Planning Pointers for Successful HVAC Retrofits

  January 3, 2012

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, planning for successful HVAC retrofits.

It is unusual for a retrofit project in an institutional or commercial facility to go off without a hitch. Schedules, equipment, materials, technicians and a host of other factors need to mesh almost precisely for that to occur. So when the project in question is the replacement of a major HVAC component that just happens to be embedded deep within a facility, success often is even more elusive.

That scenario is exactly what happened when St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wis., replaced its 25-year-old boiler in 2007. The project is a prime example of the role planning and preparation play in any project's success.

"I think it's a testament to the planning that we really didn't have surprises," says John Puckett, the hospital's director of plant services. "It was well thought out, well coordinated, well communicated. The staff was able to keep things running. We had contingency plans, but we didn't have to exercise them with the installation of the new boiler."

The department's role in the project went beyond technical issues.

Says Puckett, "Besides developing a close working relation with our contractor partners, communication strategies between the engineers and the staff, as well as our customers — those were the key elements of this department's role. We also had to maintain a consistent and reliable supply of all the associated systems and functions during the installation."

The old boiler's location deep inside the building created a host of challenges related to disconnecting and moving it to make way for the new boiler. That move took an entire week. Ensuring the hospital's utilities remained functional during the replacement process also created challenges.

Says Greg Hatzinger, the hospital's power plant supervisor, "It was a daily challenge, just simply because of where the boiler was located, just to keep services running and relocate feedwater and fuel lines — it was quite a challenge. It took a lot of coordination with the contractors to keep those going."


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