UAB District Steam System construction project to begin

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UAB Senior Project Manager Jerry Corvin has met with members of the consulting and design team planning every minute detail on the UAB District Steam System Project for the past two years. The engineering and design discussions have been intense — five days a week for the past year.

steam_plant_webIn the coming days, all the behind-the-scenes work will start to manifest itself in public when construction begins on the $69 million project.

“Practically everything we are building for this project is new,” Corvin says. “The construction schedules are very complex and detailed, and this has been a diligent process. And we know that at the best, there will be some issues.”

The District Steam System Project project was approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees this past June. Alabama Power Co. will shut down its existing steam plant in 2013, which makes this project a necessary addition to the campus. The new steam-generation plant will be located at the corner of Sixth Avenue South and 13th Street, across from Bartow Arena and adjacent to the existing Alabama Power plant. The new distribution network will replace the existing steam system and construction of a new condensate-return system will provide high-quality steam service to the campus, research and medical center facilities, including the VA Hospital, Callahan Eye Hospital and Southern Research Institute when Alabama Power discontinues its steam operation in February 2013. The new condensate-recovery system will result in energy savings and reduction of domestic water consumption, which supports UAB’s Green Policy.

Active construction on the project is expected to begin in May and be completed in October 2012. The new plant and systems then will go through a period of commissioning and reliability testing and be brought completely online in February 2013.

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More than 20,000 linear feet of piping — the equivalent of almost four miles — will be used, and Corvin says the enormity of the construction will affect campus traffic on foot and by vehicle.

Approximately 55 to 60 percent of the project will be confined to campus property. Some sidewalks and streets will be affected, including some of the newly paved streets.

While the unknown always brings its own set of fears for a project of this scope, Corvin’s team has worked closely with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the City of Birmingham to ensure plans are in place to minimize inconveniences to campus traffic. Weekly construction schedules will be made available to the public at, still under construction. Detailed information, including maps, construction projects, a frequently asked questions (FAQs) section and an email address, also will be made available.

In addition to the website, project progress — including planned traffic and parking disruptions — will be regularly communicated through The UAB Reporter, The eReporter and GreenMail. Those communications will begin in the coming days and continue throughout the construction.

“Our goal is to be able to keep everyone informed on the construction sequences, traffic impact, dates and more,” Corvin says. “There will be some inconveniences for foot and vehicle traffic. But, the contract documents require the general contractors to coordinate and comply with Americans with Disabilities Act access, fire, emergency, building deliveries — all of those things. By working in conjunction with our contractors, we’ll be in position with our website to adequately communicate to the campus the status of the project on a weekly basis.”

The first phase of construction centers on installing the new network that will replace the existing steam-distribution system.

Russo Corporation of Birmingham was the successful bidder for the South Loop construction package. They are in the process of mobilizing for construction and anticipate beginning activities early in May. One of the first construction activities crucial in the South Loop package is the crossing of University Boulevard at Parking Lot 5A to the Campus Recreation Center.

“That’s one of the first critical segments of construction,” Corvin says. “We’ll have to get manholes built and do the actual piping installation and crossing within a required 10-day period during the summer and be complete by Aug. 15. We’ve developed a traffic plan with ALDOT to maintain traffic flow on University during this phase.”

The North Loop and steam-generation plant package bids will be received May 10 and May 12, respectively. The mechanical process package will bid in late June. The condensate-recovery packages, which will retrofit approximately 20 buildings that receive steam to capture the condensate and reuse it, will bid in August and September as four separate projects.

A request for purchase on the boilers should be completed in the coming days. They are committed for delivery and set to be fitted into the plant in late December.

“We’re excited about getting this project under way,” Corvin says. “We’ve got this pretty well planned to where we believe the impact on street crossings and traffic will be minimized. We’re asking for patience and understanding. We understand it’s an inconvenience to our campus. At the same time it has to be done to provide future service to our campus, hospital and research buildings.

“We’ve tried to keep the fact that this is an urban campus at the forefront of the minds of everyone involved in design and construction of the project. Everybody’s on board, but things will happen. They always do.”