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More than 100 years ago, the first brick was laid to construct the South Street Landing Power Station in Providence, Rhode Island. The 58,000-square-foot, multi-story building was meant to provide electricity, a relatively advanced technology at that time, to the expanding manufacturing industry in the early 20th century.
The South Street Landing Power Station underwent continuous expansion during its tenure until it was decommissioned in the 1990s.
Until recently, the building had remained vacant and without maintenance. As described by Tara Crawford, marketing specialist at Arden Engineering Constructors, “It was an empty, yet beautiful, shell complete with monstrous holes where giant boilers once sat.”
In the early 2000s, the structure was scheduled to undergo a rehabilitation that would transform it into a shared space, housing a statewide history museum and commercial fit-out. Redevelopment plans folded during the Great Recession, however, leaving the big, beautiful space empty and without purpose.
That is until recently when someone recognized the potential in the 105-year-old building. A building that once provided power for its industrial neighbors, has now undergone a transformation so that it may service its new academic surroundings. The former South Street Landing Power Station is now home to an impressive 6-story, 265,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art nursing education and administrative office complex, which opened in September 2017. Its occupants include the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center and Brown University.
The players and renovation
Despite the prolonged lack of maintenance, much of the original 20th century structure had remained intact and in good repair. Its architectural style landed the facility a nomination for the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, making renovations a rather significant undertaking.
The building needed to be completely gutted to begin the process of adding six new levels inside the existing shell.
Arden Building Companies joined the project in 2016 and quickly recognized that the size and scale of the expansion efforts magnified the complexity of the project. With a mechanical, electrical and plumbing budget of approximately $25 million, South Street Landing was Rhode Island’s largest economic development project in 2016.
Mechanical contractor Arden Engineering Constructors was responsible for the design and installation of all the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection building systems.
The scope of the work varied in complexity and offered unique challenges. The new HVAC system installed included a 1,100-ton water cooled chiller plant, a 12,000 MBH condensing boiler system and a 41,000-cfm energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system for building make-up.
The electrical system included two 2,000 kilo-volt-ampere (kVA) utility transformers servicing multiple switchboards, all backed up by a 600-kilowatt generator.
The lighting for the building used the latest LED technology coupled with a control system to minimize power consumption. “Arden also provided and installed medical teaching equipment, headwall units, retractable ceiling columns, surgical lights and bariatric lifting stations,” says John Puniello, vice president of Construction for Arden.
The fire protection system included a fire pump with transfer switch supplying a high-pressure standpipe system with 30 pressure-reducing fire hose valves; double fed sprinkler systems on six floors plus atrium systems with pressure-reducing valves at each zone control rig; and approximately 2,500 sprinkler heads throughout, four standpipes, and two roof hydrants.
Arden was working against a tight timeline, space and budget.
“The site had very little laydown area and prefabrication was a critical part of meeting the schedule,” Puniello says. Fellow Arden Building Co., Unique Metal Works, was onsite to design, fabricate, and install HVAC ductwork. The fabrication shop was only 15 minutes away from the site, so they were able to seamlessly stage deliveries.
Arden also recognized that the obstacles it faced made welding a poor choice for completing the mechanical room, so project planners made the decision to use Victaulic’s easy-to-install grooved connections.
Having used Victaulic on previous projects, Arden saw firsthand how its innovative piping technologies reduced installation times and increased efficiencies without sacrificing safety or reliability.
The connections allowed the contractor to join, hang and install pipe quickly and efficiently once it was lowered into the mechanical room.
“Not only did Arden have just six weeks to complete the large mechanical room,” says Puniello, “but the space was tight, making maneuverability and installation difficult, and, since the mechanical room was saved for last, it required each section of pipe be installed in a specific order.”
According to Puniello, the Arden/Victaulic partnership led to an “erector set” approach. Arden designed and prefabricated 90 percent of the piping systems at its facility, relying on Victaulic’s grooved connections for installation onsite.
The entire mechanical room was delivered to the jobsite, and the installation went directly from the truck to the hanger. Arden designed and prefabricated nearly all of the systems in-house, using its 33,000-square-foot facility, located just 7 miles from downtown Providence. Once onsite, the contractor used a crane to lift each piece of equipment into the mechanical room through a large hole in the roof.
Overall, it took less than two months to put the entire mechanical room together once the pieces were prepped and delivered onsite — an unachievable feat with a welded solution.
The speed of installation reduced overall costs by approximately $100,000.
The project was split into three phases. “The Core and Shell phase was completed January of this year,” says Puniello, “and the RIC/URI Nursing Education Center was completed May of this year. The Brown University phase was completed in September.”
“This project was the first investment that Wexford Scientific has made in the city of Providence,” Puniello says. “It is the beginning of realigning Providence to service the biomedical research industry.”
Once a source power, then an empty shell, the South Street Landing Power Station is once again a hub buzzing with electricity and inspiration.