You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who had a more successful 2015 AHR Expo than Amy Eickhoff.

Eickhoff, the property manager at Chicago’s luxury high-rise residential complex 340 On The Park, navigated her way through the jammed aisles at McCormick Place and found the right materials needed for two of her building’s biggest project undertakings.

First, Eickhoff found the ideal tankless water heaters needed for the replacement job at the 63-story, 344-residence setup. Later, as luck would have it, she started to find comfort with some fiberglass cooling towers that would become a major part of the new chiller plant installed on the top floor of the facility.

“The show was awesome,” Eickhoff exclaims.


Smart install

It was not too long after 340 On the Park — the first residential tower in the Midwest to achieve LEED Silver certification — opened that Eickhoff started to see flame failure with its two original 950-gal. boilers. She acted swiftly in replacing them. Fortuitously, a former 340 On the Park board member mentioned Intellihot to her.

“He said, ‘I am not sure this will work, but check these out,” she notes. “When I went to all the different vendors (regarding Intellihot), they kept saying ‘Tankless water heaters in your building? No, that won’t work.’ That’s not unusual though because everyone wants to do projects the same way they have done them before.”

With a deep interest in learning more about Intellihot, Eickhoff stopped by the manufacturer’s booth and received the full rundown of the iQ 1001 tankless water heaters.

“Intellihot’s guy took it all apart and walked us through it,” she recalls. “It made a lot of sense and we were sold.”

Initially, the five contractor bidders were not comfortable with bidding Intellihot, but the manufacturer offered to give each of them a live demonstration and educational session on the units. Quickly, four of the five bids for the 340 On the Park project were Intellihots.

Ed Kaelber, a mechanical and industrial special projects contractor with Burr Ridge, Ill.-based AMS Mechanical, won the bidding process. Kaelber and Eickhoff had previously worked on other more basic projects at 340 On the Park.

Four iQ 1001 units — installed in March 2015 — were cascaded together above the complex’s penthouse floor to create a combined 4 million Btu/hr. capacity. There is not a specific master boiler in the system that ensures reliability. For Kaelber, the toughest challenge was ensuring there was enough Delta-T running through the iQ 1001s, something that can be tough to achieve in significant vertical buildings such as 340 On the Park.

“(On the Park’s) hot water returns at an extraordinarily high rate. It comes back with very little Delta in it,” he says. “These heaters needed some Delta in order to function properly. We changed where we put the makeup water in relation to the return water. It was a matter of redoing the connections so they cool off that return water coming back.”

Kaelber adds: “The biggest thing with tankless water heaters is the return water temperature. We had to modify the piping and work with Intellihot on how to rethink this return piping. That was really the only challenge and it was a minor one.”

For Eickhoff and the 340 On the Park residents and service staff, the Intellihot units have been working out great, she notes. During the four-week re-piping and installation service was not interrupted.

“In the middle of the night, we switched over,” Eickhoff states. “We tore out the old units and switched to the Intellihots. No one noticed a thing. The residents knew it was happening, but no one noticed anything different with their service.”

The facility now has significantly more space in the mechanical room, Eickhoff notes, and room for a fifth iQ 1001 unit if ever needed. “This was an easy project. We already had the room. It was just demolishing the old units and installing the Intellihots,” she states. “The old units were huge. You had the slab and 950-gal. tanks. Now that’s all removed.”

The need to service the units has been minimal, but whenever Eickhoff has a question, Intellihot’s staff has been there for her.

“Intellihot’s service guy (Gary Bacon) is amazing. He’s super nice and down-to-earth,” she states. We call or text him and say, ‘We’re getting this error message,’ and he quickly responds with instructions on how to fix it.

“The maintenance on the units is so easy. Our guys can do it right there. Intellihot thought of everything with those units.”

Eickhoff jokingly notes residents have said to her they think their water is hotter than before. “I don’t think installation of the Intellihot boilers would change water temperature,” she jokes, “but that’s good to hear.”


At the helm

The 340 On The Park Intellihot installation is another in a line of successful projects Kaelber and Eickhoff have completed at the luxury high-rise complex.

Kaelber notes that having a driving force such as Eickhoff being the point person between the Board of 340 and the project was crucial. He adds Eickhoff’s adeptness for the mechanical systems and desire to understand the systems she oversees was an incredible bonus.

“She’s probably the most mechanically-savvy property manager around,” he states. “She is so mechanically curious. She digs into the information and retains it. A normal property manager probably would not had the patience to pursue the Intellihot install. It would have been easier to buy some round boilers and put in some storage tanks and do away with the problem.

“Mechanically, she’s the best I have ever worked with. She was willing to keep pursuing this option. I know there were some other contractors trying to ‘pooh-pooh’ the option and get her off the path, but she remained resolute. Once she started believing it was the best path for the building and worth exploring, she gave us the latitude to do so.”

The complex was told the building would receive roughly 30% energy savings with the installation. A 2016 independent analysis performed by Cyclone Energy verified that was true.

What did 340 On the Park do with those savings?

“We built a chiller plant,” Eickhoff says.


Back in the game

When Eickhoff came to work at 340 On the Park in 2012, air-conditioning and chilled-water costs were the facility’s second-largest expense after payroll. At $500,000 per year, Eickhoff knew she had to bring those costs down.

“We’re always looking for ways to identify savings,” she notes.

The 340 On the Park was constructed using district chilled water which entered at the building in the basement and was distributed. Additionally, a heat exchanger was installed for a pressure break on the 27th floor. According to Eickhoff, when 340 On the Park was in development the City of Chicago had a requirement that any building designed for district cooling must have the capability to switch to a self-cooling option in the future. That helped make the new chiller design – the schematic design was done by Chicago-based Cyclone Energy Group’s Frank Kohout, P.E., and Benny Skelton, and others; Franklin Park, Ill.-based Hill Mechanical Group for the final construction design — slightly easier because the pipe was the same size from top to bottom.

After a couple feasibility studies, Cyclone Energy Group determined the payback to be six-and-a-half years, which was reasonable to the board for signing off on the project and starting the bid process.

Finally, 340 On the Park required a 50%-plus one vote from unit owners to greenlight the project. Eickhoff, the Cyclone team and the building’s board members created a pamphlet marketing campaign showcasing the benefits of the chiller installation and in two weeks received 70% approval. Design started in November 2015 and construction quickly began in February 2016 because the project had to be completed in August.

“It had to be fast because our district cooling contract was ending Sept. 28, 2016,” Eickhoff states. “It was exciting.”

The coordination on the project was intense, specifically the helicopter needed to lift the chillers from East Randolph St., and place them on the 63rd floor through a temporary roof opening.

“That’s precision,” Eickhoff says. “Once we got those in place everything started to come together nicely.”

Additionally, the mechanical room required a built-up slab for sound attenuation to make sure residents of the 62nd floor penthouse would not hear the system while in operation. The chillers were placed in what was formerly a storage locker room area for the residents.

The chilled-water-system includes two Carrier 500-ton premium efficiency screw water-cooled chillers in a series-counterflow configuration; variable-speed chilled water pumps; Armstrong Fluid Technology variable-speed condenser water pumps; two 5-cell Tower Tech cooling towers with variable-speed fans; and a plate-and-frame economizer heat exchanger for free chilled water during mild ambient conditions.

The series-counterflow configuration with variable primary pumping ensures minimal energy use. The chiller plant supplies the building 44º F water with a part-load efficiency as low as 0.32 kW/ton. All pumping has variable-speed drives with pressure-dependent controls. Cooling towers can run with fans completely off.

There was concern about water leaking into residences if something were to break in the chiller plant at the top of the building. To catch a leak quickly, several water sensors were installed on the perimeter of the chiller mechanical room to immediately notify operators.

“It is tied into our building automation system,” Eickhoff says. “If a drip of water hits the sensor, it will alert us. That was something we added in because we wanted to ensure in the event of any mechanical failure, water infiltration to the penthouse level below would be minimized.”

The project concluded in late August and the building switched from district chilled water to the independent cooling plant without any issues impacting residents. In December 2016, 340 On the Park received an incentive check for $69,000 from ComEd — Chicago’s utility provider — for using premium efficiency equipment.

Eickhoff and her staff, the 340 On the Park Board of Directors and its residents have shown the commitment to making its complex more energy efficient. Even after a new boiler project and the chiller plant, the facility has no plans on letting up on its desire for a healthier building.

“These are examples of our goal as a managing agent to bring our clients projects to reduce operating cost through energy-efficient building operations,” Eickhoff states. “Implementing projects with a healthy return on investment for our multi-housing clients is important to us and bringing the most energy-efficient projects and managing those systems reduces the risk of early equipment failure which in turn will save on future capital costs and utilities — increasing property value.

“We are grateful to have clients such as 340 On the Park Condominium Association – clients with open minds that do not fear being pioneers in the world of building efficiencies. We look forward to our next exciting ‘first’ at 340 On the Park.”

This article was originally titled “Intelligent additions” in the January 2017 print edition of PM Engineer.