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While hydronic system growth across most of the country is slow, Metro Detroit is seeing a bit of a water-side resurgence, at least in certain segments. And it’s appearing where people are demanding the best. “We’re installing more boiler systems now than ever before,” said Joe Sullivan, president of Paradigm Plumbing & Mechanical, Inc. “We’re Read More

While hydronic system growth across most of the country is slow, Metro Detroit is seeing a bit of a water-side resurgence, at least in certain segments. And it’s appearing where people are demanding the best.

“We’re installing more boiler systems now than ever before,” said Joe Sullivan, president of Paradigm Plumbing & Mechanical, Inc. “We’re gaining market share, but the market is growing, too. Homeowners are demanding premium comfort with more regularity, and as a result, builders and architects are pushing hydronics. It’s the obvious answer.”

Paradigm Plumbing & Mechanical, Inc.’s niche is high-end new construction in the Detroit metro. During assembly of this mechanical room, the Aspen and Aspen Light Commercial boilers were installed early in the game.

Paradigm’s niche is high-end new construction. They call themselves a builder-based company. Founded 10 years ago, the ten-person company works exclusively for five or six general contractors. Radiant systems are common, and so are homes that require three or four different water temperatures.

“Our system designs might be a bit different that the competition, but we have a specific way we like to do things,” explained Sullivan. “Our market also allows us to install the best equipment available. We cut no corners. Comfort and reliability are the primary goals, and efficiency is close behind.”

Long timelines

Large custom homes are essentially small commercial projects. Paradigm’s involvement at a single residence can easily span two years, from design to start-up. They’ve partnered with rep HS Buy Van, and buy equipment through Hartsig Supply.

“HS Buy Van works on our piping and loop layouts,” said Greg Sharer, project manager and hydronic specialist at Paradigm. “With their help, we begin projects with a full MEP set. All of our electric and controls are done in-house.”

The 205 MBH Aspen boiler heats the home and provides DHW, while the 399 MBH Aspen Light Commercial provides heat for a snowmelt system.

Nearly a year ago, Paradigm started a new project with Eric Vogler on a 7,500-sq.-ft. residence in Orchard Lake, Mich., and they’ll be wrapping it up just before heating season this year.

Paradigm designed two separate hydronic systems for the home: one for in-floor radiant and DHW using a 205 MBH Aspen, and one for the snowmelt system, with heat provided by a 399 MBH Aspen Light Commercial. The home has a furnace in addition to radiant tubing throughout the floorplan, and a full tekmar control system.

“Customers who’ve never experienced a well-designed radiant heating system are blown away when the first heating season rolls around,” said Sharer. “Every surface in the home is warm to the touch, even the countertops.”

Piped right

In the boiler room, mechanical components cover an entire 16-foot wall. The high-efficiency Aspen boilers are mounted next to an array of copper pipe and circulators.

“HS Buy Van recently changed hi-efficiency boiler brands, so when they picked up the US Boiler line, we gave the Aspen a close look,” said Sharer. “We still had access to our previous brand, but the appearance and the design of the Aspen are great, so we bought two for this project. They’ve proven easy to install, and we really like firetube heat exchangers.”

Paradigm is known for their meticulous installation of piping, pumps and controls.

The Aspen boiler offers up to 96% AFUE, comes in five sizes, and is available as a 155 MBH combi. The Aspen LC comes in two sizes and can be floor- or wall- mounted. Both units feature Sage2.3 controls and have a 10:1 turndown ratio.

The rest of the mechanical room is occupied by a 120-gallon Burnham Alliance SL tank, beautiful copper piping, a Caleffi hydro-separator and mixing valves, and numerous Grundfos circulators.

“Greg does phenomenal work,” said Sullivan. “He and I really love hydronics. We handle most of the boiler systems – which make up about 40 percent of our work – while the rest of the crew covers controls, electronics, plumbing and air-side.”

The system for the big custom home was built onsite, but Sharer and Sullivan often prefabricate systems at the company’s 5,000 square foot shop.

“Most of our manifolds are remote,” said Sharer. “We do this to keep loop lengths short, usually no more than 250 feet. And, despite what some people may think, we prefer to zone with pumps instead of zone valves. This offers a great deal of redundancy, but also makes balancing simple, as well as diagnosing issues after the fact.”

Half-inch Uponor PEX was used for the 12 zones of radiant, laid at six-inch centers. Most of the tubing is under tile, set in Portland cement. Plenty of care was taken to protect the tubing during construction, and the same attention to detail was given to the tubing outside.

Let it snow, just not yet

While high-end residential hydronics is an area of growth for Paradigm, so is one of its subcategories. The company has earned a reputation in the Detroit area as being a snowmelt specialist. Annual snowfall in the area is often between 45 and 100 inches.

The home and snowmelt system are served by a full tekmar control system.

“There are plenty of wrong ways to install hydronic snowmelt systems, and a few ways to do it correctly,” said Sharer, who has been with the company for six years. “Over the years we’ve developed a method of designing, selling and installing these systems. All our systems operate as they should and offer great benefits to the owner. We’ve crunched the numbers thoroughly enough to give the perspective customer an accurate projection of operation expenses.”

The Paradigm snowmelt method includes years of experience, but there are a few rules of thumb they adhere to, some of which are universally accepted as best practice by the hydronic community, and some that aren’t.

“Maintaining proper loop length is one thing we’re careful about while installing tubing, and most everyone agrees on that,” said Sharer. “But our insistence on using individual pumps on all the zones in a snowmelt system is one that sometimes draws scrutiny. We have our reasons.”

“In the past, public opinion of snowmelt systems was that you had to be Bill Gates to own or operate one,” said Sullivan. “With the right design, piping, and control strategy, it can be cheaper to operate than most folks think.”

Sullivan admits that snowmelt systems are absolutely a luxury item, but clients still want to know what it’ll cost to run the system in addition to what it’ll cost to install. Of course, there’s a financial return on investment by offsetting salt and snow removal costs, but the true payoff is harder to quantify. Safety and convenience are difficult to assign dollar figures to.

The Aspen Light commercial was installed in early March, but the driveway work needed to wait several months until the weather improved. The two-zone snowmelt system included the concrete driveway and a paver walkway.

“High-end residential has been great for us, but we’re working on becoming more competitive, moving into lower-cost markets with hydronics,” said Sullivan. “It’s a slow transition, because we’re figuring out how to do that by eliminating a few bells and whistles without sacrificing any quality. It’s a marketing challenge as much as anything.”

But where there’s a will, Paradigm finds a way. They’ve proven this through their application of uncompromising hydronic system quality.

“We must encourage physicians to partner with architects and engineers to optimize indoor air management for the benefit of out most basic asset–our health.” — Dr. Stephanie Taylor M.D., M. Arch. Throughout my travels coast to coast and abroad, the common denominator that always comes to the fore, when discussing energy efficiency, is occupant comfort Read More

“We must encourage physicians to partner with architects and engineers to optimize indoor air management for the benefit of out most basic asset–our health.” — Dr. Stephanie Taylor M.D., M. Arch.

Throughout my travels coast to coast and abroad, the common denominator that always comes to the fore, when discussing energy efficiency, is occupant comfort. It’s not surprising, as the vocabulary of “comfort” is far more accessible to society than the vocabulary of energy efficiency.

This thought was certainly backed by Robert Bean, R.E.T, P.L (Eng.), president, Indoor Climate Consultants, who in addressing attendees of Uponor’s 2018 Engineering Summit, recited Taylor’s message in his presentation, “What Should Be Driving the Sustainability Message— IEQ or Energy?” The latter, he echoed, should not compromise comfort. “If we design for people, good buildings will follow,” said Bean.

He suggested the industry should apply the principle of “salutogenesis”—a practice which focuses on factors that support human health and wellbeing, rather than the factors that cause disease or pathogenesis. In expounding on indoor environmental quality, he noted conventional energy efficiency programs ignore the fact that energy consumed in buildings is intended to create better conditions for people, as most, he said, seem to be focused exclusively on envelopes and equipment, and only superficial IEQ aspects. But if it is the former, and not the latter, “One would then think that all design ought to begin with the physiological and psychological needs of the occupants,” said Bean.

Critical factors that contribute to the success of thermal comfort quality—such as mean radiant temperature, relative humidity, metabolic rate and floor temperature, to name a few.

Next to acoustical issues, thermal discomfort is the second-leading occupant complaint. The culprits, according to Bean, are poor building codes and enclosure designs, followed by poor HVAC solutions. “Heat loss and heat gain calculations are not thermal comfort calculations; HVAC design by itself is not thermal comfort design,” said Bean.

Because building occupants are an integral component of the comfort system(s), the hope from the summit was to learn how to integrate the human sciences of thermal comfort, air and lighting quality, with envelope and HVAC design.

What is definitive, is that there are a number of factors that contribute to thermal comfort; humidity control is one of them–in particular, controlling relative humidity between 35%-55% to manage hydrolysis—VOC emissions—to better control microbials, which in turn, enable comfort in mucous membranes—humidity influences perceptions of thermal comfort and IAQ, and controlling it prevents condensation in and on building materials.

Although not feeling 100%, Bean (r) made it through the seminar with flying colors, with the help of some honey.

Quoting Dr. Charlie Weschler, Bean emphasized, “We can design zero-energy buildings, but we can’t design zero-emitting occupants”

Citing sources from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Autodesk, respectively, Bean said that the traditional air temperature-centric approach in buildings is ineffective, inefficient and expensive, as mean radiant temperature is the single most important parameter in human thermal comfort.

The hope is that the assembled systems will deliver the desired indoor climate with the modeled energy. Bean restated from Adams and Kidd, “Energy efficiency should not be the exclusive goal but rather the outcome from achieving the desired indoor climate.”

That’s the problem: “We have an entire industry pushing energy efficiency down everyone’s throat,” said Bean. Yet, as the population grows, industrial grade temperatures from combustion for non-industrial architectural purposes grows. Stop using combustion, and seek more sustainable practices,” argued Bean, adding conservation of energy “quantity” does not equal conservation of energy “quality.”

As Bean points out, let’s not forget the No. 1 cost in any building operation is people. Occupant comfort, therefore, must be an integral component of the design process. Thermal comfort, solved first through better envelope design, paired with sustainable low-eXergy sources, and optimized HVAC systems will translates into a global solution that addresses all issues, not just energy.

When Delta Electronics (Americas) expanded its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., they leaned on the company’s brand spirit: “Smarter. Greener. Together.” Founded in 1971, Delta’s mission is “To provide innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow,” and the headquarters is a shining example of creative thinking paired with a desire to protect the environment Read More

When Delta Electronics (Americas) expanded its headquarters in Fremont, Calif., they leaned on the company’s brand spirit: “Smarter. Greener. Together.” Founded in 1971, Delta’s mission is “To provide innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow,” and the headquarters is a shining example of creative thinking paired with a desire to protect the environment. The company takes advantage of the latest in advanced energy-efficient research and product development, and the American headquarters is their 13th green building worldwide.

To help meet the LEED Platinum and net-zero energy building standards, the company chose to go with a radiant heating and cooling system from Uponor. Originally specified for a conventional radiant tubing installation, the mechanical contractor, ACCO Engineered Systems, a contracting firm with locations throughout California, suggested changing the specification to Uponor’s Radiant Rollout Mats for a faster, more efficient and consistent installation. ACCO had recently completed several large commercial projects using the mats, including the Pier 15 Exploratorium in San Francisco and SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) building.

ACCO, in conjunction with Sean Timmons at Timmons Design Engineers—now ALFATECH-Timmons—and Osborne Company—an Uponor rep firm—designed the radiant heating and cooling system using the mats for the 178,000-square-foot campus that includes a 38,000-square-foot warehouse. The radiant slabs are the primary cooling and heating systems in the campus buildings so it was crucial for the design to ensure comfort as well as the desired energy efficiencies.

Due to their previous experience with the Radiant Rollout Mats, ACCO spent a considerable amount of time up front designing the slab construction, the sequence of the slab construction and how the mats would be fabricated to align with the installation thought process. “We eliminated a lot of potential problems up front – lessons that we learned on other projects,” said Jonathan Bell, ACCO project manager.

It took five months for three dedicated crew members plus one runner to install 138,000 feet of tubing with the Radiant Rollout Mats. It would have taken much more time—and labor—to install the tubing using conventional PEX rails or tie-down methods.

The installers needed a bit of onsite training to get up to speed, and the first couple of circuits went in a little slower while Osborne Company helped demonstrate efficiencies and effective ways to speed up the installation. “But it didn’t take long for the crew to have a full understanding of the processes, and they quickly picked up the pace for the rest of the installation,” Bell said.

As with any project, there are challenges to overcome in buildings of this magnitude. “Having to accommodate physical building changes that occurred after we had procured the material was one of the challenges we had to work with,” Bell said. “And construction delays threatened to leave the tubing exposed to the sun for longer periods of time than we had anticipated. We had to do some quick thinking to make sure the tubing was protected from possible prolonged sun damage.”

Osborne, the Uponor rep firm, became an instrumental strategic partner in helping overcome and solve these unique challenges, and Bell is pleased with the process, the solutions and how quickly the crew installed the Radiant Rollout Mats.

“For large, open circuits, the installation of the Radiant Rollout Mats is much quicker than laying down regular tubing,” he said. “And the prefabricated and labelled mats allows for more efficient material handling onsite, which is very important in these large installations.”

Milwaukee, Wis. — Students returning to school after a summer break can attest that it’s good for the professor to start with a review of the basics. Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, our training and education manager, returns to the popular series to review, refresh and reinvigorate your understanding of the fundamentals that every hydronic system Read More

Milwaukee, Wis. — Students returning to school after a summer break can attest that it’s good for the professor to start with a review of the basics. Bob “Hot Rod” Rohr, our training and education manager, returns to the popular series to review, refresh and reinvigorate your understanding of the fundamentals that every hydronic system relies on at the next Coffee with Caleffi webinar on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 12 noon CST.

A familiar and favorite speaker to the webinar series, Hot Rod is sure to delight the audience with his expertise and quick wit. He travels from sea to shining sea, sharing his 30+ years’ of experience as a plumbing, radiant heat and renewable energy contractor.

The one-hour educational webinars are free and are intended for contractors, designers and wholesalers. A Certificate of Attendance is emailed to attendees following the event for continuing education audits. Please visit our website at www.caleffi.us for schedule details and registration.

Over the past few years, we’ve heard terms such as IoT, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) when referring to the future of construction, and one speaker in particular, at a plumbing and heating conference recently, scared the hell out of his audience by saying it’s not long now before humans—jobs in particular—will be taken over by Read More

Over the past few years, we’ve heard terms such as IoT, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) when referring to the future of construction, and one speaker in particular, at a plumbing and heating conference recently, scared the hell out of his audience by saying it’s not long now before humans—jobs in particular—will be taken over by “machines” and we should be very worried.

This month’s BIGGEXCHANGE International Symposium had a more level-headed approach to the future of the construction industry. In an effort to seek change and sustainable improvement throughout the construction industry, the two-day event—the brainchild of Dirk Rosenberg, and co-spearheaded by brothers Maik and Christof of Aquatherm—was hosted at the corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Attendorn, Germany. “BIGGEXCHANGE is a good brand for social responsibility, sustainability and education,” says Dirk Rosenberg.

The brothers Rosenberg from l to r: Dirk, Maik and Christof.

Named after a nearby lake and the river that flows through the host site, BIGGE is also a play on words to symbolize “Big Buildings and Big Ideas,” and for leaders in the HVAC and construction industry to network and EXCHANGE ideas with fellow industry peers.

“If we don’t start communicating and build stronger alliances, we will never turn the construction industry into something more positive,” says Dirk Rosenberg, urging more collaboration on the jobsite. Usually, says Rosenberg, trade disciplines all act independently of each other, yet they are working on the same product, which is the building. “Bring people together and start communicating—architects, designers, engineers, contractors, distributors—to form a strong alliance to become successful.”

BIGGEXCHANGE Takeaways

Addressing some of the myths of the scary AI (and robotics), Matthias Horx posed the question: Is it true that 50% of jobs will disappear? “The future of the construction industry, in an age of digitization, still longs for interpersonal contact, and while trivial tasks may disappear, there will be a boom for human and interpersonal activity,” says Horx, of Zukunftsinstitut GmbH, a think tank to further develop prognostic techniques whose resulting knowledge and potential could be used both in the fields of business and politics. “Every trend has an existing counter trend. We either meet it and disperse, or we meet it and it turns into something greater,” says Horx.

Thought leaders from across the globe convened for the first BIGGEXCHANGE hosted by Aquatherm in Attendorn, Germany.

Presenter Stephen Butler, Autodesk, added, “Jobs in the future won’t be replaced, they will evolve.” By 2020, the robotics industry will create 240,000 jobs, he says.

But Butler’s presentation was more about the emerging trends in building design, with Urbanization and Sustainability—which need to go hand in hand—as focal points. According to the World Bank, says Butler, 9.7 billion people will populate the planet and 6.4 billion of them will be living in urban centers. Currently, commercial buildings consume 40% global energy, 25% global water and 30% greenhouse gas emissions.

Matthias Horx kicked off the event with his Power of Megatrends presentation.

During Dr. Ing. Alexander Rieck’s Future Construction Digital—How Building Will Change in the Digital Age, the topic of the lack of skilled tradespeople in the industry was broached. According to Rieck, digitization will help companies become faster, better and cheaper. “We cannot justify higher salaries to attract skilled labor without digital tools,” says Rieck, Fraunhofer IAO and LAVA.

Further, according to Rieck, the digital revolution will lead to creative architecture.

Piggybacking off of the concept of digitization, professor David Chua Kim Huat, National University of Singapore, emphasized reducing construction times and achieving higher profitability using BIM-based prefabrication in his Design for Manufacture and Assembly with BIM presentation.

The moderator (far left) talks to the panel from l to r: Arab Hoballah; Professor Brian Cody; Julia Goerke, thinkstep AG; Jordan Hardy, CEO, Aquatherm; and Jurgen Hahnrath, Cisco Systems GmbH.

Peter Heinrich, Heinrich GmbH-Communications agency, talked about corporate social responsibility in his “People, Planet, Profit—Sustainable Success with Sustainability and Communication” presentation, which talked about a company’s implementation of social, economic and environmental responsibility to society.

The event’s shift focused on day 2 to sustainable buildings as the highly anticipated Arab Hoballah, leader, SWITCH-ASIA SCP facility/Senior Sustainability Expert, opened with his “Climate Change & Resource Efficiency, the Sustainable Building Engine” presentation and his concern for the children and grandchildren on this planet as a result of climate change through inefficient buildings. “Yet there is optimism through transformative change,” says Hoballah. “We need to be proactive; it is up to us. Mitigating climate change starts with buildings.”

Arab Hoballah, right, is concerned, yet optimistic about the future.

Hoballah’s “urban metabolism” sees buildings similar to our own bodies, with positive impacts based on what is “ingested.” Pointing out the concept of effective circularity, “If we consume efficiently, population growth is not the problem,” says Hoballah. “Increasing consumption and a wasteful society are problems.” And one way to achieve this is through decoupling in manufacturing—a reduction of material intensity in products.

Hoballah ended his talk with four images: sticks, which represent laws; carrots, which represent incentives; tambourines, which represent making noise, understanding legislation and working together; and drums, which represent showing and being proud of your work.

The numbers are eye opening. (Stephen Butler, Autodesk)

Finally, the BIGGEXHCANGE finale featured a roundtable consisting of some of the presenters who gave opinions on the future of construction. “The only constant today is people, and we will continue to make the same mistakes if we don’t change,” says professor Brian Cody, TU Graz. Cody later said that laws and regulations need to change, “My whole life has been going around laws to build green buildings.”

Jurgen Hahnrath, Cisco Systems GmbH, says to stay curious, well informed and don’t be afraid. Jordan Hardy, CEO of Aquatherm North America, echoes the sentiment and says well-informed people and financial interests need to be aligned. Arab Hoballah says that the more we know, the more we move forward. “Behind the curtain there is light. We can do it.”

The Rosenberg’s will continue to push the message in future BIGGE events. “Starting tomorrow we have to put more energy into this to keep connecting,” says Dirk Rosenberg. “This is only the starting point.”

Members of the trade media gather with the Rosenberg brothers.