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  1. #1
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    Nov 2010
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    166

    New Construction transition from Boiler to Heat Strips??

    Having toured many buildings, both older and newer I have noticed that all of the newer office skyscrapers built in the 1980s-present utilize electric heat strips for space heating rather than HW or Steam Boilers. Now if you visit an office tower or other commercial property built in the 1970s or before, boilers are often utilized for heating needs. It seems the building has to be over 30 years old before you will find boilers in use. In fact I know of an office tower built as late as 1981, which utilized HW heating boilers. However from about 1982 forward it seems that all new construction utilizes electric strip heaters.

    Does anyone here have an idea what brought about this change in HVAC design??? The boilers provided a good source of heat for a large structure such as an office tower. I do not see why newer properties do not utilize them. I visited a 72 story tower, in my city. All 72 floors are heated by electric strip heat. Why not use a boiler in an application like this? The building was built in the mid 80s. We also have a 56 story tower, in our city. It was built in the 1970s, and has electric boilers. Is age really the issue?? Did HVAC engineers suddenly come to the realization in the 1980s that boilers were too antiquated and inefficient for new construction?? Any insight regarding this question is appreciated!!

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Texas
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    1,172
    One can only guess. Sooo if I were to guess, 1. install cost. 2. Install cost and 3. Install cost. To add, there is flexibility and maintenance issues as well. You may also notice alot of buildings have installed packaged water source heat pumps, maybe not in the high rises but I have seen many in low rise buildings
    Saddle Up!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Gainesville, FL
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    325
    Install cost is considerably less, and for leased space there is little motivation for the building owner to install a high priced energy efficient system. At least until the new energy efficiency codes come on line and force more insulation, more efficient lighting, better HVAC, low-e glass, or a combination. Owner occupied buildings are more likely to have better systems than space for rent.

    Recently I've seen a few more split system heat pumps in mid rise buildings. The reason was energy codes.

  4. #4
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    Nov 2001
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    Seattle, WA
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    The cost or profits from leased floor space that a boiler would take up is one big factor. Plus remodels as in increasing or decreasing rented lease space is easier. The reduced install cost is also a big factor as had been stated. In certain locaitons with certain size boilers and certain size building a building engineer also is required and that get expensive for the owner if that is the case.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public's own money.
    - Alexis de Toqueville, 1835

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    166
    Quote Originally Posted by DeltaT View Post
    The cost or profits from leased floor space that a boiler would take up is one big factor. Plus remodels as in increasing or decreasing rented lease space is easier. The reduced install cost is also a big factor as had been stated. In certain locaitons with certain size boilers and certain size building a building engineer also is required and that get expensive for the owner if that is the case.
    Good point, but couldn't the boiler be housed in the basement or penthouse?? That would not take up any tenant space.

    Back to my original question. Why is it that buildings built 1970s and before almost always had a full boiler plant, regardless of the factors mentioned?? Was there any energy mandate in the 1980s that began to phase out boilers and begin the use of heat strips?? You have to remember it wasn't until the 80s that this change happened.

    Thanks for your insight!

  6. #6
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    Aug 2012
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    Gainesville, FL
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    325
    Remember, the 80s also brought us POS cars like the Yugo and the K car. Petro fuels got really expensive in the late 70s and the big cars went bye-bye. I'm sure that had something to do with the change in heating.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
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    34,089
    Big office buildings need little heat. So long term, it probably doesn't pay to spend the big bucks on a boiler and piping just for a little morning warmup heat. Also less staff is needed on site without the boiler. And heat pumps, which were mentioned, would eliminate the need for strip heat since they can provide what little heat is needed very cheaply. You'll notice a big building with heat pumps will have the cooling tower running even in bitter weather since most of the suites will be cooling.

  8. #8
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    Nov 2001
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    Seattle, WA
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    Quote Originally Posted by MHall View Post
    Good point, but couldn't the boiler be housed in the basement or penthouse?? That would not take up any tenant space.

    Back to my original question. Why is it that buildings built 1970s and before almost always had a full boiler plant, regardless of the factors mentioned?? Was there any energy mandate in the 1980s that began to phase out boilers and begin the use of heat strips?? You have to remember it wasn't until the 80s that this change happened.

    Add to that the lack of skills and the emphasis of set it and forget it management based on some type of software looking over all the equipment now not being maintained by skilled workers that pretty much aren't available anymore and the pressure to get the highest rent possible over the short term with the absolute least amount of costs to the building owner and it adds up to what we experience today.

    Thanks for your insight!
    That would mean a penthouse and/or a basement would have to be built and used for non rental space. Any floor space that is horizontal is considerer rentable so it's not going to be used for machinery for heating/cooling the building. And that is also why any new or remodeled building has the HVAC stuff in the ceiling.

    Back in the 70's there was a completely different mind set. Machine rooms were common and necessary simply because unitary equipment did not exist. Plus labor was way more skilled, built up systems were the only way to go. Air handlers typically were centralized and the cost of labor and the way of doing business including the costs of doing business was much more humane as compared to today.

    It was a era of skill, pride in workmanship, heavily built equipment that would last (as it has) for years and years and a completely different mind set. Most of the money spent back then was based on long term, long lasting investments with a steady economic growth with long term tenants of all kinds.

    Now, it's build a big box, fill it with the working stuff in places that are extrememly hard to reach and out of the way of any floor space, tenants that are pushed to extinction by costs and regulations, economic factors that can drive anyone out of business in a few years and technology as an excuse for long lasting and proper performing equipment of all kinds.
    "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers it can bribe the public with the public's own money.
    - Alexis de Toqueville, 1835

  9. #9
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    Feb 2007
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    Helena, Montana
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    Quote Originally Posted by BaldLoonie View Post
    Big office buildings need little heat. So long term, it probably doesn't pay to spend the big bucks on a boiler and piping just for a little morning warmup heat. Also less staff is needed on site without the boiler. And heat pumps, which were mentioned, would eliminate the need for strip heat since they can provide what little heat is needed very cheaply. You'll notice a big building with heat pumps will have the cooling tower running even in bitter weather since most of the suites will be cooling.
    Can somebody say computers and flourescent lighting???
    Don't worry zombies are looking for brains, you're safe...

  10. #10
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    Nov 2010
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    166
    Excellent post. I agree with the points you have made here.

    So it can be safetly said that any new building built today will not have a central plant??We have establishled that boilers are never installed today for heating in new highrise construction. Is it the same with chillers?? Are central plants simply not part of new construction for the reasons stated below??

    Thanks

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    new england
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    613
    I think the climate in the buildings area has a lot to do with the mechanical design. I have yet to come across a high rise or any large facility in my area without a hw boiler for heating. There used in water source h/p systems, reheat coils, fintube baseboard, unit ventilators and many other applications. I rarely see electric strips.
    Chaos equals cash$$$

  12. #12
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    Nov 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by fitzyfitta View Post
    I think the climate in the buildings area has a lot to do with the mechanical design. I have yet to come across a high rise or any large facility in my area without a hw boiler for heating. There used in water source h/p systems, reheat coils, fintube baseboard, unit ventilators and many other applications. I rarely see electric strips.
    How old are the buildings you are refering to? Down here in Texas it is not uncommon for any building to be heated to boilers if the property was built in the 1970s or before. From the 1980s- to the present, it seems that all new construction is equipped with heat strips for space heating.

    What part of the country are you in?? I would be very suprised to see an office building built in the 1980s or later that utilized a boiler for space heating.

    As one poster pointed out, construction in the 1970s and before focused on quality rather the cheapness. Older buildings were construction with quality materials and built to last a lifetime. Given the fact that boilers were always installed in those days, it appears that a quality boiler was an essential part of a well constructed building. It makes sense; in the 1980s we entered the disposable age. Look at the homes from that time; cheap and shoddy construction (in my opinion) with cheap materials. I suppose office buildings were also being constructed with cheap materials. Part of this was to stop installing boilers and move towards a"cheaper" solution literally. If anyone has any thoughts on the matter I'd be curious to hear them.

    THanks

  13. #13
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    Nov 2010
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    166
    This thread has also made me wonder how boiler manufactures such as Cleaver Brooks stay in business, with all new construction for the last 30 years using heat strips!

    They probably still get a lot of business supplying manufacturing operations and of course replacement boilers for old buildings. However all new construction not having boilers for the last 30 years must have hurt their business a bit.

    Boilermakers were probably a much large business back in the 1970s and before, when new buildings still included them in their HVAC design. It makes me wonder how many of the old companies are out of business. Just a thought though.

    Any other info is much appreciated!
    Thanks

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