Renovating San Fran Hotel’s OPL Not Without Challenges, Contractor Says

Charles Berge |

Editor’s Note: Equipment installation in an existing laundry is rarely done without having to meet certain construction challenges. Charles Berge of American Laundry Systems, a full-service mechanical contractor catering exclusively to the commercial laundry industry, recounts his company’s latest project.
SAN FRANCISCO — American Laundry Systems (ALS) recently completed the second phase of a three-phase laundry renovation with Ellis Corp. here at the Hilton San Francisco.
This is the second major laundry renovation since it opened many years ago (the first was needed after a fire in the laundry). At that time, the laundry upgraded from side-loading washer-extractors to 700-pound, rapid-load washer-extractors loaded by chute from the soil room above.
However, we discovered this phase of the renovation would be major. All washers (four 700-pound machines) and dryers (two 450-pound machines) were being replaced by a new Ellis 360 Sequential Tunnel Washing System. All existing wash floor equipment was either being removed or relocated.MAJOR ISSUES TO OVERCOME
Hotel laundries are often not in a location that’s conducive to renovating. This laundry is located in a subbasement two floors below street level. There is no loading dock, so all equipment would have to be delivered through the parking garage. The Hilton had to create an opening from the garage to the laundry for equipment access during the first renovation, but there is a 33-degree incline and several feet in height to negotiate.
As each washer-extractor was hauled out of the laundry, it had to be turned onto its side before being placed on the garage floor. It was then skated up to the street and loaded onto a waiting truck. The motor mount atop each machine had to be removed so the equipment could fit under the laundry’s piping.
Access through the parking garage presented a greater challenge. Such garages aren’t blessed with 12-foot-high ceilings for moving large pieces of laundry equipment in and out. The low point was 82 inches — that’s right, only 6 feet, 8 inches of clearance.
Equipment was staged here, and the allowable height was a major issue for Ellis to overcome. Equipment installed was the Ellis 360 Sequential Tunnel Washing System: a six-module tunnel washer, extractor press, double-batch shuttle, three gas-fired dryers, a loading conveyor, and related unloading conveyors and control stations; two 250-pound Continental Girbau washer-extractors; two 150-pound Continental dryers; and a lint collection system.
Besides the clearance issues in the garage, the equipment would have to be off-loaded from flatbed trucks on a major, three-lane, one-way street in downtown San Francisco. Needless to say, we had the attention of all labor trades operating in the city as well as the early-morning commuters.
The loading chutes used for the old washer-extractors also had to be removed to allow room for the new tunnel washer.UNIQUE HVAC NEEDS
Ellis Corp. contracted with ALS to oversee the equipment installation. This included the mechanical engineering, demolition, mechanical piping, plumbing, rigging, electrical, permitting, concrete, and HVAC.
The HVAC portion of the project was unique in that the existing dryers and ironers were ducted into a central wet lint collection system. A separate fan located on the 12th floor pulled air from the subbasement and directed it out the top of the building 36 floors above.
Providing the Hilton with an air-handling analysis was also our company’s responsibility. The new facility was switching to a dry lint collection system. Since there would be new equipment, we were required to submit drawings and calculations to show a balanced airflow out of the laundry.
The ceiling in the laundry was cluttered with exhaust ducts. In our report, we identified which ducts wouldn’t be needed and specified the size of the new exhaust duct. We provided calculations, along with separate AutoCAD drawings, to support our findings.ONE-MONTH DEADLINE
The Hilton contracted out its laundry service during December to make way for renovation. Our project started Dec. 1, with an expected completion date of Jan. 5. To accomplish this, it would take the cooperation of six companies employing anywhere from 12 to 20 workers on-site at any given time.
After the equipment demolition, additional demo was required on the mechanical systems. The water and steam headers were leaking, and quite frankly it was easier to pick a spot and cut all the lines back than to run new lines. This was a great benefit for the tunnel washer and small washers.
The hotel was dumping tempered (120º F) water to the sewer because it didn’t have use for it. The new tunnel washer gave it the capability to use that water, but there was a hurdle: the water service was in an area across the hallway. This doesn’t seem far, but it took about 20 90-degree turns around obstructions, over some offices and through existing wall penetrations just to get it into the laundry.
After the initial demo was completed, the HVAC company began working in the evenings so its people weren’t above equipment while other work was being done.
All of the equipment was demoed in short order while the rigging company was off-loading the new equipment and staging in the basement. Once the new equipment was staged, the old equipment was removed and also staged in the parking garage for removal.
But before any new equipment could be brought in, we had to do some work on the wastewater trench. The system design came with two major hurdles:

  1. The press was sitting on the trench without support of one of its legs. It would be easy to fill the trench, except that the wastewater from the three washers on the other side would have to pass underneath the press. To complicate matters further, the concrete under the press would only have 36 hours to cure before the press would be placed.
  2. The tunnel had two legs that would be sitting over the trench. This required us to backfill part of the trench with the same concrete for quick drying and strength. The 360’s reduced water consumption made it possible for us to reduce the width of the trench.

With the concrete work done, it was time for the equipment. John Sodemann, Ellis’ project manager, made things run smoothly with his efforts and communication during engineering, equipment delivery, and scheduling. The Ellis team was great to work with and quick to lend a hand when needed.
Any work on a tunnel system starts with the press. The Ellis 360 was ideal for this installation. Each module was individually packed when shipped and was easily navigated into place.
The system design was compact, with little wasted space. Chute-loading of the tunnel from above set another hurdle we had to jump. Since the hole from the soil room was offset from the site of the tunnel washer, the chute would have to be designed so the soiled linens could slide into the tunnel versus being dumped. The HVAC contractor designed the chute in the field for easy loading.
Once the tunnel was in place, the small washers were brought in and placed beyond it. Then came the dryers and related unloading conveyors. All equipment was in place by the end of the second week and handed off to Ellis, which had from two to six technicians on-site throughout the process. The mechanical portion of the project was also completed by the end of the second week.
Focus shifted to re-engineering the existing soiled belt and designing, engineering and building a sorting platform for the laundry workers. We also had to design new covers for three of the four holes in the soil-room floor that were no longer needed for loading. We also worked with Ellis technicians to install safety fencing around the tunnel system.
The installation was completed on schedule, and the system was being tested and washing loads the first week of January.COMMUNICATION, COOPERATION
Management for a project such as this requires attention to detail and the ability to communicate effectively with all parties. It was important to outline with each trade what the expectations were for the day as well as answer any questions they had. We also had to hold to the timeline outlined at the beginning of the project.
This communication and willingness to work as a team was beneficial. Sure, we had our obstacles, with the biggest being a section of cracked concrete floor that came loose. It was in the middle of the tunnel system, of course, so we had to move everyone out of that area and have the floor cut and poured within one day.
The cooperation of the maintenance staff from the Hilton made this project much easier. Their assistance in tracking down what wire went where and helping to remove portions of the fire sprinkler system was of tremendous help.
We’ll be on-site again in August to finish the final phase of this project, the demo of two thermal ironers and installation of two new Jensen two-roll thermal ironers. We plan to complete this phase in one week, working mostly in the evenings, so the laundry won’t be shut down.

About the author

Charles Berge

American Laundry Systems

Vice President of Regional Operations-East

Charles Berge is vice president of regional operations-east for American Laundry Systems, Haverhill, Mass. He can be reached at 978-373-1883 or by e-mail at


Digital Edition

Latest Classifieds

Industry Chatter