Mechanical Firm Heads for Campus
Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. pushes the envelope and its revenue with HVAC and other specialty work on a big Columbia expansion
After 25 years in the mechanical construction business, Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. is ready for an epic project—and it got one in managing all HVAC work at Columbia University’s new Manhattanville Campus in upper Manhattan. The 17-acre expansion, estimated at over $6 billion, is the Ivy League university’s largest in more than a century and will open in stages through 2030.
HVAC has been a core specialty for the 120-person contractor based in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., which also is skilled in electrical, energy conservation, chilling and rail and rigging. The scale of the university project included work for the firm in the construction of a new central energy plant in addition to work on the new Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, part of the 450,000-sq-ft Jerome L. Greene Science Center.
The institute project has “had many challenges for us,” says Mike Russo, Fresh Meadow owner, including loading in the chillers, boilers, air-handling units and installing two 100-ft-tall freestanding boiler exhaust stacks on the roof of the building. He adds that the institute project “is a laboratory building, so we have been involved with air-handling units with extensive filtration and temperature control. There are also critical cooling systems for data centers and [magnetic resonance imaging] machines.”
Fresh Meadow has completed a number of large projects in the region, including work at 1 World Trade Center and 40 Wall Street in New York City, as well as at Canon Americas headquarters in Melville, N.Y. Rising one notch to No. 5 on ENR’s Top Specialty Contractors list this year, the firm reported revenue of $129 million for 2015, an 11.2% increase over the $116 million reported in 2014.
In the energy conservation sector, Fresh Meadow recently completed a project for Mutual Redevelopment Houses, a cooperative residential complex on the West Side of Manhattan that involved replacing two hot water boilers with more energy efficient medium pressure steam high-efficiency boilers.
“During this integration process, we were able to take greater advantage of the existing cogeneration system to make it possible for the facility to turn the boilers off over the summer months … and strictly provide domestic hot water by using waste heat recovered from the generator exhaust,” Russo says.
“The new boiler plant, the additional heat recovery and a new chiller plant that we installed have decreased the facilities’ overall consumption of fuel by up to 20% during the past summer and will provide an automated efficient set of plants for years to come.”
Currently, Fresh Meadow is also doing renovations at Citigroup headquarters in lower Manhattan, including replacement of 30-year-old chiller plants in both of the financial services giant’s buildings. “We have installed a total of 7,200 tons of new chiller capacity, including a new ice storage facility to increase the buildings’ energy savings by building ice at night that is used to shave electrical consumption during the daytime when the demand for electricity is higher,” says Russo. The upgrade brought the chillers up to LEED Gold status.
“They are engineers as well as contractors, which adds innovation and value to the projects they work on. This carries through both planning and execution,” says Thomas Scarola, managing director of engineering and MEP services at Tishman Speyer, a partner on the Citigroup project. “They excel in problem solving and keeping an owner’s concerns and interests in focus. He adds that owners “have gone back after a project has been completed and gotten assistance well beyond any period of warranty.”
Looking forward, Russo, who also is the current president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York and a former co-chairman of the Building Trades Employers Association, sees the industry moving toward modularization and commodity purchasing.
“Many times we find that the purchasing of equipment and hiring of certain subcontractors is being removed from our control, which generally creates issues down the road during start-up,” he says.
“When we are responsible for the entire mechanical scope of work, it is much easier to maintain continuity between the trades and not have gaps which are not addressed until the 11th hour.”
Russo also hopes to see more women in the industry going forward. “We have had several female engineers work with us as interns over the years, and we have had female steamfitter and plumbing journeymen,” he points out.