School Board Awards Bids for $2 Million HVAC Replacement at Mount Nittany Middle School
January 08, 2019 4:00 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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State College Area School Board on Monday unanimously approved awarding bids totaling about $2.08 million for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, including a dedicated dehumidification system, at Mount Nittany Middle School.

Replacement of the chillers, cooling tower and associated equipment had been scheduled for this year as part of the physical plant's five-year capital budget. The equipment was installed when the middle school opened 23 years ago and is nearing the end of its useful life. The replacement system is expected to last at least another 20 to 25 years.

Bids approved by the board are $1,743,000 to Myco Mechanical, Inc. for mechanical construction;  $174,706 to John Spearly Construction for general construction; and $158,888 to Allied Mechanical and Electrical for electrical construction.

"This project is the latest in a series of mid-sized projects, which are being phased at the school over a number of years," a memo from Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik to the board said. "The goal of these interim renovations is to proactively extend the life of the building,while maintaining excellent building operations and avoiding failures of systems during the school year. These projects should defer the need for a complete capital renovation or replacement for the foreseeable future."

When planned five years ago, like-equipment replacement was estimated at $494,000. Since then, local architects suggested changing the chillers from water cooled units with an exterior cooling tower to air cooled units, which removes the cooling tower from the project and moves the chillers outside the building at an added cost. Poprik said at a meeting in October that this would move noisy equipment outside the building and reduce maintenance through the removal of the cooling tower.

The dedicated dehumidification system wasn't part of the original plan and the building has relied on passive dehumidification inherent in air conditioning systems with through-wall unit ventilators. Record-setting rainfall throughout the summer, however, resulted in mold in the building caused by humidity, which has cost the district more than $400,000 in clean-up and equipment rental costs.

With the new system, rooftop units will deliver fresh, dehumidified air into the building, which the air conditioning system will then cool. The new dehumidification system added $914,500 to the project.

Poprik said in October that the school had not had an issue with mold previously, but that the district would need to anticipate that it could happen again without a new dehumidification system.

"We have to have an expectation that perhaps this could happen again," Poprik said. "Perhaps this could happen summer after summer. If that was the case this system would pay for itself in a couple years."

Board members previously said that the potential for mold presented a health issue that needed to be addressed and that climate change indicates hot, wet summers may become more of the norm.

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