Case Studies - February 2020

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High-efficiency tankless water heater system helps apartment complex achieve LEED Gold status

Problem: The AVA 55 Ninth high-rise apartment building in San Francisco’s Central Market neighborhood has 273 apartments on 16 levels, a fitness center, a ground floor and a retail space. Owner AvalonBay Communities wanted to meet the building’s demands for hot water with a sustainable domestic hot-water system. The goal was to build the property with an array of sustainable features that would lead to LEED Gold status.

Solution: Combining 18 separate gas-fired tankless water heaters into a single, cohesive operation was their ultimate solution. Made by Noritz America, the NCC1991-DV units are hung and piped together in a custom-fabricated, Unistrut rack system located in a “penthouse” mechanical room on the roof of the building. The heater package was designed and installed by ACCO Engineered Systems. Kevin Hunt, lead plumbing engineer, did the design, assisted by a lead coordinator and two technicians who handled the installation. Hunt estimates that his work required three days, with another five devoted to 3D modeling and coordination. Rack construction, heater hookup and testing spanned roughly one week.

Result: “Tankless technology was a good fit for this building, and it helped us achieve our goal of LEED Gold certification,” says Tony Joyce, project engineer for several AvalonBay properties. From design to delivery, installation and its subsequent performance for the tenants of this property, the tankless domestic hot-water system has proven to be a solid choice. 866-766-7489; www.noritz.com.


Multiple reinstatements make coating the best option in apartment complex

Problem: The Plumbing Brothers from Los Angeles were tasked to rehabilitate a three-story apartment building in La Jolla. The apartment building had eight units on each floor for a total of 24 apartments with cracked cast iron pipes that were deteriorating and leaking. A typical fix would be tearing out the walls and replacing all the pipes. This would displace tenants and take months to fix.

Solution: After considering all the options, the Plumbing Brothers decided to coat the 4-inch cast iron pipe. They first used Pipe Lining Supply’s Renssi cable and chain knockers to clean and descale the pipe. They then used the Quik-Coating System to coat the pipes with a durable polyurea resin that has a fast dry time of five minutes. Each apartment unit had at least six tie-ins of 2-inch pipe. They coated the 38 feet of 4-inch mainline pipes with a 3 mm finish, then coated 46 feet of the 2-inch laterals coming into each main.

Result: The results were quick, easy and affordable. After the coating was complete, they used a camera to inspect the pipes and put the apartments back into service. The tenants were out of their units for two days with minimal disruption. The entire building was completed in less than three weeks, and no walls were torn into, with pipes restored with a 50-plus-year life expectancy. 888-354-6464; www.pipeliningsupply.com.


Macerating toilet provides compact plumbing solution for tiny home

Problem: Tom and Johanna Elsner, owners of Perch & Nest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, specialize in building luxury, tiny-home recreational vehicles. Crucial to creating that luxurious feel is the inclusion of a traditional toilet, rather than a maintenance-intensive composting unit. With limited space, however, incorporating a bulky water tank is often impractical. As for standard RV toilets? “They don’t aesthetically mesh with the deluxe atmosphere we’re trying to generate,” Tom Elsner says.  

Solution: The Sanicompact, a sleek, one-piece macerating toilet from Saniflo, was the solution. The Elsners chose the Sanicompact because of its ease of installation, especially in tight spots. Moreover, the fact that it flushes and resembles a traditional toilet was very attractive, given the goal of creating a homey feel. Licensed plumber Garrett O’Neal of O’Neal’s Plumbing installed the Sanicompact. “Not only was this toilet compact enough to fit in the petite, 4-by-6-foot bathroom, but the installation was super straightforward, lasting only about one hour,” O’Neal says. He ran 1-inch pressure-rated PVC piping beneath the floor for a distance of 8 feet to a blackwater holding tank. “The allowance of the smaller pipe and fewer fittings translated to material-cost savings,” O’Neal says.

Result: “The macerating toilet was a hot topic of conversation among visitors to our tiny home at the Tiny House Festival in Pink Hill,” Elsner says. “I described it as an off-grid option with a traditional feel, and the reception was incredible.” The tiny home and its macerating toilet will continue to intrigue passersby at similar events in the future. 800-571-8191; www.saniflo.com.


Half-century-old senior housing complex repipes leaky copper plumbing with PEX system

Problem: The DeChantal Apartments is a senior housing complex, located in Saranac Lake, New York. As the apartments began to age, it became clear the building was in need of a plumbing repipe. Due to the town’s poor water conditions, according to Tom Hall of Hall Plumbing & Heating, the building’s copper plumbing system began to fail.

Solution: The team at Hall Plumbing & Heating called upon Uponor for a PEX plumbing system to confidently and reliably repipe the 45-year-old building. “Ninety percent of the copper leaks are hot water in the solder joints,” says Steve Ziamandanis from Northeast Sales Associates, an Uponor sales agent. “There was no way they were going to repipe the failing copper pipes with copper again, and CPVC would have taken far too long. They chose AquaPEX for the system’s reliability and efficient installation.” The biggest challenge, as in most repipe jobs, is maintaining the minimum distances between fittings in the preexisting tight spaces. “PEX added the flexibility we needed to maneuver through the building repipe,” Hall says.

Result: For the tenants and crew, staying within the project timeline was nonnegotiable, and AquaPEX was able to deliver a high-quality system on time and within budget. “PEX has a much quicker installation versus copper, with half the labor costs,” Hall says. 800-321-4739; www.uponor-usa.com. 



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