Cook County Hospital: New HVAC for Old Icon

The road to its current iteration was not without challenges.

By Dave Lubach, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Renovations Bring New Life to Cook County HospitalPt. 2: This Page

The starting-from-scratch theme of restoring Cook County Hospital in Chicago extended to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The abandoned hospital had no air conditioning system, and since much of the infrastructure needed to be gutted, it gave the designers an opportunity to install new-generation technology

“The biggest challenge was we had no as-built drawings we could rely on,” says Mike Moxon, vice president of engineering for Maddox Industries, which installed heating and cooling systems for the site. The former hospital includes a combined 210 guest rooms between the two hotels. 

“Every room and every wall were not always guaranteed to be what we expected when we opened it up,” Moxon says. 

Designers settled on installing Design Envelope 4300 Vertical In-Line pumps from Armstrong Fluid Technology to heat and cool the building.  

“The pumps in this building supply condenser water to the heat pumps located in the space that provide the heating and cooling required to the space,” he says.  

For a 345,000-square-foot building, the eighth-floor mechanical room that houses the pump system is modest. The 75 horsepower pumps are above ground due to the lack of floor space and to allow engineers access.  

“We utilize the cooling tower to control the head pressure, and we have hot-water injection that goes into the condenser water loop,” Murphy says of the pump system. “We send a continuous flow through our condenser pumps throughout the entire building 24/7, 365 days a year. It's really about the cooling tower controlling the head pressure and then injecting heat in winter and containing or maintaining a constant temperature of between 70 and 80 degrees.” 

The HVAC systems of many hotels and larger facilities are located on lower floors away from guest areas, but because of the building’s roof-based cooling towers, engineers needed the pumps to remain close to the towers, and they kept hotel guests in mind when designing the mechanical room. 

“There’s nothing touching the ground, and the pumps are basically designed to operate without any vibration,” Murphy says. “It’s very little maintenance for noise. With hotel rooms below and above, nobody wants to hear any rotating equipment.” 

Maintenance management 

The facilities staff at the Cook County Hyatt property includes two additional engineers and two apprentices. The pumps’ automation technology helps Murphy’s staff monitor the system daily. 

“It’s about maintaining the pumps, always,” he says. “They’re the heart of the system. Without the condenser water pumps running, the whole building is not going to run, so it’s about monitoring and checking our building automation system every day, three times a day, making sure your pressures and other things are right.” 

Since keeping the pumps running is essential to hotel operations, the designers planned for potential system breakdowns. 

“Everything is kind of built in with a layer of redundancy,” Murphy says. “There are two pumps for each of our main systems, so we monitor the time, and you try not to work one pump harder than the other because that’s obviously when things are going to break. When one does break, we have the other one on hand ready to go while you’re swapping out the other one.” 

Given his family’s history with the old Cook County Hospital and its historical meaning to Chicago, Murphy says he feels great satisfaction in playing a role in the building’s restoration to ensure that future generations will feel a connection with the building. 

“It took the right developer to come in and have the vision to see this project through,” he says. “A lot of people wanted to tear this building down, and it was landmarked and saved. The county really didn’t want to see this building demolished.” 

Dave Lubach is the executive editor for the facility market. He has more than nine years of experience writing about facilities management and maintenance issues.  

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  posted on 6/17/2024   Article Use Policy

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