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Front entrance of Bettendorf High School

Mechanical Transformation

Mechanical Transformation: Bettendorf High School HVAC Upgrade

As a full-service construction and real estate development firm, Russell is always excited when we can successfully deliver any project – let alone a specialized one – for our clients. This is exactly the case with Bettendorf Community School District (BCSD) and their need for a full replacement and upgrade of the HVAC system at Bettendorf High School.

The topic of the aging mechanical systems at Bettendorf High School had been a major concern for the BCSD for several years. The existing HVAC system, which was originally constructed over 47 years prior, included seven mechanical rooms all housing the original boilers and air handling equipment – most of which were long passed their lifespans, out of code, and in desperate need of replacement.  Additionally, several areas of the existing 233,000 s.f. facility, such as the gymnasium, industrial arts wing, and locker rooms were only heated and not air conditioned, and not performing to modern efficiency standards.  This lack of air conditioning was especially of concern during larger events in the gymnasium, such as assemblies, graduations and community gatherings.

Selecting the Right Partner

In order to successfully complete this project, the BCSD knew they needed to select a Construction Manager (CM) with specialized expertise.  As with any project when you are dealing with an entire mechanical system replacement it takes creativity in planning and coordination due to the short schedule durations of this type of work.  Russell brought to the BCSD a team that included Tim Smith, a Senior Project Manager who specialized in mechanical systems over his 30+ year career. Ultimately, it was the advanced schedule development, proposed qualified team and thought process that went into Russell’s approach that distinguished us from our competitors and why we were selected to perform this project.

Plan. Execute. Deliver.

Immediately upon project award, Russell’s project team dove in and invested significant time on-site surveying the existing HVAC equipment, installation conditions for new ductwork and piping, and removal logistics of old equipment in the most efficient manner possible. Armed with information our team then engaged and collaborated with the design team of Legat Architects and RTM Engineering Consultants (RTM) to vet out the best system design including performance, energy efficiency and overall life cycle cost studies steering the outcome.

Through this collaborative design process, it was determined that approximately 10% of the existing ductwork could be reused in the mechanical rooms to save the BCSD time and money. As more hidden space exploration was performed there were numerous items identified that would ultimately increase the project cost impact to the sum of $233,000. However, the Russell led team worked diligently to find approximately $244,000 in cost savings to keep the project budget in-tact. Additionally, a joint commissioning effort was performed with the design engineering firm, RTM, after work began to ensure all code requirements were met and the system would function to its optimal efficiency.

In order to complete this extensive replacement project by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, work would need to begin a few weeks prior to students being released for summer break in late May 2018. This required a detailed sequencing schedule to be created and refined in collaboration with the BCSD to identify and complete work in areas that would not affect overall school operations before the completion of the 2017-2018 school year. Additionally, pre-planning fabrication schedules were coordinated by building wings and room arrangements to coordinate the best possible work flow for the project.

In total, this complex project included the replacement or installation of:

  • 17 air handling units
  • 196 VAV boxes
  • 176 fire smoke dampers
  • New control system
  • New domestic water heaters
  • 30 circulation pumps
  • 200 new LED light fixtures
  • New ductwork in all seven mechanical rooms
  • 18,000 square feet of acoustical ceiling replacement
  • 2,000 square feet of drywall ceiling replacement

Actual construction work began on April 30th, 2018 in select areas and substantial completion of the project was completed by August 15th, 2018 with final boiler finishes being completed by October 2nd, 2018. This equates to just under $7,000,000 worth of work executed in four months.  Lean Construction process techniques, such as pull scheduling and coordinating six, ten-hour days per week and sequencing over 50 workers on average helped ensure the project was completed ahead of schedule.  Talk about efficiency!


4D Schedule used to communicate sequencing for one of the mechanical room renovations at BHS


Project Challenges

Let’s be honest – this project, just like any project – included numerous challenges the Russell team had to overcome, including:

  • The air handling unit required for the pool area had an exceptionally long lead time for delivery, which is a major challenge on a fast-tracked project. The Russell team placed temporary provisions to exhaust the humid air to allow the pool facilities to be utilized until the new unit arrived and was installed.
  • Due to the age of the facility and systems, the original as-built drawings did not accurately reflect the systems that were currently installed at Bettendorf High School. The Russell team utilized early surveying of the existing equipment and conditions to confirm the items that were changed over the past years were accurately shown and ordered correctly. This saved design time and enhanced early planning for work sequencing.
  • The project had a very tight contingency due to budget constraints. Through efficient management, the Russell team identified significant cost savings throughout the project demolition and installation of the new equipment phases that did not affect the overall project performance.
  • As in many buildings this age, asbestos is often present and found in concealed areas, and this project was no exception. The amount of concealed asbestos increased the initial removal budget considerably. The Russell team collaborated with the BCSD to identify cost savings to offset the impact to the overall project budget.

Successful Project = Happy Client

The collaborative relationship with the BCSD, thorough pre-planning during design and controlled management of the work by the Russell team ultimately lead to the successful delivery of this project. All work was completed on or ahead of schedule and within budget which resulted in excellent value for the BCSD.

The on-site Bettendorf High School Principal stated that she was “very grateful to the [Russell] team as there was minimal interruption with her day-to-day school business and was impressed with the courtesy of the workers and the respect they had for the entire staff when they needed to coordinate moving to next phases of work.”

Additionally, the Director of Operations for the Bettendorf Community School District stated, “Russell’s performance well exceeded the BCSD’s expectations and I look forward to working with them on other opportunities within our district. I would strongly recommend them for any mechanical project or fast paced construction project of this size and magnitude. Their knowledge of all facets of construction proved invaluable to us on this project.”

Interested in Learning More?

Are the mechanical systems in your facility outdated or not running at peak efficiency?

Not sure if you can afford a complete or partial mechanical systems replacement?

Russell would love the opportunity to evaluate your needs and find an effective solution to fit your facility.

Let’s discuss it!