Postal facility’s $1.5M boiler project opens market to L.I. engineering firm (Published in Fairfield County Business Journal and Westchester County Business Journal)
By Phil Hall
May 17, 2021
For many years, the Long Island-based H2M Architects & Engineers Inc. was eager to get into the Fairfield County market. Founded in 1933, H2M is a consulting and design firm serving municipalities, public agencies, private utilities and industries on projects ranging from water treatment facilities to civil engineering to municipal planning.
The company’s absence from Fairfield County was curious because it had clients in all of the surrounding markets but never had the opportunity within the county itself. And then, earlier this year, the opportunity finally arose due to a boiler plant in need of replacement in the Bridgeport U.S. Postal Service facility.
“We have a pretty long relationship with the postal service,” said James J. Roberts, the company’s senior vice president. “We’ve been doing work for them in New York City, Long Island, upstate and in New Jersey for many years and we work on an as-needed basis. We have a contract that allows them to use our services wherever they see fit. And, frankly, I think one of their project managers just came to the realization that, ‘Hey, you guys might be able to help us out here.’”
The project is budgeted at $1.5 million and involves the replacement of the postal facility’s steam boiler plant and related systems. The sizes of the new boilers are 75hp and 3,172,000 BTU units — in comparison, residential hot water heaters are typically between 40,000 and 50,000 BTU — and H2M will be adding new controls and computer automation as well.
The existing steam system is approximately 30 years old and Roberts said that the life expectancy of these systems is always in flux.
“Technology changes and that is the driver on many of these types of projects,” he said. “We’re looking at the amount of maintenance and operational costs that go into running the day-to-day plants and systems. And there’s so much attention being given to efficiencies — the word ‘green’ tagged to everything — that look to make sure that whatever we’re installing for today’s environment is as efficient and useful to the client as possible.”
While Roberts praised the postal service for maintaining its system for as long as it did, he lamented that not everyone was as diligent when it came to maintenance.
“Unfortunately, you get many clients who sort of let things go,” he said. “It’s just like owning a home — how many people change their hot water heaters before they break?”
Work on replacing the system will not require a shutdown of the facility, with Roberts pointing out that “a construction project like this could take anywhere from nine months to 18 months.”
The Bridgeport project follows an H2M assignment across the county line in Milford that involved a $1.5 million rehabilitation project for South Central Regional Water Authority’s 1-million-gallon potable water storage tank. Unlike the Bridgeport endeavor, the steel tank dates from 2000 and required a full coating rehabilitation that can give it an additional 15-to-20-year life expectancy.
Roberts expressed hope that the two shoreline projects will be the start of his company’s further expansion into the state.
“When we look at Connecticut south of the Merritt, it is the closest mirror image we have to the North Shore of Long Island,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities for infrastructure improvements, and the Biden administration is poised to put serious money where its mouth is for infrastructure spending.”