RTM Engineering Consultants

By Jessica Kacmar

RATIO Architects awarded RTM Engineering Consultants (RTM)—as part of an A/E design team—the contract for MEP services for the overall renovation planned for the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Library of the Health Sciences located at 1750 W. Polk St.

Construction began in June to repurpose existing library space in order to better meet the needs of current and future students. This marks the first major renovation since the library was completed in 1972.  

In a recent article published by the UIC News Center, a spokesperson describing the renovation said, “The new first floor will have 33 percent more user space, including 12 open study rooms with individual and group workstations, a reading room, an imaging studio with a 70-inch flat panel and touch-interactive display, a lobby display wall and a sunny 1,300-square-foot café that will serve fresh coffee and packaged foods.”

As a full-service MEP firm, RTM is uniquely qualified to meet the client’s goals and objectives of the project. RTM leverages 34 years of experience to successfully design MEP systems for collegiate buildings while also being well-versed in the requirements for private and public sectors. 

Specific to the Library of the Health Sciences renovation, RTM provided  plumbing and fire protection services to support bathroom renovations on the first floor, the addition of the café, as well as upgrading fire protection and sprinkler systems to the basement, second and third floors. RTM also was tasked with retrofitting the mechanical room to accommodate system upgrades without increasing the building footprint.

Challenges

Built in 1972, the Library of the Health Sciences needed a variety of upgrades and modifications to modernize the building while protecting the staff, patrons and contents of the library.

  “Given the age of the building and client’s goals for modernization, this project presented a number of unique challenges,” stated Jaclyn Baker, project engineer at RTM. “The most significant challenge related to integrating existing fire protection and sprinkler systems with new systems while retrofitting the mechanical room to accommodate both.” 

The existing sprinkler system protected only the basement and consisted of three pre-action zones. A new system was required to cover the balance of the building. An integrated fire protection system required the addition of new equipment that the existing mechanical room could not accommodate – including a new fire pump and sprinkler piping for the test header and a commercial pre-action valve cabinet. 

Adding to the challenges of the project, fire codes for educational facilities are particularly rigorous and, at times, difficult to navigate. RTM overcame this obstacle by working closely with state regulators and the office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal to ensure the building met Illinois fire code standards. Although the UIC library is in Chicago, it follows the state code as a part of the Illinois university system. 

Solutions

With any project, RTM conducts multiple site visits to evaluate the scope of work and develop a detailed plan. For this project, the site visits helped analyze the existing duct work and piping prior to recommending a cost-effective, integrated fire protection and sprinkler solution.

While evaluating the scope of the project, RTM determined that a full pre-action fire protection system would exceed the project budget. RTM’s team of engineers collaborated with the client and ultimately recommended a cost-savings solution that involved the installation of a wet pipe fire sprinkler system along with three additional pre-action zones, bringing the total number to six pre-action zones. The extra zones were dedicated to keep the library’s special collection areas well protected. 

To make room for necessary new equipment, domestic system booster pumps were removed to allow for installation of the new fire pump in the mechanical room. New booster pumps were installed on an existing concrete pad in the basement, and RTM found routing in the ceiling of the basement so the new fire pump test header could discharge to grade and meet code. 

Results

From concept development to system design and installation, RTM’s team of engineers leveraged their experience to complete the Library of the Health Sciences project on time and within budget. 

“Whether working on a renovation or a ground-up project, RTM engineers utilize their years of expertise to suit client goals and objectives,” stated Tony Mirchandani, chief executive officer of RTM. “Projects like the Library of the Health Sciences give our engineers an opportunity to flex their problem-solving and project-management skills while achieving cost-effective, long-term solutions.” 

Established in 1981 and headquartered outside Chicago, RTM Engineering Consultants integrates MEP/FP and civil engineering services with sustainable design. The firm goes beyond a typical consulting role and becomes a partner to clients by aligning with the goals, processes, and people at each organization. Licensed in all 50 states of the U.S., its portfolio spans major market sectors. Visit www.rtmassociates.com.

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