University of Tulsa Dorm Project

It’s casually coined, “The John,” but this traditional men’s residential hall at the University of Tulsa brings character to the campus and is one of the distinct examples of the school’s Collegiate Gothic style.

But an older building’s inner workings can be antiquated and inconsistent when it comes to keeping students warm or cool, and John Mabee Hall, the first large-scale dorm built on campus in 1949, is no different.

With quality dormitory space and creature comforts playing a huge role in a university’s competitive edge, the university has launched a $9.4 million remodel that targets the building’s lifeblood — its piping system.

The installation of Aquatherm piping with McElroy tools allowed for a safer work environment

Stephen Halcomb

“This remodel is part of a continuing program to allow TU to compete in the top 100 universities in the United States,” said Bob Shipley, associate vice president of operations with the university.

The university opted to replace the leaking and corroded steel and copper piping system with polypropylene-random (PP-R) pipe, specifically Aquatherm Blue Pipe® hydronic pipe and fittings.

Shipley said they went that route because PP-R pipe does not rust and has very low pipe friction which reduces operation costs. It is also joined together through heat fusion, as opposed to welding, which creates leak-free joints.

“It does not have to be welded with an open flame which is an advantage to use in remodel construction,” Shipley said.

Stephen Halcomb, senior project manager for OCE Mechanical, said that they typically utilize welders and fitters for steel and copper pipe jobs.

“With Aquatherm we can train almost anyone to install making manpower easier to supply to the work site,” Halcomb said. “A lot of pipe connections can be accomplished in a short timeframe.”

McElroy Manufacturing of Tulsa, makes the most extensive line of tools designed specifically for PP-R heat fusion in tight working conditions. In this case, workers are installing pipe in the confines of an attic made even more cramped by numerous steel and wood frame support beams.

OCE operated the lightweight Spider™ 125, the Acrobat™ 160 and the Pit Bull® 26 fusion machines with training from McElroy. Ferguson Enterprises provided the Aquatherm certification training.

“The installation of Aquatherm piping with McElroy tools allowed for a safer work environment because the pipe and fittings are 75 percent lighter and the connection process does not have an open flame,” Halcomb said. “Combined with the installation of the new boilers, pumps and piping, the system will remain clean and free of corrosion which allows coil and heat exchangers to operate at peak efficiency for many years.”

In addition to the selection of modern piping and tools, Halcomb said the building will greatly benefit by switching from a two- to a four-pipe system so that each dorm room can be controlled individually for ultimate comfort. Before, the entire building was either cooled or heated, not both, which is problematic in the fall and spring when temperatures fluctuate the most throughout the day.

A two-pipe system also doesn’t address the fact that buildings have different insulation values and can be warmer or colder in areas based on how much sunshine they receive. PP-R has natural insulation properties for sound and heat which makes it the ideal fit for a four-pipe system.

Some of the work was done in the spring while school was in session, but more intense work is underway over the summer session in an effort to be finished by the start of the 2014 fall semester.

Once the men’s dorm is complete, work will begin on the women’s dorm, Lottie Jane Mabee Residence Hall, built similarly to the men’s dorm. That work is set for the summer of 2015.

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