According to the 2016 Dodge Data & Analytics Outlook report, the U.S. construction industry is predicted to grow 6 percent this year, with the value of construction reaching an estimated $712 billion. With the growth trend expected to continue on an upward trajectory into 2017 and beyond, construction companies are sure to look for ways to increase operational efficiencies and improve worker safety—especially when the heat is on.
Temporary cooling solutions such as cooling towers, chillers and air conditioners allow construction companies to prevent project delays, increase worker safety and improve their balance sheet by avoiding high-cost capital expenditure commitments on short- to mid-term duration needs.
When considering a temporary cooling system, contractors must consider if the equipment matches the specific demands of the environment. Each construction project is unique; there is no such thing as one size fits all. Therefore, it is critical to work with a temporary utility provider that understands how to design a system that seamlessly ties into a construction process. This ensures continuity along the entire life cycle of a new or existing construction project, whether the cooling solution is for site preparation, worker comfort or finishing issues.
Following are three ways temporary temperature control were deployed in the construction industry to restore vital project cooling needs and maintain productivity from both an economical and operational standpoint.
High-performance concrete and massive, high-volume pours are critical components in large-scale industrial and commercial construction projects. For many projects, construction takes place in the warmer seasons; however, pouring concrete in unseasonably warm temperatures can provide significant curing challenges.
Pouring concrete at a lower initial temperature reduces the tendency of the concrete to form micro fractures, which can cause future structural problems. On a courthouse project in California, the contractor needed chilled water at a certain temperature at various flow rates during different pours. However, the contractor didn’t have experience using temperature control equipment and needed third-party support.
The solution consisted of a 300-ton chiller with an associated pump to move water in a closed loop between the chiller and the contractors’ 10,000 gallon tank, as well as a 1,000-gallon-per-minute pump with a variable frequency drive (VFD) to circulate the chilled water throughout the jobsite. The VFD allowed the contractor to adjust its flow for the smaller jobs or to completely shut down the flow if needed. With the temporary cooling solution in place, the contractor was able to successfully meet the initial concrete pour temperature specifications and keep the project on time and budget.
As moisture content increases globally, having control over the humidity level is becoming vital in the construction sector. High levels of humidity have an adverse effect on many construction finishing projects such as millwork, paneling, doors, moldings and beams.
For example, a new warehouse being constructed during a hot New Orleans spring required a specific type of environmentally friendly spray insulation. The insulation is applied wet and dries over time. However, there are specific guidelines regarding
the amount of relative humidity that can remain in the insulation before further construction can proceed. If conditions are not favorable for the insulationto dry quickly, construction may be delayed or even halted. Given there was abnormal humidity in New Orleans that year, it was estimated the insulation would take nearly a month to dry, leading to the possibility of significant financial losses.
A dehumidifier was recommended for the drying work instead of the air conditioner the contractor was originally considering. The dehumidifier would reduce humidity levels so that the insulation could dry faster. A 2,250-cubic-feet-per-minute dehumidification unit along with a generator to supply power for the unit was provided and originally placed outside, but it was determined that a better option to speed up drying was to move it inside the building and duct the regenerated air outside. The dehumidification solution significantly reduced the estimated drying time from four weeks to one week, saving the contractor from penalties should the building not be completed on schedule.
According to yearly reports by OSHA on worker safety as it pertains to heat, the frequency of accidents in general appears to be higher in hot environments than in more moderate temperature environments. Heat tends to promote accidents that occur because of sweaty palms, dizziness or the fogging of safety glasses. The effect of these conditions can result in poor judgement and unsafe practices. However, many of these conditions can be eradicated with the use of temporary cooling equipment, allowing for a safer and more productive working environment
One large chemical producer in central Alberta had been suffering through a significant cooling problem. Its motor control center building had been reaching temperatures exceeding 104 degrees during several consecutive summers. That’s a problem because the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta doesn’t allow working conditions beyond 95 degrees. The firm tried several stop-gap measures, such as opening all the doors, but the temperature remained stubbornly high and a temporary cooling solution was needed.
A plan was devised to duct air from two 30-ton air-conditioning units 40 feet high in order to tie into the customer’s building system and build a plenum to make it easier to attach the ducting. Scaffolding was built so the ducting could be routed up to the plenum, and the plenum was then bolted into the building system. In less than a week, the solution was installed and the building sufficiently cooled off to meet Alberta’s worker safety requirements.
These applications are but a few examples of how temporary cooling solutions can help the construction industry mitigate safety hazards, minimize capital expenditures and ensure optimal production uptime. The maximum benefit of these temporary systems can only be realized by partnering with a provider with the right technical, engineering and project management expertise to execute a customized and scalable turnkey solution for short- and long-term needs.
Stan Tyrrell is vice president of temperature control for Aggreko. For more information, visitaggreko.com.
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