More than 4,600 fan-coil units were replaced at the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland as part of a $30 million renovation. Image courtesy of McQuay International.

When the 32-story Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building opened in downtown Cleveland, the winds off Lake Erie were so strong, visitors would have to use pull ropes to help navigate the steps that led to its entrance.

Thirty-six years later, it wasn’t the winds off the lake that were causing problems for workers, but the inefficient HVAC system that serviced the 1.5 million-square-foot structure. Many of the 5,500 U.S. government employees who worked in the building complained about noise from the fan-coil units, which were located near perimeter offices. They also said the equipment didn’t do a very good job regulating temperatures. The only controls available were fan-speed settings, so few workers were ever satisfied. Water regularly flowed into some drain pans, affecting air quality in the offices. And the units were in regular need of repair.

As part of a $30 million renovation with an eye toward possible certification as a “green” building, it was decided to overhaul the equipment. The Cleveland architectural firm Westland Reed Leskosky, which designed the building in 1966, was selected to oversee the project. Dealing with the aging mechanical systems would be a challenge.

‘Sheer volume'

“Because of the sheer volume of the units to be replaced - 4,640 - we specified a customized unit that would both simplify the renovation and create a comfortable, energy-efficient work space,” said Mitch Lyles, a licensed professional engineer with the firm. “This included having the piping, controls and insulation all in one box, as well as custom cabinetry.”

McQuay International was selected to design the new fan coils, with the stipulation that they be easily installed and efficiently operated.

“Everything was built for efficiency to streamline the installation process,” Lyles said.

Shuttering such a massive government building for an extended period was not feasible, so it was decided that contractors would work in the evenings after most employees had left. They would replace fan-coil units four nights a week, every week for about a year.

The goal was that when employees arrived the next day, the only “sign” of the overnight work would be the new equipment - which was hidden from view.

That required workers to operate with the precision of an assembly line, said Jeff Klie, a project manager for the Smith & Oby Co., the Cleveland-based mechanical contractor that handled the installation of the McQuay equipment.

“You’ve heard of ‘the perfect storm,’ ” Klie said. “The Celebrezze project could have been one, but it became the perfect project instead.”

The 32-story building opened in 1967 and is home to 5,500 workers, many of whom were not happy with the building’s airflow and temperatures prior to renovation. Image courtesy of McQuay International.

GSA involved

Close coordination with the General Services Administration, the independent agency that provides support for government entities, and the other contractors and suppliers involved, helped ensure success, Klie added.

“When you are able to get done two months ahead of schedule and under budget, it speaks to the team effort,” he said.

Opened in 1967, the stainless steel-, glass- and marble-covered building sits on the former site of an armory and Cuyahoga County’s morgue. Among the government agencies that use the structure are the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Coast Guard.

The building’s new HVAC system uses four-pipe fan-coil units on each floor, which supply zoned heat or air around the building’s perimeter. The design allows some units to be in heating mode and others to be used for cooling, and dehumidified air to be reheated.

Each office has up to eight fan-coil units serving it. Each has LonMark direct-digital controls. Basement air handlers use chilled water provided by Cleveland Thermal Energy’s off-site central chilling system.

Fan-coil units from McQuay are installed under windows at the building’s perimeter. Image courtesy of McQuay International.

Valve controls

McQuay’s specially designed fan-coil equipment uses modulating value controls to make heat distribution even and control fan speed and air temperatures, eliminating a common complaint. A high-efficiency centrifugal fan assembly reduces noise pollution and vibration. Grilles work in several directions, allowing air to be directed at the windows in winter to reduce drafts and toward the room in summer to help cool occupants.

Building maintenance personnel can quickly change filters through an easily accessible hinged door and drain pans and coils can be reached through a panel. Temperatures and valves can be adjusted remotely.

To minimize disruptions for workers and make installation easier, the fan-coil units were made to fit in the space occupied by the original ones. Other technician time-saving features include factory-installed and insulated horizontal piping and a design that allows connecting units without soldering.

Installers were also supplied with wheeled carts to make moving the fan-coil units down hallways easier.

That helped the 23-person crew, which included pipe fitters and electricians, to work efficiently each night. They only had from 6 p.m. each evening until 4 a.m. the next morning to complete their jobs.

New units were moved into position through the use of specially designed carts, made by McQuay. Image courtesy of McQuay International.

Coordination was key

“Coordination, organization and cooperation,” Klie said. “All those things were important.”

The pipe fitters on the project used custom angle-iron clips to hang the fan coils on the existing steel racks. The solderless piping technology used to connect the pipes eliminated the need to bring propane tanks, reducing the risk of fire. Thirty fan coils were installed each night.

Klie said both items made the job easier.

“After the units were mounted in place, my guys simply slipped the pipe into the coupling, crimped each joint, placed insulation over the coupling and the units were connected,” he said. “That saved us a lot of time.”

The next step was a two-hour-long test pressure test for leaks, followed by installing coil covers.

“It was very much like a wheel,” Klie said, “turning, turning, turning. It was very repetitious, but very efficient.”

After each new unit was installed, workers carted away the old ones, disassembling them and separating the recyclable metals. Marking the 664,000 pounds of metal for reuse earned a federal award, Klie said.

Before and after they worked, workers took digital pictures to ensure that everything appeared as it did the day before. Klie did not want government employees to complain that personal effects had been disturbed by the project.

“In the morning, it was just like we were never there,” he said.

Well, almost.

“There was only one item I had to replace throughout the entire project,” Klie acknowledged. “A $14 clock that fell off a wall.”

The project was completed 30 percent under budget and two months early.

Building managers are hoping the tidy renovation also catches the eye of the U.S Green Building Council. The project has been registered with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program for possible certification as a green structure.

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