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Massive crane fits pieces into place for energy efficient mechanical upgrade at GSA facility in Brooklyn

December 6, 2017

By Alison Kohler

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Thanks to the right alignment in many ways, the Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse at 225 Cadman Plaza East has a more energy-efficient chiller to cool the building in the warm seasons ahead and save taxpayer dollars.

crane on Tillary Street in downtown Brooklyn
A massive crane on Tillary Street in downtown Brooklyn is used to extract pieces of old chillers and insert new chiller equipment at the Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse Dec. 2. Photograph by Alison Kohler

It took three scheduling tries, the largest mobile construction crane permitted in New York City, and dozens of dedicated employees, contract and subcontract workers to pull off the project after hours from Dec. 1–3. The successful installation of the new chiller and other building upgrades are expected to save taxpayers nearly $1 million annually, while also increasing cooling capacity.

Aligning schedules, traffic and weather

The operation finally came to fruition on an unseasonably warm and calm weekend in December. The first scheduled date conflicted with the New York City Marathon that required citywide road closures. On the second scheduled date, the forecasted winds exceeded the maximum allowed for the crane operation. “The crane in its current configuration is only rated for 15.6 mph winds, which is not a lot,” said Barry Lichtenstein, master rigger, ABLE Rigging Contractors.

The successful attempt over the weekend was the last opportunity to complete the work this calendar year, because scheduling on other weekends would not work for all of the partners involved. With unseasonably warm temperatures in the 50s and single-digit winds, the weather, traffic and coordination all aligned to make the project a go on the last opportunity this year.

Aligning the maneuver path

As the Eastern District of New York judiciary employees wrapped up work Friday evening, work began quickly to take out concrete slabs, similar to table leaves, in the roof to create the opening that the old machinery would go out of and the new machinery would go in through.

The old chillers and new chiller equipment had to traverse three penthouse floors from and to the mechanical room on the 14th floor, so ducting in the maneuver path had to be disassembled and removed. As that was happening into the overnight hours, the crane was driven in and 11 flatbed trucks carried the hydraulic boom, lattice, counterweights totaling 240,000 pounds, and other crane parts.

Workers used a smaller assist crane and took about five hours to assemble the massive crane on the ground, Lichtenstein said. “We wanted to be able to hoist in daylight, so we built the crane at night, so it was ready to rig first thing in the morning.”

The crane had a capacity of 600 tons and a reach of 440 feet, according to Lichtenstein. The heaviest piece of equipment the crane hoisted was 22,000 pounds, according to Drew Holness, GSA Region 2 equipment specialist for Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens.

After a safety briefing at daybreak, workers began hoisting the old disassembled chiller components out of the building through the roof. Because most of the rigging contract staff began the shift at midnight, the work paused after the old units were removed until the next shift the following day to begin inserting the new chiller components.

With more than a dozen heavy pieces going in and out of a small opening about 175 feet in the air, perfect alignment in all ways was vital to successful extraction and insertion.

Leveraging innovative energy savings performance contracts

Installing the new chiller is one of 98 energy conservation measures being implemented throughout 10 federal buildings in GSA’s Region 2. The 98 ECMs make up a $180 million energy savings performance contract with Trane that is expected to save the government $193 million -- or an average of $10.7 million annually -- over the nearly 18-year contract.

 largest mobile crane allowed in New York City hoists a piece of a more energy-efficient chiller to the roof.
The largest mobile crane allowed in New York City hoists a piece of a more energy-efficient chiller to the roof of the Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn to be inserted through a temporary opening in the roof and down to the 14th floor. Photograph by Alison Kohler

“It’s very important to make these upgrades, because this equipment has much larger cooling capacity and gives us redundancy from the old courthouse to the new courthouse,” Holness said. This means that if one building loses cooling capability, the other building has a back-up.

The major mechanical replacement will leverage new technology to improve efficiency and save money. “The advantage of this new unit is that it’s a newer technology, a newer version of its kind, so it’s more energy efficient. With upgrades to the building automation system, basically the control system, it’s going to allow the building to operate much more efficiently and lower overall energy usage,” said Justin Johansen, project manager for Trane.

piece of the old chiller is moved to be lowered some 175 feet below to a flatbed trailer on the street.
Drew Holness, equipment specialist for GSA Region 2, watches from the roof of the Theodore Roosevelt U.S. Courthouse in Brooklyn as a piece of the old chiller is moved to be lowered some 175 feet below to a flatbed trailer on the street. Photograph by Alison Kohler

The coordination and logistics of so many figurative and literal moving parts required many meetings, detailed schedules and sequencing, along with cooperation by New York City Department of Buildings, New York City Department of Transportation, the EDNY judiciary, the U.S. Marshals Service, the contractors and subcontractors and GSA.

From traffic, wind and schedules to expert crane operators and riggers, the weekend project was successful as all of the pieces were aligned and timed right.

“The coordination is very significant. The logistics and coordination takes a lot of planning,” Holness said.

Last Reviewed: 2017-12-07