Senior housing expansion uses PEX for plumbing and mechanical systems

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With modest beginnings more than a century ago in 1894, Episcopal Homes in St. Paul, Minn., has grown to provide hundreds of residents with senior care while offering a wide variety of amenities, including a fitness center, pool, salon, theatre, cocktail lounge and fine dining.

The continued growth with aging baby boomers created the need for yet another expansion, prompting owners to invest $45 million for 168 more units to the ever-growing complex. The project included a seven-story, post-tension, concrete-engineered building, and R.T. Moore Co., a Burnsville, Minn.-based contractor, was chosen for the plumbing and mechanical work.

The plumbing and mechanical piping included PEX in sizes 2″ and down. The plumbing system used 32,000 feet of ½” to 2″ Uponor AquaPEX® pipe along with 2,200 ½” to 2″ ProPEX® engineered polymer (EP) expansion fittings. The mechanical system used more than 4,000 feet of ½” to 2″ Wirsbo hePEX™ pipe along with PEX-a Pipe Support from Uponor. The pipe support, which is listed for plenums, also provides increased hanger spacing similar to copper pipe and helps to limit the natural expansion and contraction of PEX.

Dean Kirchoff, lead mechanical project manager for R.T. Moore, and a master plumber with 30 years of experience in the industry, said using PEX helped them stay on budget with labor and material savings. “Using PEX allowed us the flexibility to route the lines and minimize conflicts with other trades,” he added. “Plus, the pipe can be joined without the use of glues or flame.”

R.T. Moore chose Associated Mechanical Contractors from Shakopee, Minn., to install the hydronic and HVAC system. “The system is a condenser water closed-loop system set up with a dead band on the loop with the water temperature between 76°F and 84°F,” Kirchoff said. “Within that range, there is no mechanical equipment operating – no chiller or boilers. When the condenser water falls below 76°F, the boiler system adds hot water to the system. When the condenser water gets above 84°F, the cooling tower adds chilled water to the system. This allows the heat pumps to work within the dead-band range at the maximum efficiency.”

R.T. Moore worked with Uponor early on to assist with the sizing and sleeve layout locations for each of the plumbing, condenser loop and condensate draining systems. “We maximized the flexibility of the system design using multiport tees with PEX, thus decreasing the amount of joints in the system,” Kirchoff said. “We also installed risers from the first floor to the seventh floor, grouping bathrooms and grouping the kitchens.”

Episcopal Homes was very satisfied with the final result. “This project was successful because of the experience of its contractors and their superior workmanship,” Anne Kamiri, special projects coordinator for Episcopal Homes, said. “The project has received much praise and recognition from the community.”

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