Southern Air's high school HVAC replacement
A twisty and curvy 45 miles northwest of Southern Air’s office in Bluefield, West Virginia sits Wyoming East High School, a 130,000 square foot consolidated regional school. The drive is beautiful as the road is carved into the mountains bordering the charming Widemouth Creek most of the way. The narrow, two-lane road remains under construction in many sections, as it has for the last year. All of this made the daily drive to work much more arduous for our technicians, as they worked to renovate the school since November of 2018.
The school strives to provide an effective, individually challenging and comprehensive education for each of their students in a quality environment. Their learning environment needs to be comfortable so they can focus on the lessons set forth by their teachers and facility. The problem was their learning environment was no longer comfortable and a massive HVAC renovation while school was in session became the only solution.
The school housed 30 old and decaying rooftop units, providing the school its heating and cooling. A single unit often fed up to eight classrooms resulting in numerous complaints for temperature control per room. They also were having a very challenging time with the humidity and their dehumidification capabilities.
Taking on a renovation of this size required Southern Air’s team to work year-round, meaning school would be in session. In order to accomplish this task without disrupting students and teachers from their daily classes required a great deal of communication with the school, the owner, and the architect. The positive working relationship these groups developed led to this job being successfully completed in stages.
The Southern Air team worked on two or three classrooms at a time after coordinating with the school’s administration to relocate the classes whose “turn” was up next. In a matter of just four days, the Bluefield crew was able to shut down the existed equipment, tear it out, install the new equipment and associated duct and electrical work, clean the classrooms and turn them back over as a fully finished product. Then, they’d move on to the next set of rooms, fully coordinated with the school.
This method went so smoothly, there was never a single complaint from anybody, not even a hiccup, nor any problems with the students. The new equipment is set up for dehumidification for both heating and cooling, which maintains a very comfortable environment for both school faculty and their students.
The equipment was not a one-for-one swap by any means. We replaced their 30 rooftop units with 51 York Packaged Rooftop Units ranging from 3-ton units feeding individual classrooms to a 40-ton makeup air unit. Our team also installed exhaust fans, registers and grills, along with 25-ton and 7.5-ton Modine split systems for their auditorium.
Gutting two and three classrooms at a time and having them fully turned over within a few days was no small venture. They wouldn’t even know what type of ductwork or pathways were need until they tore the old equipment out. The technicians had to work around old gas lines, conduit and sprinkler systems. There were so many unknowns, it made prefabrication of duct ahead of time an impossibility. With new construction, it’s easy to rely on the first-class production from Southern Air’s sheet metal fabrication team back in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Bluefield team was unable to do this, so they created all their own ductwork within their own shop and shipped it out to the school, room by room.
Wyoming East High School is tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, so one can imagine just how chilly it gets in the winter. The school noticed complications during extremely cold weather with their gas systems functionality. When temperatures drop exceedingly low, there is naturally a higher demand for heat from their gas systems. Their gas piping was sized at 2.5 inches providing no more than seven pounds of pressure at best. At low temperatures, the pressure in the distribution system can drop off a bit resulting in shivering students during a math exam.
To fix this, we upgraded their gas service and increased their piping to 3-inch and stepped the gas pressure up to 10 pounds from the 5 to 7 pound range. Not only did we almost double the pressure capabilities but we increased the size of the piping as well.
Compared to the extensive HVAC work required, the electrical work was fairly minimal, yet just as important. Our teams installed two new panel boards to feed the newly installed equipment. They added two 200-amp feeders to the school’s main switch gear and relocated two other 200-amp panel boards to feed the power to all 51 rooftop units. The team even installed new ceiling into the hallways after upgrading their lighting from fluorescent to Lithonia LED lighting.
“It is bittersweet to see Southern Air packing and loading up their supplies and equipment. The quality of work produced by the Southern Air team was exceptional,” says Jeff Brewer, Clerk of the Works for Wyoming East High School. “They work with safety as a first priority and have been polite and respectful to both students and staff throughout the project. I hope to see and hear of Southern Air on future Wyoming County projects.”