WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The $80 million new convention center will have "the best of everything for every event."

The $80 million Palm Beach County Convention Center will include a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 350,000 pounds of round and rectangular ductwork.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County officials like to say the $80 million new convention center, scheduled to open here this fall, will have "the best of everything for every event."

Although it's doubtful they were thinking about the 350,000-square-foot building's ductwork when they made the statement, officials for Coastal Duct Systems and BHV Sheet Metal Fabricators say it certainly applies.

Located on 19 acres in the heart of West Palm Beach, the Palm Beach County Convention Center includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom and 23,000 square feet of meeting space.

It also includes nearly 350,000 pounds of rectangular and round ductwork installed by Coastal Duct Systems of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and manufactured by BHV Sheet Metal Fabricators of Palm City, Fla. More than 1,800 feet - equal to 100,000 pounds - of exposed, round double-wall spiral duct and fittings hangs throughout the main exhibit hall of the convention center.

The 62-inch duct at the convention center, ready to be installed.

Demanding production schedules

All that duct meant BHV and Coastal workers would have their work cut out for them.

"Certainly other projects have exposed spiral duct, but on this project we had to do our homework to be able to meet the production demands of the ever-changing construction schedule," said Chris Reid, BHV project manager.

Part of BHV's pre-planning was the in-house fabrication of forming heads to make the 62- and 54-inch diameter spiral duct. BHV also partnered with David May of Duro Dyne Corp. to incorporate their new DuraFlange round-duct connector system to reduce the shipping, material handling and installation costs of the round, double-wall duct.

Coastal started working on the project in March. Officials said putting the duct sections together more than 40 feet above the floor of the convention center was no easy task. But officials said BHV's design approach helped considerably.

"By designing the double-wall round duct in easy-to-handle 8-foot sections, coupled with the DuraFlange connectors, we can really fly when it comes time to put this baby together," said Bob Durfy, Coastal Duct Systems' vice president. "Using only three men, we are averaging over 100 feet or more a day in installation."

The 8-foot long sections of double-wall spiral duct were loaded and shipped to the job site upright using BHV's fleet of semi-tractors and 53-foot trailers. This allowed more pieces per trailer and eliminated any damage during shipment.

Kevin Colangelo (left) and Alfredo Temattis slide the ductwork together.

Material handling important

"Material handling is also very important when you are dealing with this amount of weight per duct section," Reid explained. "One careless move in loading or unloading and you have a piece of duct that is unusable because of the visible damage to the outer shell.

"We looked at this project from the perspective of our customer so we could meet the duct specifications while making the job easier and more cost-effective to install," said Reid.

All exposed spiral ducts were corrugated to increase duct-wall strength and for a more pleasing appearance. DuraFlange connector rings were used with the built-in, cold-rolled steel reinforcement rods.

Several Coastal workers said they were initially a little intimidated by the project.

"When I found out this job had double-wall to install at 40 feet above the ground, I thought, 'My goodness, it is going to be a pain,' because it normally is a major challenge to align and connect the duct," said Kevin Colangelo, a Coastal installer for five years. "Then, after seeing how the duct had been custom-made with the new connectors, it was just a piece of cake."

Colangelo's comments were echoed by co-installer Alfredo Temattis, a four-year professional.

"Kevin is right. Once we started putting this together in half the time it normally took, we both realized it just doesn't get any better than this - everything just goes together like clockwork, " said Temattis.

Bob Durfy (left), vice president of Coastal Duct Systems, and Jim Mentzer, BHV sales manager, inspect the 62-inch double-wall ductwork about to be installed at the convention center.

Heavy duct sections

At the job site, the duct sections were staged vertically and grouped by system and size according to their installation schedule. Each section, some weighing 580 pounds, was rolled onto a furniture dolly then lifted onto an aerial platform where it was secured in a horizontal cradle. Workers on the platform lifted, positioned and aligned it with the previously hung section and slid them together.

The DuraFlange connector ring system made connecting the spiral duct sections easier. The mating flanges were aligned, clamped and screwed together using self-tapping screws through pre-punched starting holes.

It proved to be a time-saver, Durfy said.

"From the time we moved an 8-foot section of spiral pipe from its staging area to the time it was lifted in place and the joint connection was completed was about a half-hour or less," he said. "This exposed double-wall spiral duct was really the 'cream of the work' when it comes to the miles of duct on this project."

Durfy should know. His 10-year-old south Florida business has extensive experience working on some of the largest projects in the region, including the University of Miami's Ryder Center and American Airlines Arena.

A 62-inch forming head was used to make this ductwork at BHV Sheet Metal Fabricators' Palm City, Fla., facility.

Installation not only challenge

Installing the duct wasn't the only challenge the convention center presented. For BHV officials, the project meant designing and making the 54- and 62-inch double-wall spiral duct in a relatively short period of time.

"Palm Beach County has a reputation for expecting excellence, and as with most projects of this size, have frequent changes to their construction design and schedules," said BHV President Robert Reid. "This invariably shortens delivery lead times for such specialized materials as the double-wall spiral ductwork in the exhibit hall, so BHV had to pre-plan the fabrication techniques and material requirements needed to meet this job's ever-changing schedule."

Months before it was required to be at the site, BHV had stored all slit coil, special-sized fiberglass insulation and DuraFlange connector rings the convention center would require at their spiral shop. Next came the fabrication of the round-spiral shell and liner ducts from 62-inch down to 38-inch in diameter. The DuraFlange rings were then shop-fit to each size of spiral duct to eliminate any possible surprises once heavy production began.

Company officials referred to this as a "dress rehearsal."

"In doing this trial run and fit-up, we were very pleased with the fit of the connector rings. The rings were a much better fit and more consistent in size than we had experienced with other such connector flange rings on the market," said Robert Reid.

Sam Yates and Coastal Duct Systems job Superintendent Ray Johnson inspect the insulated duct.

Working in tandem

"Pat Rossetto of Duro Dyne Corp. also worked very closely with us initially on this ring order to ensure a good fit of the DuraFlange rings at BHV's shop," he added. "This also helped reduce the time normally required to install this type of flange-ring connector on the double-wall spiral duct."

But Duro Dyne could not help BHV when company officials discovered the duct sizes the convention center required were not something BHV typically stocked in its forming-head inventory.

"Early on in the design process we realized that to compliment our own innovations for this job, we would have to build our own forming heads," Robert Reid said. "We just wanted to have complete control of this fabrication job and needed to ensure spiral-pipe sizing and consistency. Building our own tooling and forming heads was the solution we needed to make this happen."

The job of designing and building the 62-, 60-, 54- and 52-inch heads was tackled by Steven Reid, Robert Reid's son. Steven Reid heads up BHV Sheet Metal Fabricators manufacturing facility in upstate New York.

"Our division's knowledge of spiral-duct manufacturing coupled with the experience and skills of our specialty fabricators and machinists made this challenge almost routine," said Steven Reid. "By manufacturing this tooling in-house we were able to provide forming heads that were exactly to the required specifications while saving thousands of dollars in procurement costs and adding to our manufacturing capabilities for future projects."

The forming head used to make the large-diameter spiral duct looks like a wagon wheel.

Fittings custom-made

Forming-head components were designed, and then fabricated using a sizing fixture custom-made for each of the required diameters. Aluminum base plates were machined, checked for proper clinch roll and slitter clearances, then readied for assembly. The diameter forms, made of 1/2- and 5/8-inch aluminum, were rolled and sized, machined and fitted to the base plates then assembled and welded. All of the heads were fitted with a replaceable wear inlay to protect the diameter form from wear.

After the forming head was completed, BHV tested each head by actually fabricating spiral duct.

"This allowed us to do any final adjustments or machining required to insure the heads would consistently make pipe within design tolerances," Steven Reid added.

When it opens this fall, Palm Beach County officials say the convention center will be the first meeting facility in the U.S. to include a "smart district" - a 2-mile radius around the building that will allow exhibitors and attendees to easily communicate with staff back home through cell phones or personal digital assistants, through a wireless network.

And while city officials are likely to boast about such high-tech devices, BHV and Coastal workers say it's not the plasma televisions or easy Internet access that impresses them about the facility.

"When the Palm Beach County Center is completed and people are there gazing at the vastness that is inside this major project, they may not know all the particulars in the design and execution that went into the HVAC duct systems over their heads or hidden behind walls and ceilings. However, when anyone from John J. Kirlin (the project's mechanical contractor), Coastal Duct Systems or BHV attend an event, we'll all know the real story of what has been accomplished here," said Robert Reid.

(This article was supplied by BHV Sheet Metal Fabricators.)