With 80,000 students and counting, the Katy, Texas, Independent School District (ISD) is rapidly expanding with new schools to accommodate the growth. The eighth high school in the district, Patricia E. Paetow High School, and the (yet-to-be-named) ninth high school are meeting the growing student population with new, state-of-the-art facilities.
Originally specified with copper and CPVC, the school district was looking for other options to value engineer the Paetow project. Plumbing contractor Letsos Company of Houston looked to add PEX to the specification after their success in the Houston waterway project.
Mike Rostvold, technical sales representative at Uponor, and Jim McStravock of Pepco Sales, met with the engineer as well as the school district’s maintenance staff and head of construction to educate on the properties and benefits of PEX.
“The maintenance staff loved it—the ease of the system with no torches or glues, the longevity, the warranty,” says Rostvold. “After the meeting, the district rewrote their spec to include PEX.”
Ironically, while PEX wasn’t in the Katy ISD design standard, it was installed in eight schools previously, being accepted as a value-engineered product. And in the winter of 2017-2018, when there was freezing in the area, the only buildings that didn’t have pipe failure were the ones plumbed with PEX.
“Freeze protection is just one of the advantages of PEX,” says Anthony Gardner, senior plumbing estimator at Letsos Company. “The speed of installation, the flexibility and the material cost savings are also great benefits.”
A senior project manager at Letsos Company, who has proposed PEX via submittal process on two hotels and a high school, agreed that PEX was the right material for the job due to its durability and cost effectiveness.
The 635,000-square-foot, $196 million Paetow High School was completed in August 2017, and the 635,000-sq.-ft., $206 million high school #9 is set to open in the summer of 2020. Both projects feature an Uponor PEX plumbing system and are seeing positive results.
“In my initial conversation with Roy Hennick of CFI Mechanical [the contractor on Katy #9], he stated the prefab work in his shop making the flush banks looked to be about a 30 to 40 percent savings for them so far,” says McStravock.
And it appears word is getting around to other school districts about the benefits of PEX.
“Now many other school districts are jumping on board,” says Rostvold. “We just met with Houston ISD about new construction and re-pipe opportunities, and we now have 13 different K-12 school projects in process.”