Hydronic Commercial & Best Of Show

You don't have to be a nuclear scientist to install commercial radiant jobs. But Richard Behrends, will tell you it certainly doesn't hurt to have it under your belt.

Behrends, owner of Behrends Mechanical Inc., took an unconventional route - including through the Department of Defense (he worked on nuclear reactors for them) - to end up with his own plumbing company. The route finally lead to two System Showcase Awards, Commercial and Best of Show, at the 1999 RPA show for his Wings of Alaska project.

"One day the plumber and pipefitter group ran an apprenticeship ad in the paper," said Behrends, who was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. "I was off at college and wasn't ready to come home yet. I applied and the rest is history."

A 17-year industry veteran, Behrends started his own company in December 1994. Behrends Mechanical Inc., with 11 employees, finds more than 80 percent of its business in plumbing and hydronic heat work. Of his radiant heat work, only 20 percent registers as commercial clients.

Spreading His Wings

The Wings of Alaska project was a cinch to secure, Behrends admits. He's known the owner since kindergarten. The structure, more than 25,000 sq. ft., houses an air cargo facility and corporate office. Behrends installed 14,328 sq. ft. of radiant heat, including in the maintenance shop, part of the hanger, freight and luggage area and the offices. Located eight miles north of Juneau, it is the largest building in the area with radiant heat, Behrends says.

"Dollar-wise it wasn't one of my biggest projects," says Behrends. "But in terms of square footage, it was probably one of the biggest jobs I've done."

Behrends says the first floor, the hanger area, was only partial fitted with radiant heat to allow for chillers. "Tourists come back

bringing fish, so we needed to keep the chillers in mind."

The system is composed of 5/8-inch PEX tubing, SBK manifolds, a Weil McLain boiler and Taco and Grundfos pumps. Each area has a tekmar 354 mixing reset control using a four-way mixing valve and an outdoor air and supply water feedback with tekmar 367 zone controls for heat demand. The large areas are controlled by zone valves while individual offices are controlled by circuit actuators mounted on the manifold. A 1,000 gallon tank resides underground. Domestic hot water is generated by an indirect double

wall water maker.

This project stood out at the show because of its coupling with a waste oil burner. "The hanger area incorporates a waste oil burner that facilitates a responsible disposal of aircraft oil," Behrends points out. "It also provides supplemental heat. Additionally, the office area uses an air handler to supply an adjustable discharge air temperature to meet UBC ventilation requirements."

Temperature in the building is kept at 60 degrees F, but is easily adjustable by maintenance or office workers individually, when needed. The waste oil burner helps provide the temperature boost, explains Behrends.

Finding Other Business

The CEO of Wings of Alaska - Behrends, friend - liked the heat so much in his business that he signed Behrends Mechanical Inc. to put the same system in his house. (No, it's not the same size as the airport hanger.)

"We designed and installed the residential system using the same components and control system as the corporate facility," says Behrends. "He was impressed by the comfort of radiant heat."

But not everyone Behrends finds is so easily won over. He works with one general contractor who doesn't like dealing with the extra 1-1/2 inches that need to be left for the gypcrete. "He likes the staple-up application, while I like the in-floor options." We have a suggestion for the general contractor: Do whatever Behrends wants, he's a nuclear scientist.

Other Hydronic Commercial System Showcase Award Winners:

2nd Place: Andy Stack & Sons, Schafer Development Co., Avon, Ohio

3rd Place: William Jannone & Sons, Landscape Materials, Hillsboro, N.J.