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Answering the Call: Austin Relentless Ally Keeps State Office Building Operational with A/C Fix

We recognize each construction project starts with a dream. The dream can take the form of many different building types, and each one is unique. Sometimes, the “dream” means solving an emergency. That’s when having a Relentless Ally — someone to call on when it matters most — can turn a potential nightmare scenario into a sigh of relief.

On June 4th, 2015, with Austin settling into a long hot summer, senior project manager Jeff Askins got a call from the director of facilities operations at the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC), a longtime Balfour Beatty client responsible for the state’s real estate portfolio. A gear box in the cooling tower for one of the towers at the William P. Hobby building had exploded. The cooling tower water cools the condensers that feed conditioned air to the building. Without it, the 13-story state office building on the capitol complex would have to close, idling several hundred workers for two weeks. 

Having worked in the building previously, Jeff knew the mechanical systems. He and a team from Balfour Beatty, including David Simonton, director of operations/large projects, and senior superintendent Richard Trahan, and Jacobs Engineering, mobilized and were on site within hours. Together they devised a plan on the spot to keep the building operational while a new gear box for the cooling tower was rebuilt. Due to its age, the gearbox would take two weeks to replace.

The temporary solution involved cutting off the return water from the condensers. The return water was diverted to the roof drains to prevent hot water from recycling to the cooling tower. The basin float was removed to allow additional water to flow to the cooling tower; an additional water line was connected to the cooling tower so more water could fill the basin. In addition, the team brought in an ice machine and added approximately 2,000 lbs. of block ice to provide additional cooling to the condensing water. Richard and Superintendent John Cornelius monitored the building around the clock for the next two weeks until the new gearbox was installed.

Balfour Beatty answered the call. Problem solved.