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Xylem Bell & Gossett recently celebrated the official reopening of its Little Red Schoolhouse, the company’s suburban Chicago training center for PHCPpros dedicated to the plumbing and heating industries.
The remodeled space offers a cleaner look to the classroom with more functional displays, but all with an emphasis on the type of hands-on training that’s been a hallmark of the school since its first class in 1954.
“We wanted to make sure that no matter where you were in the Little Red Schoolhouse,” says Mike Licastro, director of training, “there was a learning opportunity readily available. Whether it’s manufacturers representatives, engineers or contractors, our goal is for the training to provide a knowledge base that makes them better equipped to perform their daily job duties related to hydronic and steam product application and system design.”
Instruction at the facility is well known for taking a systems-based approach that teaches students not only about individual components, but also how those components work together once installed in a complete plumbing and heating system.
Thanks to the updated space, Bell & Gossett instructors have new demonstration areas that feature working displays of equipment within a wide range of applications:
• The plumbing display products area was built to showcase the latest water-based technologies and opportunities, including variable speed pumps and hot water circulation systems.
• The HVAC area showcases pressure-dependent controls and sensorless variable speed controls.
• A steam system design area features a live, operational electric steam boiler and glass shell tube heat exchangers.
• A condensing boiler area generates hot water for the plumbing displays and allows students to track the water’s journey throughout the facility.
One other new area, in fact, so new that the company was still putting the final touches to it during our visit, is a dedicated service and maintenance area. Once completed, the room will feature 10 carts with various Bell & Gossett products, providing attendees hands-on opportunities to learn how to disassemble, assemble and troubleshoot equipment.
“One of the highlights of the class is that we’re now able to teach students how to disassemble a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger,” Licastro says. “This is something that we see out in the industry that a lot of people are very fearful of. They want to know what to do and how to do it. We’re happy to now have it as part of our curriculum.”
Even contractors who have taken classes at the schoolhouse before will now have a chance to learn about the company’s latest products and technology that’s been installed throughout the revamped training areas. Key mechanicals featured in the renovation include the following:
• B&G Model Technoforce eMT Duplex Multi-Stage, Variable Speed Domestic Water Pressure Booster System, supplying water to sink with four different style fixtures
• Goulds Model e-SV Multi-Stage Pump with Hydrovar motor-mounted Variable Frequency Drive
• Lochinvar gas-fired water heater, buffer tank and indirect water heater
• Laars Condensing Boiler and Niles Hot Water Tank
• Acorn Thermostatic Mixing Valves
• B&G Model PTA ASME Potable Water Thermal Expansion Tank
Even the building’s revamped mechanical room doubles as an extra classroom and features a new air-handing unit, ECMs and chiller.
Oddly enough, while many things have changed, at least one has stayed the same – a radiant system that’s served the facility since it’s opening more than 60 years ago.
“Our radiant heat system, which uses steel pipe, was installed in 1954,” Licastro says. “It’s still working today. Three hydronic, in-floor zones use three small circulators to heat the training facility, and that radiant system is still doing a good job.”
All and all, the Little Red School House’s new look is still dedicated to the same philosophy of providing industry pros with the best in hands-on training.
“I have a 22-year-old son, and he's the type of individual that if you show him how to do something, he is locked down and ready to go,” Licastro says. “There are a lot of people like my son out there waiting to find their paths, and I believe that the HVAC industry is a key path for many of them. If we get them here, and allow them to see that they can be creative and use their influence and excitement to make something happen, the sky is the limit. That's exactly what we're trying to do here.”
The day’s activities also included a panel discussion featuring Lisa Riles, director, Global Residential & Americas CBS/HVAC, Xylem Inc.; Mark Handzel, vice president, Product Regulatory and Government Affairs, Xylem Inc.; David Everhart, president, Bornquist Inc.; Jim Burns, president, Mulcahy Co.; and Chris Johnson, senior director of Product Engineering, AWA America, Xylem Inc. Licastro served as moderator for the discussion.
• New DOE standards on pump efficiency.
• The lastest trends from the Net Zero movement.
• VRF vs. Hydronics.
• IoT and system design.
• Residential pump technology.
• The latest issues in fire protection.
• How to attract, train and retain the next generation of mechanical contractors.
The grand reopening concluded with a factory tour of the Xylem/Bell & Gossett facility just adjacent to the Little Red Schoolhouse.