F. E. Moran installer Jim Macis bolts together Quick Flange ductwork frames at the Children’s Memorial Hospital jobsite in Chicago. More than 500,000 pounds of sheet metal are being installed in three tiers of ductwork for the mechanical room of the hospital project.

How often does it happen that a simple idea transforms the way that duct installers hang ductwork?

And that the idea takes off right away, becoming commercially accepted and sweeping through market after market, becoming the dominant product of choice?

“I’ve sold the Ward Industries products for over 20 years and have seen continuous advancements over the years,” said Tom Moses, president of TBI, an Elmhurst, Ill.-based distributor of commercial HVAC fittings. “It never dawned on anybody to add the pilot holes until now.”

The product? Quick Flange, a trademarked 20-gauge J-flange design with pre-punched pilot holes for easy installation.

It took no time for F.E. Moran Inc., a commercial HVACR contractor in Northbrook, Ill., to incorporate the Quick Flange design into its most highly visible project: a massive ductwork installation in the mechanical room on the 10th floor of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

Quick Flange recently became available through the TBI distributorship and its supplier Ward Industries, a division of Hart & Cooley’s Commercial Products Group in Carol Stream, Ill.

Vic Morset, F.E. Moran shop foreman, assembles corners and the Quick Flange frame onto a joint of riser ductwork going into the 10th floor mechanical room at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Meeting needs

“We saw a need in the market, and we want to save the contractor time and money on the fabrication of ductwork, whether in the shop or in the field,” said products group Vice President Sean Steimle. “Our whole mission is to create labor-saving solutions to help contractors and building owners.”

And with such a massive product, F.E. Moran officials said they appreciated the help.

“We are installing 500,000 pounds of sheet metal ductwork in that mechanical room at Children’s Memorial,” says F.E. Moran plant superintendent Doug Phillips. “We like the Quick Flange. That’s all we’re using for this job.

“It’s pretty much what we’ll be using in the future,” he added.

General foreman Bob Leinweber, who worked at the hospital jobsite, explained what they liked about the product.

“The (pilot) holes let you drill through one layer of material instead of three. That’s huge,” Leinweber said. “There’s lots more sealant inside the pocket” he added, comparing the new Quick Flange profile with conventional J-Flange products.

City codes require all ductwork be sealed, he pointed out.

Until now, duct installers had to rely on strength and ability to sink a sheet metal screw into the tough metal frames that make a joint of duct.

Some of the 500,000 pounds of ductwork installed for the Children’s Memorial Hospital project in Chicago.

Awkward angles

“In the field, you’re often working at an awkward angle, with your arm up and out,” TBI’s Tom Moses said. “The real value in the field of the pilot holes is that it allows the installer to catch the tip of the screw in the hole, and the tip is not walking around. Anyone who’s tried to apply a sheet metal screw can understand that this is a great assist in the field. You don’t have to apply so much pressure.”

Several factors underscore the viability of the new ductwork framing material from Ward Industries. First, the pilot holes cut installation time by as much as 50 percent. Second, the extra-deep pocket of Ward’s J-Flange profile holds extra sealant. And third, the ready acceptance of the Quick Flange design by contractors and distributors.

F.E. Moran’s project manager and field supervisor, Jason Winter, noted that in addition to 500,000 pounds of sheet metal duct, another 275 truckloads of air-handling equipment will be installed in the 10th floor mechanical room space at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

“It’s a three-year project,” he said.

The first layer of ductwork being installed from spring-mounted isolators 42 feet above the 10th floor deck will soon be covered by a second layer, and then a third one.

“There will be a 13-foot depth of sheet metal ductwork,” Winter’s site superintendent, Bob Vogeler, pointed out.

This image shows that Quick Flange frame is properly sealed to join the ductwork at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Hart & Cooley officials say.

Tons in use

“We’re using a ton of it,” Vogeler added, referring to the bundles of Quick Flange framing material arriving at Children’s Memorial for on-site use.

“Safety is everything,” Winter said.

That remark is echoed back in the F. E. Moran shop by shop superintendent Doug Phillips. Arriving before 6 a.m. each morning to load trucks going down to the hospital in Chicago, he surveyed a very busy assembly and loading operation. Air hammers, screw guns and sheet metal screws at the ready, a highly motivated shop crew proceeds with operations after a daily safety meeting.

“Ductwork-wise, we’re going hot and heavy on it right now. We’re fortunate to have our share of work ahead of us on this hospital job to keep us busy,” Phillips said.

Going into the winter construction season, it might be OK to say that installers like Jim Macis, working 42 feet up in the air bolting together joint after joint of enormous, sheet metal ducting may be feeling a bit better about the pressures of the job.

“Sometimes, it’s good to teach an old dog ‘old’ tricks,” Leinweber said with a smile, as he looked up at the emerging ductwork system and his installer on the high lift.

This article and images were supplied by Colvin Communications Inc. and Hart & Cooley’s Commercial Product Group. For reprints, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnpmedia.com.