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Using Unistrut to Suspend HVAC Equipment: A Safety Case Study

There is an old saying that what goes up must come down.  Sometimes architects and contractors refer to the tendency of structures to return to their natural state.  If you think about the remains or ruins of old buildings and structures, you get the point.  Portions of the original construction may survive for centuries, but with time, remnants of the structure eventually tumble to the ground.  While this “return to a natural state” makes sense where older structures are concerned, we don’t expect the schools where our children spend their days to return to their natural state.  Sadly, this is exactly what happened when suspended ductwork fell from the ceiling of Shaler Elementary’s crowded cafeteria outside suburban Pittsburgh.  Miraculously, there were no deaths due to this incident, but a number of students sustained serious injuries.

Because our products are used in a wide range of construction projects, we are ever mindful that selecting the improper materials or employing poor fabrication techniques can have devastating consequences, including serious injury or death.  And while we were saddened to hear about the news of this accident, we were honored that school officials sought our expertise to make the cafeteria safe for use.

The pictures below show the installation performed by Unistrut Service Company to address safety concerns inside the cafeteria.  We used P1000 to attach to the building steel with P2785 beam clamps and P3087 beam stands to create suitable structure to safely suspend the HVAC duct work overhead.  As a side note, Unistrut Service Company was actually not the lowest bidder on this project.  School officials selected our company because of our extensive design and field installation experience.  Our engineered solution used a factor of safety above and beyond typical specifications due to the sensitivity of the project.

 

There are a couple of key takeaways from this case study.  First, great care must be taken when designing and fabricating overhead ceiling systems to support HVAC, pipe racks, and suspended equipment.  Failure of the support system can have catastrophic results.  Second, sometimes the lowest bid is not always your best option.  When contractors use improper materials or cut corners during design and installation to meet a low price point, bad things can happen.  In a best case scenario, you may find yourself paying to do the work twice in order to address the design flaws that may appear with time.  In a worst case scenario, your overhead installation may sustain a catastrophic failure that leads to injury or death to individuals occupying space below the installation.  Our years of design and installation experience mean that we can offer cost-effective, safe installations for our clients.  If your facility has a failing overhead support system, or if you are getting ready to start a new project that requires suspending heavy equipment overhead, contact Unistrut Service Company for a no-obligation consultation.  And remember, safety is no accident.