Changing Specs: The Proof Is in the Pudding

NASHVILLE, TN — As a self-professed tech-forward company that is continuously looking to explore new technologies, Aaron Trask, ASPE, CPD, vice president, and his team at Parkway Construction Services, Nashville and St. Louis, left no stone left unturned when addressing the challenges associated with plumbing a new multi-purpose building on the campus of Meharry Medical College in downtown Nashville. Parkway Construction Services won the bid for the new six-story facility, which features 126 apartment-style units, flexible teaching spaces, a parking garage, retail spaces, offices and more.

A family-owned, union contractor that has been in business 30 years, Parkway Construction is in the business of solving problems. The Meharry campus project, in particular, was a fast-paced job and very tightly coordinated. Building information modeling (BIM) was used to facilitate this project because each room was its own system, and, as a result, added extra pipe to the job over a typical installation.

So, when the original spec for copper piping was replaced with PEXa piping, the proof needed to be in the pudding, so to speak. You see, when installing a plumbing system in a facility, the costs for the plumbing contractor often break down primarily into two categories: one, the materials—the initial cost of the piping and fittings, and two, the labor—the installation time, and the time to repair any leaks and finish the job. 

Changing the Spec

“Changing a major aspect of a spec is never easy, and it usually isn’t entertained unless there are significant cost savings,” says Trask. “We proposed it as a value engineering option because we knew it would save money and add value to the project.”

But even Trask was pleasantly surprised by the extent of the savings he accrued in labor costs—both in installation and final inspection—with the PEXa brand he selected. “We turned on the water to more than 4,000 connections with the REHAU RAUPEX pipe/EVERLOC+ fitting PEXa system and there were no leaks. None. Zero,” says Trask.

And while the REHAU system didn’t have any leaks, “That’s very unusual,” says Trask. “I would say with this number of fittings, 126 units with bathroom, kitchen and water heaters, and all the other spaces, that’s a lot of plumbing, and 50 or so initial leaks would be pretty normal. But zero leaks means zero rework, and that’s money in your pocket.”

Moreover, while the scope of this project—with an average of six guys on the job—took almost a year to complete, “We did this during the COVID-19 pandemic so supply chain issues were prevalent, but we were able to get the product no problem.”

While Trask is very familiar with PEXa products, he had never used RAUPEX pipe or EVERLOC+ fittings, but was confident in the recommendation of his supplier Kenny Pipe & Supply. “It was extremely easy for my guys to pick up,” says Trask.

Fast, High-Performing

Once Trask and his team got rolling, they immediately noticed differences compared to their many prior PEXa installs, quickly gaining confidence in the speed and confidence in the REHAU system that they were soon plumbing four rooms per day, not to mention having the added safety benefits of a flameless installation.

“RAUPEX pipe combined with EVERLOC+ fittings are not only the fastest installing and best performing PEXa system there is, they are also very competitively priced,” says Chris Richey of Kenny Pipe & Supply. Trask concurs, “We definitely saved money in labor and material over copper and I would say the total savings were very significant.”

The EVERLOC+ fittings are installed with a fast, consistent, nearly foolproof process requiring only two expansions and one compression, utilizing an easy-to-use proprietary tool. Basically, the installer expands the pipe, puts the fitting in, and the sleeve compresses the pipe over the fitting to create the seal. Further, the fittings have a textured PEXa compression sleeve with four sealing edges that protect against leaks.

And remember that proof in the pudding? “With the EVERLOC+ fitting, it just takes a few steps to create a true mechanical joint that doesn’t solely rely on the memory of the pipe, so you can immediately see that the connection is made successfully and is leak-tight,” says Trask, who also noted that the RAUPEX pipe with EVERLOC+ fitting system allows you to do a pressure test immediately without waiting for the pipe to naturally reform after expansion. 

Better All-Around

An added bonus, Trask mentions that with other tradespeople on the jobsite, such as drywallers and the general contractor, they often watch the pressure test and prepare to help mitigate any typical ancillary damage that might occur from initial system leaks. “When we pressure test, we use small hydrostatic pumps usually; we will use air tests when we have to, but prefer water tests,” says Trask.

And those other tradespeople on the jobsite? They seemed to be aware that there were no leaks at all, so people were surprised and talking about it. “And that reflects well on me and my company,” says Trask.


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