Case study /Focus: HVAC

Essential HVAC craftsmanship in healthcare

March 20, 2020

Shapiro & Duncan, a provider of mechanical engineering and construction solutions in the Washington, DC metro area, recently completed the new North Tower at INOVA Loudoun Hospital, which required significant creativity in the HVAC elements. 


INOVA Loudoun Hospital’s new North Tower serves as a scalable, critical resource to meet the community’s future needs. The tower itself spans 382,000 square feet and will expand patient capacity to 228 beds from the previous building’s 82 beds. 

Challenges and opportunities

In this project, there were a total of 32 air handling units on two mechanical floors as well as generators and pumps for the facility. The units themselves ranged in size from small to massive and stackable, adding a challenge and level of difficulty in that they arrived in broken down modular sections to be assembled into complete units at their final resting place. Overall, the uniqueness and complexity of this project and its elements resulted in a fairly high-level of difficulty and challenge on the part of the craftsmen. 

The solution: Leveraging technical innovation and craftsmanship

Prior to the project start, Shapiro & Duncan developed a coordinated model using its Building Information Modeling (BIM) process. From there, the model was refined and detailed spool drawings were produced and uploaded to digital work stations and equipment on the Fab Shop floor. Here the piping, fittings, valves, strainers and more moved through the assembly line with the pre-fabrication team. This allowed the team to create clean, high-quality piping assemblies in a controlled environment that were stored and shipped “just in time” to the job site a few days before installation. This process provided a higher level of quality assurance in the craftsmanship of the finished HVAC product. 

The importance of aesthetic concerns

Aesthetically, a number of factors required consideration and focus for the successful completion of the new North Tower at INOVA Loudoun Hospital. The access panels for the sanitary and storm pipes, typically run vertically, had to be finished to match the wood panels in the building’s high-traffic lobby and atrium areas. 

Baseboard heaters in the main atrium and corridor, also high-traffic, high-visibility areas, also needed to be installed and finished to match flooring and windows. The existing atrium featured circular, radius-like formation, and this presented a unique aesthetic challenge in that baseboard heaters come in straight pieces, not curves. 

A high-level of expertise was required to address these concerns and uphold the aesthetic standard throughout the project. Additionally, it was critical that the new materials were not just functional, but in alignment with the design elements of the building as a whole. 

Results achieved through a focus on technical excellence

The technical excellence of the coordination team was a key factor in the successful, on-time and on-budget execution of this project. Throughout the effort, the coordination team was responsible for managing all of the systems and phases of the work, including plumbing, water, the reverse osmosis and dialysis systems, sanitary and storm pipes and drains, medical gas, HVAC chilled water and steam heating elements. 

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