The next time you purchase a furnace filter for your home or change one for a customer, you may want to think of employees at Schiller Park, Ill. - based R.B. Hayward Co. They may have had a hand in judging its effectiveness.

Hayward completed a $140,000 contract to make and install the ductwork for an air filter-testing laboratory at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The project is part of a major investigation of air-cleaning technology also involving New York’s Syracuse University and Penn State in Pennsylvania. The research, supported by the U.S. Energy Department and the National Center for Energy Management and Building Technologies, will explore the ability of filter materials to remove airborne contaminants in ductwork and rooms.

For Hayward Vice President Randy Novak and shop foreman Chuck Grochowski, both heavily involved in the 14-month project, meeting the university lab’s strict requirements wasn’t easy.

George Duckman uses TIG welding to fasten the blower-inlet fitting. Image courtesy of R.B. Hayward Co.

Made with stainless

“It was quite challenging on our end,” Novak said. “It was quite intensive (and) hands-on.”

The university specified 12-gauge Type 316 L stainless steel - picked for its resistance to corrosion - for the U-shaped duct that would be used by researchers as part of the loop system used to test the filters. The modules, which include gaskets and glass doors, will allow researchers to quickly connect and separate the sections. Inside the duct, which had to be made completely smooth, a 24- by 24-inch filter test module handles airflow up to 3,000 cubic feet per minute. Dust and other particles would be introduced into the airstream, allowing researchers to test the filters’ effectiveness.

But before all that could happen, Hayward workers had to make the duct.

“It was something that we had never really done before,” Grochowski said. “We had to really sit down and think about how we were going to do this.”

A big problem, Novak said, was stainless steel’s tendency to sometimes warp, which Hayward welders had to overcome.

Once they figured out a way to draw some of the heat out of the steel, the process went well.
“We used blocks of aluminum, brass and copper clamped in strategic locations to pull the weight away as quickly as possible,” explained Novak.

The inside of the ductwork, which had to be smooth and without corners where dirt could collect, required difficult welds inside joint corners and the countersinking of screws. It sits on rollers, allowing lab technicians to quickly clean, move or disassemble it without a lot of effort.

Similar studies are currently under way at Penn State and Syracuse that will look at the effectiveness of ultraviolet light and portable air cleaners.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail

89-year-old Hayward Co. is a ‘ringing' success

The following is an excerpt from a story on the R.B. Hayward Co. The complete version appeared in Snips’ July 2004 issue.

SCHILLER PARK, Ill. - If you ever visit R.B. Hayward Co.’s offices in suburban Chicago, notice the big, round brass bell on the wall next to the receptionist’s desk.

It looks like something that might hang in an old factory or firehouse.

Robert W. Kuechenberg, the company’s chief executive officer, says the bell is from the company’s original 1900s-era Chicago sheet metal shop.
“Now we ring it every time we get a big contract,” Kuechenberg says, laughing.

The bell and the company’s adjacent shop were quiet the day Snips visited R.B. Hayward’s offices, but with up to $10 million in annual sales, it’s a safe assumption the bell gets a regular workout.

The bell and the company have come a long way since Ralph B. Hayward founded it in 1915. Much more than a simple sheet metal operation, today the company regularly works on projects in the health care, industrial and commercial building industries. Past projects have included ensuring airflow in a toxic-spill cleanup laboratory and installing new HVAC systems for the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center and pharmaceuticals maker Pfizer Inc.

“We pride ourselves on doing the difficult, quality work, and we look for the quality customers,” Kuechenberg, 64, says. “We’re looking to do an ongoing contract. We don’t want to build a building, then walk away from it.”

Walking around Chicago, it’s not hard to find buildings R.B. Hayward has been involved in. The Wrigley Building; the offices for both of the city’s major newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times; and many of the city’s upscale hotels feature their work.

In the 1960s, the company was also involved in the construction of the John Hancock Center, the Michigan Avenue landmark that is one of the tallest buildings in the world.

“We want to have a reputation” for quality work, Kuechenberg says.