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Vent Hoods & Chilled Water System at U of R

Vent Hoods

University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts

The University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts houses the school’s Department of Theatre and Dance, Art and Art History, along with the 575-seat Alice Jepson Theatre. Professors utilize this facility to teach woodshop, print-making, darkroom photography and sculpture art to Visual and Media Arts students. Aside from its spectacular gothic architectural appearance, Modlin is unique as it is one of three buildings adjoined together, linking both the Booker Hall of Music and Keller Residence Hall.

The school needed Modlin’s renovations to start and finish during the summer while students were away, which didn’t offer much time. The University brought Southern Air on board in part because our Richmond construction team was already on site, just in Booker Hall. They were pleased with our work, familiar with our teams, and requested that we keep on rolling into Modlin, awarding us the mechanical and plumbing contract.

Safety improvements were the priority of Southern Air’s renovations. In these classrooms and workshops, students encounter toxic fumes and hazardous materials on a daily basis. Many of the HVAC systems we provided called for specialty hoods to quickly remove toxins from the air and away from students. Our HVAC and Plumbing crews went as far as building and installing PVC ductwork, fans, and sinks to meet the safety requirements. We ensured the spaces were comfortable learning environments but without a doubt, student and faculty safety was our priority with this renovation.

The HVAC system was complex to design. We installed separate air handlers on each floor, which serve the comfort of the building. In each lab, we installed a customized exhaust system for safety by enhancing the performance of their previous systems. The Visual Arts building’s aesthetics are important to the school, who did not want air handlers or fans visible from the outside. Our teams retrofitted a flat roof and a mezzanine above the third floor ceiling where all the individual exhaust systems were installed out of sight.

With performance, comes noise, creating an unforeseen challenge from professors who did not want to hear a cacophony of fan noise during their lectures. In several rooms, our crews provided sound insulation on the ductwork and added several motorized dampers with timer switches. Professors can use these control systems to quiet the fans until they’re done teaching and bring them back up when the students begin the hands-on portion of class.

Southern Air’s plumbing crews modified the existing system by connecting into the existing mains and providing new specialty PVC fixtures in different locations throughout the building, as well as refurbished their bathrooms. Keeping student safety as our priority in Modlin’s labs and workshops, we installed emergency eye washes and showers, allowing students to fully utilize classrooms as they were designed. Photography students use darkrooms to develop prints in chemical and acidic solutions, which can’t be poured down a metallic sink. These rooms required chemical resistant PVC sinks and piping to avoid corrosion, which were expertly designed, built, and installed by our teams.

Our piping mechanics also came up with an exceptional solution to a challenging roadblock. Modlin previously utilized a Duel Temperature System. We converted their DTS piping and pumps into chill water pumps, creating a separate chill water system. Our team provided a new hot water system with hot water pumps, running them from the existing Modlin mechanical room into an unfinished basement area, up a crawl space, through a slab, over ceilings, and into the area we were providing.

Finishing a renovation like this in such a short amount of time takes a full-on commitment from everyone on the entire Southern Air team, from the field to the offices. Pete Barker, Harrison Sharf and our engineering team was instrumental to our success at Modlin. Instead of dealing with third party engineers and lengthy delays to requests for information, managers could easily hop on the phone with Barker and his team to quickly solve problems. It was the same in the field.

“The teamwork on this job was simply outstanding. Individual trades worked together as a single unit to demo everything required, not specifically their scope of work,” says Drew Faulconer, Southern Air’s Richmond Construction Manager. “We had sheet metals guys ripping out piping, plumbers tearing down ductwork and everything in-between. We simply did not have time to not work together and the guys did a great job.”

Southern Air elevated Kyle Wilson to the on-site Assistant Project Manager, where his knowledge, dedication, and solid work ethic were instrumental for completing the job. Sheet metal foremen Andres Cardona-Estrada and Randy Keravich worked in perfect harmony together, always doing what they could for each other. Plumbing foremen Jake Riddle and Carl Graham, alongside plumbing mechanic Doug Laban, made some pretty unique piping challenges look easy, proving why they are three of the best. As always, the teams of Mark Creasey and Van Shelton, Southern Air’s Sheet Metal and Pipe Shop Fabrication Operations Managers, remained as reliable as ever, making sure tradesmen in Richmond had the prefabricated items required at the right place and the right time.

Southern Air teamwork and commitment is what renovated the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts. With such a tight schedule, significant amounts of overtime, and the “normal” challenges of a renovation, our Richmond Branch showed unparalleled dedication. Teachers utilizing this building may now focus on developing their student’s artistic skillsets in a safe, comfortable learning environment.

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