Innovation Category

There's no doubt about it:Stu Lorton's area of the country is a hotbed for radiant heating systems. The four-story, 50,000 sq. ft. Diamond Building in Eagle, Colo., pushed his Lorton Plumbing Inc. to the envelope of knowledge.

And not only did he come away with a slew of satisfied customers, but he also picked up the 1999 Innovative System Showcase Award from the Radiant Panel Association.

"With the ever-changing technology in today's market, sometimes it's a bit confusing to maintain a forward approach to system design and installation methods," says Lorton, who has owned his own business since 1997. "The Diamond Building uses some very simple piping arrangements for the ease of installation and system balancing for all aspects of heating, snowmelting and domestic water heating."

Making Friends

Lorton secured this job while interviewing with a general contractor who was looking for a new mechanical contractor. "We started working with putting together a price, and before we knew it we were on board actually putting the project together," he says.

Lorton, an industry veteran since 1987, garners most of his business through word of mouth. He estimates 55 percent of Lorton Plumbing Inc. is plumbing, hydronic heating, snowmelt systems and process piping. Of their hydronics business, 55 percent are commercial vs. residential customers, and 95 percent is new construction vs. remodeling, he says.

The Job Begins

Lorton admits the innovations may not appear to be anything new, but he had not seen this type of application in a mixed-use building.

Lorton relied on the aide of Rader Engineering Inc., of Avon, Colo., when designing the system. The Diamond Building consists of five custom condominiums - about 10,000 sq. ft. of radiant floor heating installed on a metal deck with a 3-inch concrete topping or under wood floor. The condos are located on both the second and third floor of the complex. No supplemental heat was used in the residential areas.

"The residential area has two types of radiant systems," Lorton says. "The first level is slab on grade, while the second level is installed under the subfloor, under both wood and carpet." The PEX tubes varied in size - either of the 1/2- or 5/8-inch variety.

Inside the condo, cathedral ceilings proved an obstacle for Lorton Plumbing when

designing this award-winning system.

Retail businesses, including about 9,500 sq. ft. of snowmelt areas - ranging from walkways to snow dump areas with water features to a metal prefabricated staircase - are housed on the main floor. Lorton says the commercial area was all piped through fan coils.

The system, which employs two Weil McLain forced-draft boilers, a tekmar 254 forced h boiler control and tekmar 353 variable speed injection pump controllers, features heat exchangers piped in parallel for domestic water heating capabilities and 26 fan coils. A tekmar 650 control keeps the snowmelt system working toward an "always clear and dry" surface. "The controls for the entire system comprise of outdoor reset boiler control and air sensing thermostats with injection/mixing controllers for radiant floor areas and moisture sensing, slab idling or timed on/off for the snowmelt.

"The boiler system is the heat plant," explains Lorton. "In a larger system it allows for more flexibility; it allows the freedom to make spaces larger or smaller. Our approach to piping/pumping is to minimize pipe size and downsizing pumps without jeopardy or compromise to the system."

Lorton points out the system was also equipped with an indirect-water heater to provide domestic heating for all hot water. "We have a two plate from piped in parallel to a 250 gallon storage tank for the building," he says. "They didn't run out of hot water through the winter."

Show Me The Money

Lorton Plumbing Inc. won extra points with the general contractor for coming in under the projected cost. The project was completed in six months - a quick turnaround for a job that size, Lorton admits. "We're just happy to provide a cost savings to the owner while providing them with a functional heating system."

Other Innovative System Showcase Award Winners:

2nd Place: Aspen Solar Systems, Curley Project, Bayfield, Colo.

3rd Place: Advanced Radiant Technology, Somerset Hills Project, Bellevue, Wash.