Large Dose of PP-R Pipe Prescribed at Prestigious Harvard Medical School

April 24, 2014

Harvard Medical School had leaking and corroding copper supply lines and needed a corrosion-resistant chiller line. Aquatherm Green Pipe® and Aquatherm Blue Pipe® were installed and the facility staff was so pleased they used Aquatherm on the replacement of a leaking buried chilled water line as well.

Harvard Medical School has been synonymous with excellence in education, research, and clinical care for generations.

The Harvard Medical School (HMS) facility management team is also on the forefront of technology. In the search for cutting-edge solutions to some daunting mechanical systems upgrades, they discovered a perfect fit for installations at the Gordon Hall administration building and New Research Building (NRB).

The five-story, 72,877-sq-ft Gordon Hall administration building was built in 1905. The storied structure, which has undergone multiple renovations, is the main administration building.

In early 2013, HMS facilities engineer, Rob Behrent and his team were planning to replace existing split DX A/C units with six Trane UniTrane® fan coil units (fcus) at Gordon Hall. “There was a lot of external corrosion on the pipes and you don’t want leaks. If it leaks, it leaks on the dean of the medical school,” said Behrent.”

“Read All About It!”

Behrent first learned of Aquatherm polypropylene-random (PP-R) pipe systems when his supervisor saw a trade magazine article about them. “We were initially going to use CPVC, but after much consideration, the cold-resistant characteristics and seismic capabilities of Aquatherm piping were driving factors in the decision. CPVC can get brittle and offers very little seismic capability compared to Aquatherm,” said Behrent.

He contacted local Aquatherm manufacturer’s representative, NextGen Energy Solutions, to learn more. Behrent also worked with Engineered Solutions Inc. (ESI) out of Natick, MA, for additional engineering. General contractor JK Blackstone subcontracted the piping work to Pinnacle Piping and Service Corp., (Weymouth, MA).

After a half-day training conducted by NextGen and renting the proper fusion welding irons, the team used approximately 200 ft of ½-in. to 2-in. Aquatherm Green Pipe® to run from the mechanical room to the new fcus on the second floor and provide heating and cooling to the office spaces. The installation proceeded remarkably smoothly considering it was the first Aquatherm installation for HMS and Pinnacle.

“We wanted to replace ALL existing pipe, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, at some point, and this job also doubled as a proof of concept and technology,” Behrent added.

All properly installed and tested Aquatherm pipe systems are connected by nearly leak-proof heat fusion and carry a 10-year multimillion dollar warranty. The warranty was alluring, “...but the corrosion resistance was really the key driver,” said Behrent.

“In Gordon Hall, we had so many leaks that we want to completely repipe the system. Due to leaks, a repipe of the entire building’s HVAC system is planned and in the budgeting process,” said Behrent.

Inside NRB

The 12-story, 825,000-sq-ft New Research Building (NRB) – yet to be named – was built in 2003 and houses the Departments of Genetics and Microbiology and Immunobiology.

The building has 5,500 tons of cooling with 12-in. lines supplying chilled water. Problems for Behrent arose when a 24-in steel chiller condensate water line began leaking in the mechanical room, which necessitated a replacement from the flange up to the 90-degree elbows. Behrent needed to drain the entire 24-in. line that runs to the cooling towers on the roof and find a temporary cooling solution during the repair.

Again, the team turned to Aquatherm, using 12-in. Aquatherm Blue Pipe® to connect to the 12-in. chiller line which provided cooling via trailer-mounted Trane Air Cooled Chillers (ACCs) during the repair. Afterward the line served as a permanent installation for emergency tie-ins.

Dry and Empty PP-R = No Problem

The Aquatherm 12-in. risers ascend from the basement 50 feet through a ventilation chase to temporary chillers located in the parking lot. Since this project required the 12-in. line to remain completely empty and dry for an extended period of time, Behrent didn’t want to use steel pipe due to the cost of potential corrosion.

“It was worth a little bit of extra cost to go with Aquatherm so as to not have to go to extreme measures like charging the piping with nitrogen,” explained Behrent.

Extra Line Provides Redundancy

HMS can now run chilled water in the Aquatherm pipes to shut down the building chillers and do major maintenance or emergency repairs. And the chiller condensate pipe is ready for repair now that auxiliary chilled water lines are in place.

With these two important projects completed, Behrent said he and his primary plumbing engineering firm, ESI, plan to use Aquatherm on several other HMS jobs. In fact, he is so impressed with the product that he is willing to discuss it with interested FMs and building owners. Contact Behrent at [email protected].

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