Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Powering Up the Historic Power and Light Building

The Power and Light Building, Portland, Oregon

Retrofitting older buildings often comes with a host of challenges, and at least a few surprises. Not so much for the MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions team that upgraded the HVAC mechanical systems in the historic Power and Light Building in Portland, Oregon.

Having served as the preventive maintenance contractor for the property, MacDonald-Miller staff were familiar with the structure and existing systems, including potential obstacles.

“The timeline of the job was the most difficult detail,” said Kristen Killen, a service special projects account manager for SMACNA member MacDonald-Miller. “We got a notice to proceed with the HVAC design the first week of January 2018, with an anticipated completion date of May 15 for the first of three floors.”

MacDonald-Miller upgraded the HVAC systems.The tight deadline was from the tenant WeWork, a company offering custom-shared office space in urban locations around the world. WeWork proceeds with a project only when tenants have signed to their space. When We- Work called, MacDonald Miller had to act quickly to propose, design, and immediately commence work on schedule to build this nearly $2-million, 50,000-square-foot, fast-tracked project.

“It really benefits being a onestop- shop design-build contractor,” Killen added, “That made it easier, because we had more control over all the processes.”

MacDonald-Miller is the largest service provider in the Northwest. They can service every part of a building including equipment, building automation, and conduct energy studies/incentives.  

“Being a regional contractor like this with a true design-build culture makes MacDonald-Miller different,” Killen said. “We know their buildings inside and out from our service relationship and we can use that knowledge with our special projects team and in-house engineering to identify problems before the customer even knows about them. We can help plan future growth or replacements, and truly make their buildings run better.  

Justin Kopta, a project manager with MacDonald-Miller, made sure to get ahead of potential issues with a lot of in-person coordination. 

“As a team working under pressure, it is critical that everyone communicates,” he explained. “Appropriate individuals need to be made aware of issues as they arise, and questions need to be answered as quickly as possible to prevent schedule disruptions. During these pressure situations, I prefer to get frequent progress reports from our field crews to ensure that the crews have everything they need to succeed.” Such communication was important to coordinate crossing trades, for example, when everyone was working around an elevator bank in the center of the building. 

MacDonald-Miller also updated an existing hydronic system on three separate floors by upgrading the existing original hot water/chilled water perimeter radiators with four-pipe heating hot water and chilled water fan coil units on the perimeter, and variable air volume (VAV) boxes for the internal zones. Additionally, they upgraded the existing pneumatic controls systems with a new Honeywell WEBs building automation system. 

Killen attributes their success in landing this job to being involved in the preventive maintenance of the Power and Light building’s boilers and chiller.  

“We replaced two 200-ton chillers in the basement with a new 400-ton chiller last summer with property management company JLL,” she said. “They recommended us to their new tenant’s general contractor HST Construction.”  

Now Kopta, Killen, and the rest of the MacDonald-Miller team are well underway with a second phase of the project—upgrading mechanical systems for other floors in the Power and Light Building. 

“We've done the work, so we know what needs to happen and the work moves faster,” said Kopta. “Working under pressure often underscores the strength of our team and commitment to our customers.”

Read about McDonald Miller's Work on the Power and Light Building »