HVAC: Big Clients Require Big Partners

JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s global headquarters becomes AABCO’s next commercial HVAC client in NYC.

When finished, the JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s 70-story tower will be twice as high as the building it's replacing.

AABCO Sheet Metal Co., Inc. of Maspeth, New York, specializes in meeting the unique needs of commercial towers that exceed 850 feet, including the new supertalls that dot the New York City skyline. They have honed their expertise by installing air distribution systems for most of the commercial towers that have been built in New York City over the last 20 years. AABCO clients include titans like the Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, both towers of Manhattan West, One Vanderbilt, and the tallest building in the western hemisphere: the One World Trade Center or Freedom Tower. Now AABCO is adding the JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s new global headquarters, a 2.8-million-square-foot facility, to that illustrious roster. 

The 70-story tower is going up at 270 Park Avenue, New York, the same lot where JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s previous headquarters stood. The neighborhood has been a commercial hub since the completion of Grand Central Terminal in 1913. “What’s interesting about this project is that it’s literally on top of the north end of Grand Central Station,” says Richard Minieri, president of AABCO’s affiliate, ASM Mechanical Systems, in Maspeth, New York. The site is bounded by Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, with East 47th and East 48th Streets on either side. “It takes up one square block, so it’s a massive project in the middle of New York City. JPMorgan Chase’s name is renowned around the world, and to be part of this project is really special. It’s also our forte.” 


The heart of Manhattan is full of high rises, but at 1,388 feet, the new JPMorgan Chase building will tower over most of its neighbors. Its final height will be over twice as high as the building it’s replacing and just 400 feet short of the One World Trade Center. 

Giant clients require giant partners, so AABCO fabricates all duct in-house. “Some of the ductwork exceeds 12 feet wide and 7 feet high,” Minieri says. This project will demand about 4 million pounds of duct. It will keep 50 to 60 sheet metal workers busy fabricating for 18 to 24 months. “We’re using all different kinds of metals, 22- to 16-gauge galvanized steel, 16-gauge stainless steel, 10-gauge black iron, as well as aluminum ductwork.” 

The AABCO shop is only 5 or 6 miles from 270 Park Avenue. Still, transporting 4 million pounds of metal any distance takes planning and care. “It’s not easy to stack the duct on the truck because of its bulk,” Minieri says. Each shipment requires loading/unloading crews at three locations: a team at the shop to load the truck, a team at the bottom of the building site to move materials from the truck to the Alimak lift, and a team at the actual worksite to unload the lift and distribute the metal. Access to the lift is on a tight schedule. “We are not the only contractor on the job, so the vertical transportation is everyone’s vertical transportation.” 

The whole project will take about three years from design to finish. “We can only move as quickly as the building goes up,” Minieri says. The general contractor allowed AABCO to start installing once the building was 10 stories high, and the AABCO team works within five stories of the top. “As the building grows, and we cover more floors, we can get 30 to 40 people onsite. Think about the active work area like an accordion that stretches to have more coverage.” For efficiency, AABCO matches the pace of work to the overall building construction. “We stay as close to the top as we can to minimize our exposure.” The tower is about 30 percent complete. 

A suggestion Minieri made for One World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, influenced the JPMorgan Chase project. “In New York, we have the greatest engineers in the world,” he says. “Once in a while, they call us because of our experience.” Minieri brings a practical perspective to planning sessions. “They’ve got to allow their designs to be built.” When he checked over the plans for the Freedom Tower, he noticed a riser in the middle of a massive shaft, where it was inaccessible. “They asked what we needed to install this type of riser in the shaft, and I told them to put some steel girders on every other floor.” The girders give sheet metal workers locations to attach the lifts and scaffolding they need to work this riser. The engineers followed a similar design for the JPMorgan Chase project.

This project is on an unusual plan, with a centralized HVAC system. Instead of scattering mechanical rooms throughout the facility, AABCO is installing 15 mechanical floors. “There are no offices on those floors; they are just strictly mechanical rooms,” Minieri says. “If you think about the project footprint, these rooms are huge. Each level is 1 square block of machines.”