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The LiRo Group Completes Installation of New York City’s First Antimicrobial Cooling Tower at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in the Bronx

NYC Health + Hospitals, The LiRo Group, and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) have completed the installation of the first antimicrobial cooling tower ever installed in New York City. The specially designed, highly efficient cooling tower was installed on the roof of NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, a medical center located at 234 Eugenio Maria De Hostos Boulevard (also known as East 149th Street) in the South Bronx. As Owner’s Representative for NYPA, The LiRo Group has managed the entire design and construction process for the new system.

Lincoln Medical Center cooling tower 663 med.
Lincoln Medical Center cooling tower 663 med.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln is a full-service acute care hospital and is considered one of the premier trauma centers in the country. The hospital’s Level 1 Trauma Center is the busiest in the northeast, with 144,000 emergency department (ED) visits and 550,000 clinic visits each year. The hospital houses 362 beds.

The new tower not only supports the air conditioning system, but also offers antimicrobial features that significantly reduce the risk of harmful bacteria that sometimes grow in less advanced cooling towers. The new cooling towers replace ones that had reached their expected end of life. While the old system never contributed to any health concerns, leaders at the hospital nevertheless saw an opportunity to increase protections. Following research of replacements models, the cooling tower model selected was chosen because of several innovations.

“The $11.5M project incorporated installation of both the new cooling tower and a new, energy-efficient roof. The old cooling tower and roof were original to the building, which was built in 1972. The new equipment and roofing materials provide NYC Health + Hospitals, NYPA, and the Lincoln facility itself with an incredibly efficient, cost-saving, and ultra-reliable infrastructure. The new cooling system is expected to lower the energy cost by 40 percent in comparison to the operational costs of the retired system,” said Luis M. Tormenta, PE, LiRo’s Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chairman. “In addition to providing antibacterial properties, the new tower requires a great deal less maintenance than the outdated unit we took down,” Tormenta continued.

“We worked with New York Power Authority’s team to ensure that the new cooling towers would be as energy-efficient as possible,” said Louis Iglhaut, associate executive director at NYC Health + Hospitals, who led the team responsible for selecting and installing the new cooling towers. “Our old towers used large, 48-horsepower fans on each unit, which required the use of a lot of electric power. The new modular units are equipped with smaller 5-horsepower, 18-inch fans, so the energy consumption is far less.” He adds that they also installed variable-frequency drives, which increase energy savings.

“New York City’s public health officials have worked proactively to curb outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in the five boroughs,” said New York State Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “But Legionnaires’ is unpredictable and difficult to eradicate. By installing this state-of-the-art technology, Health + Hospitals is continuing to act with vigilance and prudence to protect the people of New York City.”

Enhanced safety to the community was a significant factor. The model selected has features that prevent or impede the potential growth of bacteria, including Legionella, which can cause a type of pneumonia commonly known as Legionnaires’ disease. The shells within the towers that hold the water are infused with an antimicrobial resin-wide-spectrum additives that operate on a cellular level to continuously disrupt and prevent uncontrolled growth of microorganisms and biofilm. In addition, while traditional metal cooling towers are vulnerable to corrosion from salt air and industrial gasses, the new towers’ high-density polyethylene design is resistant to such corrosion. Moreover, it is also resistant to the harsh chemicals required for use in treating the recirculating water and cleaning the towers.

In addition, the shells that hold the water have a rounded shape, as opposed to the boxy shape of traditional shells, with corners in which water moves less and bacterial growth can flourish. The rounded shapes do not allow water to become dangerously stagnant in spots.

Another major appeal of the model was the promise of energy savings. To meet the city’s mandate to save on energy, NYC Health + Hospitals teamed up with the New York Power Authority, a state power organization dedicated to innovative and energy-efficient infrastructure. NYPA retained The LiRo Group, a leading U.S. engineering, technology, and construction management firm based in Manhattan and Syosset, NY to oversee the project as Owner’s Representative.

The new cooling tower is composed of 24 model TM-605412 units by Delta Cooling Towers, organized in three sections, with a cooling capacity of 1,692 tons per section. The tower provides a cooling capacity of approximately 5,076 tons total. Before this project started, the hospital had five Marley units with a total capacity of 5,000 tons. Due to its efficiency, the new system will provide an annual energy use saving of approximately 239,376kw, which represents savings of $26,332 per year.

In addition to NYPA, LiRo, and manufacturer Delta Cooling Towers, the project team included contractor Maric Mechanical, Inc., and Engineer of Record Lizardos Engineering Associates, P.C.

A Meticulous Process

As an extremely busy, operating hospital, at almost no time could Lincoln be without operating air conditioning. In fact, the hospital uses air conditioning a full 10 months out of the year – even, at times, in the month of February.

“Sometimes I think professionals like engineers and builders should be judged by things that don’t happen in the hospital,” said Milton Nuñez, chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln. “In this case, the cooling tower went in seamlessly without interruptions to any patient areas. It was up and running with zero downtime. I commend the engineering and construction team of NYPA, LiRo, Maric, and Delta for an excellent job, from the product selection through the installation. It’s a strong message to our community that we care about their safety.”

The first part of the construction process was to take down the old cooling tower. This had to be done in sections due to the size of the old units. As they were made of metal, the team disassembled the units using saw blades and torches. LiRo phased the project in such a way that there were only a couple of selected and predetermined hours when there was no air conditioning. This was pre-planned so that the days without air conditioning were in January. Further, the project team sequenced this process in such a way that when one or two units were taken off line, a new unit was added. LiRo used a system of signoffs and reviews to help track how much air conditioning the hospital would be provided at any given time.

Once the old tower had been fully taken down, the new cooling tower – with units made of Polyethylene (HDPE) – could be completed and activated. Polyethylene is easier to keep clean and maintain and much lighter. All sections of the new tower had to be brought up using an extremely large crane. “The new tower had to be rigged in place 50 feet in the air with the crane. We had to do this over a period of several days,” said LiRo Project Executive, Marco Barbosa. “We had the tower delivered in three modules, each module with six units. We lifted one unit at a time for a total of eighteen picks.”

In order to meet all deadlines and ensure the hospital had adequate air conditioning at all times, there were many days where the team worked extended hours and on weekends.

A Matter of Safety

The LiRo team put various measures in place to ensure the safety of patients, staff, and visitors at all times. For example, each unit weighed 4,000 pounds and it had to be lifted 50 feet up in the air and onto the roof, with numerous people and emergency vehicles typically coming and going below and around the crane operation. Therefore, LiRo orchestrated a series of street closures to ensure the safety of those going into and coming out of the hospital.

According to Christopher Lynch, LiRo’s Project Manager, “Several nearby structures added to the logistical challenges. For example, the hospital’s heating and cooling plant is a five-story structure located next to the emergency department. Rigging the pipes and other equipment into place five stories up when you have a very busy ED was challenging, so we had to carefully plan all operations in minute detail and well in advance,” he added. Similarly, whenever the team had to shut down a street, they were extremely careful to keep other roads open.

The construction team also had to be exceedingly careful when scheduling the deliveries of equipment and materials onto the site, as Lincoln’s emergency department could at times have up to 20 ambulances – complete with lights and sirens – coming in each hour. At no time could construction vehicles block access to the ED. LiRo had 6 flagmen on duty to help direct human and vehicular traffic. There are a great number of people in that area who are going into and out of the hospital campus on foot, and the team had to think through – and plan for – all of the possible contingencies when something interrupted the flow of such traffic.

Finally, the hospital is located next door to a school. Therefore, the team had to coordinate with the school’s administrative staff to schedule work around the flow of school buses as well as around school-related events and activities such as fire drills, and the like.

Due to LiRo’s expert operations planning and extensive safety precautions, the project was completed on time and without any safety incidents.

About The LiRo Group

The LiRo Group, a national project and construction management, architecture, engineering, and technology firm, was founded in 1983. Headquartered in Syosset, New York, the company operates regional offices throughout New York State, in New York City, Hicksville, Holbrook, Buffalo, and Rochester. LiRo’s offices are also located in Jersey City, New Jersey; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Stamford, Connecticut. The company employs over 900 construction managers, engineers, architects, planners, BIM and GIS specialists, and other construction and support professionals nationwide. LiRo’s 2017 revenues exceeded $400 million.

LiRo’s current and recent projects in New York City and throughout New York State include the $375 million, state-of-the-art Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo; the $370 million Stony Brook University Medical and Research Translation (MART) Building and Hospital Pavilion in Stony Brook, New York; the $10.2 billion East Side Access Long Island Rail Road expansion; the $30 million restoration of Pier A and the $12 million SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park; the $60 million CUNY School of Architecture; $180 million worth of projects at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, including the National Synchrotron Light Source II; the $228.5 million High Line Park; the new $600 million Kosciuszko Bridge; the new $3.8 billion Tappan Zee Bridge; the $240 million Staten Island Siphon tunnel; the $2.4 billion Number 7 Subway Line Extension; the $220 million Governors Island, New York, Infrastructure Improvements; the $363 million Build It Back post-Hurricane Sandy housing recovery program; the $750 million housing recovery program for the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR); New York City’s $640 million post-Hurricane Sandy Rapid Repairs temporary shelter-in-place program; the State of New Jersey’s $650 million housing Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation, and Mitigation (RREM) program;

The firm’s projects throughout the U.S. also include construction management services for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 800-school construction and modernization program; the new Vista Mesa Middle School in Los Angeles; Centinela Valley Union High School District facilities planning and construction program management; the $90 million California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Health Care Facility Improvement Program; the $165 million Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ Shelter at Home program; and the $49 million Southern Connecticut State University Academic and Laboratory Building in New Haven, Connecticut.

Outside of the continental United States, LiRo recently performed damage assessment and developing scopes of work for the repairs and replacements of roadways and bridges damaged by Hurricanes Maria and Irma on the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas.

About NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln

NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln, located at 234 East 149th Street in the Bronx, is a 362-bed, Acute Care Level 1 Trauma Center with the busiest single site emergency department in the region. Recognized as a “2013 Top Performer on Key Quality Measures” by The Joint Commission, receiving top grades in Leapfrog Scores Safety in 2015 and 2017, and acknowledged with High Performing ranks in U.S. News & World Report in 2017 and 2018, the hospital emphasizes primary care and specialty medicine and uses the latest advances in medical science.

It has designations as a Breast Center of Excellence, Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, Diabetes Education Center of Excellence, and others. Lincoln’s Primary Stroke Center has The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Gold Plus and Target Plus Honor Elite awards. Its Hemodialysis Unit is The Joint Commission accredited, as is the hospital’s Palliative Care Service.

About NYC Health + Hospitals

NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest public health care system in the nation, serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 42,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or Twitter at @NYCHealthSystem.

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