American University Central Plant

American University Central Plant

Washington, D.C.

Contract Value: $9,400,000

GC: Mallick Mechanical Contractors, Inc., CM: The Fulcrum Group

Owner: American University

Engineer: HBEngineers, Inc.

Project Description

American University – located in Washington, D.C. – is known as one of the premier local schools for higher education in the nation’s capital. More than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students attend the university, which was chartered by congress in 1893 and allowed its first undergraduate class in 1925.

For the first time in over 50 years, American University replaced their existing steam system in 2019. With the desire to enhance its energy efficiency and sustainability, American University converted to a low temperature hot water system. Due to the reduced temperature, American University estimates a 50 percent reduction of carbon emissions.

Mallick Mechanical was contracted as the main general contractor for one of American University’s largest and most complicated project in decades.

The D.C. university’s existing central plant consisted of three large steam boilers, which were ultimately removed and replaced with 9 condensing boilers that supplied heat for the campus and domestic hot water through heat exchangers located in individual buildings. Mallick Mechanical also added 12 hydronic pumps, 2 absorption chillers, 1 plate heat exchanger and a cogeneration.

The project was broken into two summer phases – the first being from May 2018 – October 2018 and the second being from April 2019 – January 2020 – with minor fall and winter testing to accommodate seasonal offline equipment.


The phases would allow Mallick Mechanical and other project team members to efficiently complete important aspects of the project without any disruptions or delays due to fewer people on the D.C. campus. It also gave our team the opportunity to ensure everything was operating correctly and effectively prior to the student’s fall semester return.

To accomplish this, Mallick Mechanical Contractors underwent intense pre-planning meetings and page turns. Organized by Mallick Mechanical, weekly progress meetings took place onsite with The Fulcrum Group and our subcontractors. Three-week look ahead meetings also played a large role in the project team maintaining a tight schedule, allowing our foreman to discuss necessary changes ahead of time with our project team and making any necessary adjustments.

Majority of the mechanical piping for the project was prefabricated at our fabrication shop and required UT and X-Ray testing, which was completed by a reliable outside source. Our certified welders had a high pass success rate, leading to no additional time to be allocated to this requirement.


Before Mallick Mechanical’s team could work to replace the equipment and mechanical piping, demolition of the existing equipment and conditions had to endure, including the concrete floor and three large steam boilers.

Coordination was key for the demolition of the three boilers. Under Mallick Mechanical’s supervision, subcontractors cut the boilers in sections and hauled the pieces out to dumpsters to be properly disposed of. Two of the boilers were removed in the first phase while one remained in operation. During Phase II of the project, the third and final large steam boiler was removed. All three were removed with no hiccups or changes in schedule.

Due to a heighted emphasis on energy efficiency by American University, a cogeneration was added and placed on the roof.

With additional equipment, Mallick Mechanical’s project team added new footers and steel to assist with weight displacement. New condenser boilers were also placed on the new mezzanine.

As American’s University’s plant acting as the heartbeat to the rest of the 84-acre campus, the site contractor had oversight of the plant’s mechanical lines reaching 22 buildings.

For the mechanical lines to accurately meet Mallick Mechanical’s central plant work in the proper locations, constant communication was required between both parties. Mallick Mechanical’s VDC Department played a large role during this portion of the project.

In order to achieve the designed system in the restricted size allowed, Mallick Mechanical’s VDC team visited the site prior to the start of the project and throughout the project to have a full understanding of the landscape of work. In addition, the VDC team could apply the knowledge from the site visit to the 3D scanned model and fit our systems around existing utilities and equipment as well as other trade’s new work.

Mallick Mechanical’s VDC department, which mainly utilized CADMEP and Navisworks, also assisted in resolving issues that formed when design changes took place during the project. Due to the volume of equipment and piping, it became difficult for our team and others to access panels, valves and accessories that were required. The VDC team’s three-dimensional model – along with their familiarity of the mechanical room landscape from their site visits — was able to display areas that would make access possible and avoid any major delays during an install that was on a very sensitive time crunch.

Though the campus was not at full capacity because most students returned home for the summer, staff and other personnel were still present on campus. Road closure plans were placed for Mallick Mechanical to easily transport equipment and material to the site and when crane usage was needed to rig and install equipment.

Mallick Mechanical’s safety director was heavily involved during this portion of the project, providing our team and others with appropriate safety systems. His expertise was applied when reviewing crane pick plans and installing traffic control devices, which were established to ensure the project crew members and the campus community were not in a position of danger.

By bringing everyone together to have a full understanding of the execution and with the knowledge of the team’s safety director, Mallick Mechanical completed a smooth and safe operation from a production and safety standpoint.


“I would recommend Mallick Mechanical for any future work. It was a pleasure doing business with them. The AU team was professional and knowledgeable.”

– Pat Quigley, VP Capital Program Management, The Fulcrum Group