Replacement of high school HVAC system has $4.8 million price tag

Photo by Ralph Stewart

The building that is the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has not aged well. In recent months, school leaders have attempted to identify, with the assistance of professionals in the field, necessary building-repair projects in an effort to prioritize repairs.

Earlier this month, at a school committee meeting on Oct. 5, Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea said he did not want to move ahead until there was a comprehensive plan in place that addressed all of the building’s structural and mechanical requirements.

“I want to make sure that we have all of our studies together, we know exactly what needs to be done, and we do it in a very thoughtful way so we do it right,” he said.

Mr. D’Andrea said school officials had met with Ken Beck of BLW Engineers, who completed a report on the HVAC system, and there was significant work that needs to be done.

The report, titled “HVAC Systems Evaluation,” dated June 12, outlines a hefty and costly list of immediate recommendations totaling $700,000.

But the report notes, “The majority, if not all, of the HVAC equipment in the building has exceeded its expected operational life, is in various states of disrepair and is in need of replacement.”

Longer-term recommendations include the replacement of the entire HVAC system, including mechanical equipment, revisions to the existing temperature controls, and electrical support, at an estimated cost of $4.2 million. The addition of air conditioning would add $600,000 to that price tag.

The executive summary described how the building was put together over the years and continuity of design was lost. The original building was constructed in 1957, and underwent renovations and additions in 1978, 1992, and 1994.

“Each renovation did not adequately carry forward the original system design parameters of the existing building, resulting in systems that did not effectively support each other,” the evaluation said.

“In addition, equipment has failed and has not either been repaired or replaced to provide the minimum necessary heating and ventilating requirements to several spaces.

“The majority, if not all, of the HVAC equipment in the building has exceeded its expected operational life, is in various states of disrepair, and is in need of replacement,” the HVAC evaluation said.

The automatic temperature control system in particular is responsible for space overheating issues, and is “outdated and in a poor state of operation.”

The report recommends not throwing good money after bad.

“While it is important to get the control strategies updated with a more user-friendly and effective platform, it is not recommended to retrofit equipment that has exceeded its expected operational life with new controls,” the evaluation said. It said much of the system has failed, and that replacement parts are no longer available.

In some cases, work left undone contributed to the current state of the building. For example, chillers installed in 1994 were never interconnected to the building piping systems, and “at this point, the chillers should be considered inoperable,” the evaluation said.

Restoring the former mechanical ventilation, deemed “deficient” by the evaluation, still will not provide the current code ventilation requirements.

Due to significant downsizing of the original boilers, “the existing domestic hot water system should be removed from the hot water boilers” and “be replaced with a separate oil-fired, storage-type hot water heating system.”

To provide necessary freeze protection to the heating system, a propylene glycol solution implementation would be necessary; however, doing so “would further aggravate an already poor system flow condition,” the evaluation said. It recommended a cleaning or flushing of the existing piping system be done and new building circulation pumps be installed.

The current boilers are manually controlled and have no reset schedule based on the outdoor temperature, leading to space overheating. The report recommended a control system replacement that has lead/lag operation and a hot water reset based on outdoor temperature.

Both the guidance and principal’s suites had air handling units that failed and were replaced by ductless split systems that ultimately did not provide adequate heating, air conditioning, or ventilation to the spaces. Two spaces within the guidance area and a conference room within the principal’s suite currently do not have any HVAC provisions.

The report makes eight immediate recommendations in order of priority. The first: “Restore existing ventilation to the building unit ventilators, including removing existing domestic hot water system from boiler hot water systems by providing two new oil-fired, storage-type domestic hot water systems, cleaning/flushing piping systems, and replacement of existing hot water distribution pumps (eight total) with pumps provided with adequate flow and pressure capacity for the systems which they serve.”

The estimated price is $150,000.

The second: Replace unit ventilators, including SSC controls, sized for future capacity of full air conditioning and ventilation. That price tag is an estimated $325,000.

The next three recommendations focus on the need to provide better ventilation to various sections of the building, including the carpentry shop, automotive shop, sculpture and culinary arts rooms, guidance offices, and principal’s office suite, at a cost of $150,000.

The report also noted that incorporation of the recommendations will significantly increase the operating cost of the school.