
What separates Metropolitan from other plumbing and mechanical system suppliers is our in-house manufacturing and fabrication. Our project partners don’t have to worry about making concessions or accept limitations with the final product as a result of having to make-do with a previously sized packaged system. Our units can be made to stand elevated to support a required height that better assists gravity flow or be constructed as shorter, taller, wider, or skinnier to better fit into a specified mechanical space. The two systems for UI Health were designed and manufactured to accommodate their unique job site requirements.
A hallmark of Metropolitan is that we are a control panel manufacturer, meaning that our designed and assembled packaged systems are integrated with our own controls. Bringing the controls to life onto our water heating systems for UI Health is the ThermoTech, a color touch screen controller that integrates into the building automation system, giving building engineers full-scale monitoring capabilities.
And finally, each system was equipped with a new condensate pump, simplifying maintenance and replacement long into the future by knowing each individual piece of equipment shares the same start-of-life date.
Initiating Successful Installation Requires Thorough Coordination
The first system was installed in the north pavilion over the summer, while the second system is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. With such installations, the availability of hot water is temporarily disrupted, meaning that the scheduling of both installations and start-up of equipment had to be well thought-out and thoroughly coordinated ahead of time to ensure all personal members were fully prepared to make necessary arrangements.
“The main reason we contracted with Metropolitan on these two projects was to minimize downtime to the facility,” stated Kevin Sheehan, Assistant Director for Capital Projects – Mechanical Engineering with UI Health. :Given that you offered a custom packaged skid, that allowed our piping contractor to be hyper-efficient with their demo and installation, and localize the facility impact to a single weekend. I was really impressed with the level of coordination and teamwork that your team provided prior to and during the installation because I think that was a huge key to the project’s success.”
Upon completion of the project, the hot water generating capabilities at UI Health will no longer be a concern. Regardless of demand imposed by doctors, medical personnel, educators, or students, the availability of hot water at UI Health will be readily available for many years to come.