PEX Piping Solution Creates Savings for Bay Area Social Club
Flexible plans made it easy for a new San Francisco-based private social club.
The building at 717 Battery St. in San Francisco’s Jackson Square neighborhood (also referred to as the Barbary Coast area), has quite the history behind it.
According to a story in the San Francisco Examiner, the property, known as the Musto Building, was constructed in 1907 to replace a marble workshop destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. Over the years the building housed candy and crating companies. In recent times it was used as office space, but had deteriorated significantly.
The property was purchased in 2009 and the owners are currently in the midst of refurbishing and expanding the L-shaped property into a four-story, 62,000-sq.-ft. private social club.
“There will be multiple restaurants and bars, some open to the public and some only for members of the club,” Broadway Mechanical-Contractors’ Matt Johndrow explains.
All levels of the structure will be loaded with luxurious amenities aimed at providing the highest levels of comfort and service to executives from some of the largest corporations in the Bay Area.
The basement level will feature a full commercial kitchen, restrooms, showers, saunas, a fitness center, treatment rooms, a 12,000-gal. koi pond and a wine cellar. The first floor will have a public entrance, a restaurant with kitchen, a public bar, and a members’ only lounge and bar.
The second floor is slated to contain a library, bar, parlor, card room, a unisex restroom (five stalls, three lavs) and a warming kitchen. The third floor will house 12 residential units, while the fourth floor will have three residential units, a master penthouse and two garden suites.
“It’s a very unique project for very unique owners,” Broadway Mechanical Director of Procurement Rob Isom states. “I’m not aware of too many other similar-type structures. The idea behind the private social club is you can give executives a sanctuary to get together. When this structure is complete it will be a beautiful and amazing building for those lucky enough to have access to it.”
Oakland-based Broadway Mechanical, a fourth-generation company, is the mechanical contractor and design engineer on the LEED Silver project, which is slated for fast-track completion in June prior to the start of the 2013 America’s Cup yacht races to be held in San Francisco Bay.
Big plans in small spaces
Broadway faced a number of logistical challenges in the initial phases of the project, including a limited footprint to install mechanical systems.
“We didn’t have a lot of space for mechanical equipment,” Broadway’s Project Manager Bill Flockhart says. “The space in the building is extremely tight. This is probably one of the most complicated projects in terms of size I’ve worked on in my 40 years. We were working through an old wood structure with a lot of 3-in.-thick members on 12-in. centers. A new steel structure was built for the fourth floor and the whole basement was underpinned to take it down another 4 or 5 ft.”
The challenging layout led to Broadway specifying Uponor AquaPEX tubing for small-bore pipe throughout the building. The PEX application provides potable water piping on all five levels of the building, including horizontal distribution and in-unit piping, all in-wall piping for plumbing fixtures, all irrigation supply lines to individual zones on the podium level and the fourth floor, makeup water to the boiler system for space heating and piping to the multiple bar locations.
“The building has two layers of ceilings and three layers in some places for sound-proofing,” Flockhart says. “The piping in the building goes from the top down, which is backward. That was caused by the sound ceilings that were put in. They want the building very quiet. There are sub-ceilings on two of the floors. We stubbed down from above and dropped down from where the walls would be. We left the tubing coiled up and connected to the fixtures when the walls were later built. Using the PEX tubing was a matter of convenience.”
The project is using 18,500 ft. of AquaPEX with 1/2-in. tubing the most common installation size (accounting for 8,900 ft.). PEX tubing sizes on the project range from 1/2-in. up to 1 1/2-in. The Uponor ProPEX fittings, including engineered polymer fittings and multiport tees as well as copper adapters and lead-free brass drop-ear elbows, are used on the showerheads and the stub-outs to kitchen equipment. The project features nearly 4,000 linear ft. of Uponor PEX-a pipe supports.
Flockhart has been using PEX tubing on projects dating back to his days in Colorado in the 1970s. “PEX tubing is versatile,” he says. “It normally saves labor and lets you do projects you can’t do with hard-drawn pipe.”
Isom says there was some initial pushback to using PEX on the project. “PEX is still relatively new technology in San Francisco,” he points out. “One of the challenges we encountered early on was getting our guys to get out of that mechanical mindset of installing it like hard copper. It was a stumbling block in the beginning, but once they got the feel of installing the PEX, the installation was significantly more convenient than using hard copper.”
Isom notes the cost of materials was reduced as was the number of pipe fittings used. Flockhart adds “substantial labor savings” were realized by the use of PEX. “One of the big things it saved was us having to do a lot of testing,” he says. “We dropped loops down long enough that we didn’t have to retest. If we did that with copper, we would have to retest.”
This was Broadway’s second time using Uponor PEX tubing on a project. Broadway also specified it on the Hunter’s View residential project, which is part of the revitalization of a downtrodden part of the city near Candlestick Park, the soon-to-be former home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“We used PEX for both heating and domestic hot water at Hunter’s View,” Flockhart says. “We just started another project at Candlestick Heights in that same general area where we’re using PEX for both hydronics and domestic hot water.”
The social club features a number of sustainable components. A large variable-refrigerant volume system was installed due to a lack of sufficient space to install a normal VAV system. A total of five Daikin McQuay VRV heat-recovery refrigerant systems utilize 72 fan coils for the main heating and cooling system.
“It has a high-pressure refrigerant fan coil and condensing system you mostly see in Europe and Asia,” Flockhart says. “You can use multiple fan coils off the refrigerant system. It has a heat-recovery quality to it to save energy.”
Two Raypak X Therm boilers sit atop the service building and feed heat to spas in the basement and on the roof. The boilers also provide heating for domestic hot water used in the kitchen areas. A separate AERCO heat exchanger is used for hot water throughout the rest of the building.
Luxury low-flow products from TOTO and Dornbracht will be used in the bathroom settings. A Halton smog reciprocator on the roof minimizes grease output. The building’s design was done in Revit and Broadway converted it to CAD-MEC.
Broadway is responsible for the complete installations of the sanitary waste and vent, storm, domestic cold water, high-pressure cold water, and hot water supply and return plumbing systems.
Flockhart says the success of the project hinged on the various parties involved working together as a team. Osborne Co., the local Uponor manufacturers rep, also played a key role in working with Broadway Mechanical through every step of the project. The firm was involved in product selection and design, as well as product-installation trainings and multiple jobsite walk-throughs.
“For as complex a project as it was we had great owners who worked well with us,” he says. “Broadway and the general contractor went in as a design-build team along with the architects and we completed a very difficult project that needed to be molded as designed to make sure everything fit. When this is finished, it will be a first-class, high-quality place.”