Full MEP Install at JMU's Paul Jennings dorm

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing install at university

The Paul Jennings Dorm is where students are calling James Madison University’s newest residence hall home after spending the last few weeks moving in. In addition to housing 500 freshmen and sophomore students, the dormitory includes two active classrooms, numerous study areas, a multi-purpose room, and even a dining option. Perhaps one of the most intriguing parts of the new facility is its exhibit of Paul Jennings, personal slave to James Madison turned free man who penned the first White House memoir, A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison. It is he who the new build is named after.

The historical significance of Paul Jennings’ legacy is highly valued at JMU and choosing this name was a conclusion the school’s leadership arrived at unanimously. Paul Jennings Hall helps the university tell the “whole history of James Madison and not just his highlights,” according to the university. Known as the Father of the Constitution, Madison kept Jennings as his personal servant until his death in 1836. During those years, Jennings not only learned to read and write, but observed first-hand, from a very unique perspective, the growth of our country during its arduous infancy.

Assisting in the construction of this building, forever preserving an extraordinary piece of our nation’s history was a very rewarding experience. Southern Air earned the full mechanical, electrical and plumbing contracts, partnering us again with general contractor, W.M. Jordan. We’ve navigated through many projects together, including the Deco at CNB Apartments and Hotel Madison, in Richmond and Harrisonburg, Virginia, respectively. Paul Jennings Hall may be one of the most historical projects we’ve collaborated on thus far.

To keep up to 500 students comfortable, the dorm must function efficiently, not a small task for a 151,000 square foot residence hall. Southern Air’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing teams in the field installed an unbelievable amount of equipment into this facility, ensuring its occupants remain comfortable all year round.

Our mechanical teams installed a 200-ton air-cooled chiller and three gas-fired heating hot water boilers, which will be utilized until the underground campus utilities can be extended to the residence hall. We put in six hydronic pumps, 314 vertical fan coil units and 26 variable air volume (VAV) units. The dorm includes four energy recover ventilation (ERV) units on the roof as well as three air handling units inside. Our electricians brought power and control wiring to all components of this system. Our B.A.S. team worked alongside Siemens Controls making sure each piece of equipment was “talking” to the building’s automation system.

Southern Air’s electrical teams provided the dorm with 3,000 amp, 480 volt service and a 250 kilowatt diesel generator. We supplied extensive job site lighting before heading inside to install the lighting control systems throughout the building. Our crews wired the Simplex Fire Alarm system, the lightning protection system as well as the audio and visual systems in the multi-purpose room and classrooms.

Our designers and engineers worked with project management to navigate around some of the more unique challenges the project offered. We coordinated and hung all of the ductwork for the three ERVs in vertical CMU (cinderblock) shafts. To say it was a tight space is an understatement, but our teams made it work. Another challenge involved one of the amenities Jennings Hall includes. The 2,500 square foot multi-purpose room includes 20 foot ceilings, calling for remote actuated dampers to heat and cool the area as needed.

Mothers and fathers were able to spend the day focused on saying goodbye to their sons and daughters going off to college on their own, many for the very first time. It’s a monumental moment in life. Parents marveled at the beautiful aesthetics the dormitory features as it’s where their children will live for the next year, without them. They wouldn’t have felt comfortable leaving if the lights didn’t turn on or it was 85-degrees in their daughter’s room. What a gift knowing their kids will live in such an elegant and functional dormitory.

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