New hotel saves on install time with PEX-a piping
By Kim Bliss
From south of the Twin Cities, you can see the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America on the horizon. The stunning 570,000-square-foot, 13-story, and 506-room structure sits on a two-acre site in Bloomington, Minn. It is only the second Radisson Blu in North America and the first hotel to be connected to the Mall of America — the second largest mall in the world.
The grand opening for the hotel took place on March 15. The $137 million structure won the “Best Hotel Development” category in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s annual Best in Real Estate awards. It is anticipated that thousands of guests from tourists to wedding parties to industry conventions will walk through the hotel’s doors
Since its groundbreaking in May 2011, the structure has accumulated more than 1.2 million pounds of structural steel and 24,000 cubic yards of concrete. In addition, the hotel now has 23,000 feet (nearly 4.5 miles) of Uponor AquaPEX® crosslinked polyethylene (PEX-a) pipe for its plumbing system.
Going with PEX-a pipe not only for the in-suite potable-water plumbing, but also for the floor-to-floor riser piping was a new opportunity for Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors (MMC) of Eden Prairie, Minn. The company provided the engineering and installation of the plumbing system for the structure.
Dean Corrigan, of FourMation Sales in Rogers, Minn., was the first to bring the concept of PEX-a for plumbing to the massive structure. In the winter of 2011, Corrigan was approached by Joe Williams, of Ferguson Enterprises, a plumbing distributor located in Roseville, Minn., about the grand hotel project. Williams was eager to jump in with both feet.
“Joe put me in touch with the project manager, and I pitched Uponor PEX-a for both the risers and the distribution piping,” Corrigan explained.
Corrigan and his counterpart at FourMation, Kevin Barta, started working on the details of the project immediately and found that the project required having the product files in the Building-Data/TSI database.
“I immediately brought in Mike Rivers and Chris Bertsch of Uponor and within two weeks, Uponor had its product into the database,” Barta noted.
When the product landed at the contractor’s shop, Corrigan was there to help show the mechanics how to make 2-inch ProPEX® expansion connections to pre-fab the risers. The unique shape memory of PEX-a allows pipe to be expanded before inserting a higher-flow fitting. As the PEX-a shrinks back down around the fitting, it creates a solid, strong connection, eliminating the need for torches, solder or open flame.
Bob Wolf, project manager on the Radisson Blu project with MMC, was on the job from the beginning and found the plumbing installation with PEX-a to be very efficient in terms of labor savings.
“I started installing PEX-a in small retail applications several years ago, and I really like how the flexible tubing makes it faster to install because we don’t need as many fittings,” Wolf said. “The Radisson Blu project was my first experience using large-dimension PEX-a in riser applications, and I really like the additional labor savings it provides.”
Dramatic labor savings
According to Wolf, using PEX-a for the risers and the unit piping saved his crews about two to three days per floor. On a 13-story project with 50 units per floor, that translated into almost a month of installation time saved.
“We started out with a three-man crew that took three days to complete each floor,” Wolf noted. “Installing copper would have been double that time.”
Mark Montgomery, foreman with MMC, has worked with PEX-a for about five years and said the pipe’s flexibility is one of his favorite features.
“This was my first experience using it in a commercial application,” Montgomery said. “I like the two-inch PEX-a for the risers. It works really well. And the flexibility of the pipe for in-suite distribution makes it faster and easier to fish through the walls.”
MMC prefabbed the risers and installed them during the cast iron installation. Then, the crew hooked up the unit piping for all 50 units on each of the 11 occupied floors — F\floor three through 13.
“Even when you’re talking about 50 units on one floor, you can whip through it pretty fast with PEX-a and the multiport tees,” said Chris Dent, assistant project manager with MMC. “The multiport tees also helped save time by reducing the number of fittings required.”
Multiport tees are made of engineered polymer (EP), a highly durable material that is resistant to corrosion and can withstand high temperatures and pressures. These tees offer an ideal parallel piping fitting solution for hospitality and multifamily applications, and they require about 60 percent fewer connections compared to a piping system using traditional elbows and tees.
The fewer connections offered by the multiport tees not only save significant install time, they also reduce potential leak point liability. And for a 506-room hospitality application, the fewer potential leak points, the better.
“With the experience we’ve had with the PEX-a pipe saving us a couple days of install time per floor, I know we’re going to be using it more and more in commercial plumbing applications in the future,” Wolf said. “It just makes sense.”