MBI Group

When International Piping Systems (IPS) Inc. takes on a project, it says it is often perceived as an extension of its clients’ employees. “We work hard to keep our pipe fitters and service technicians among the most highly trained in the industry, regularly training them on the latest in industry technology and safety,” the company says. Based in Schaumburg, Ill., IPS specializes in full-service mechanical contracting. President and CEO Bob Lempa and Financial and Administrative Officer Fred Oyer founded the company in 1979. According to IPS, both founders carry extensive industry experience.

Lempa began his career as an apprentice and learned the art of pipefitting. “[His] experience as a pipefitter/welder earned him a spot as a superintendent for a large specialty piping contractor in the Chicago area, a position he held for five years,” IPS says. “After a promotion to vice president, [he] carried direct responsibility for estimating, sales and labor management for another five years.”

Now at IPS, Lempa manages the company’s mechanical projects. “[He is] recognized as a leader in the industry, having served as president and director of the Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association of Northern Illinois, as well as chairman of both its collective bargaining and arbitration committees,” IPS says.

Additionally, Oyer holds financial and administrative expertise in the construction industry. “He started by managing maintenance and construction operations for a Chicago-area hospital for three years, spend­ing the next 11 years as chief financial officer for a large specialty piping contractor in the Chicago area,” the company says.

“Through [Oyer’s] work as financial and administrative officer of IPS, he guides the business systems needed to deliver successful mechanical construction projects,” IPS says. “His expertise in the industry has been recognized by his peers, [as he has] served as president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago, as well as a director of the Mech­anical Contractors Association of America.”

Comfort in Mind

With its services, IPS says it operates with the goal to make its customers’ mechanical systems an invisible part of their operations. “Our heating and cooling systems are put together with comfort in mind, because we understand the relationship between a building’s mechanical system and a customer’s bottom line: comfortable employees are more productive employees,” it says.

“For building owners, comfortable tenants are tenants who renew their leases – and for healthcare facilities, comfortable patients heal more quickly,” the company says. “IPS plans system maintenance and life safety issues at the beginning of a project to maximize the benefit to the owner.”

In addition, the company says its construction group performs some of the most challenging industrial work in the industry today. “From co-generation power plants to manufacturing process systems, to research piping systems at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the largest casino in the United States, our systems meet the most rigid of requirements and the toughest customer standards,” it says. 

High-Energy Services

IPS’ portfolio includes the Fermilab NuMI project in Batavia, Ill., which saw it providing heating, air conditioning and process piping work for $4.3 million. “When Fermilab designed a high-energy experiment to accelerate protons into a neutrino beam, they knew it would generate a lot of heat,” IPS says. 

“To keep its accelerator cool, Fermilab contracted IPS to install piping throughout an un­derground tunnel to handle the cooling load for the experiment,” IPS says. “When the IPS crew arrived on the job in October 2002, the tunnel had already been bored. After some pre­liminary work, they began piping the [low con­ductivity water] system and carrier tunnel piping.”

According to the company, material handling was a challenge when working underground. “All the pipe, equipment, tools and supplies had to be lowered down shafts and then transported through the tunnel to where it would be needed – before [one could] even consider the timing of when it would be needed,” IPS says. “With limited access to cranes, careful forethought, planning and stockpiling was necessary.”

“When the building was going up, the stocking period stopped,” IPS Piping Superintendent Frank Camasta said in a statement. “You can’t move pipe in and out of here.”

Navigating Rough Waters

IPS’ projects also have included the Blue Chip II Gaming Vessel for Boyd Gaming Corp. The company had a $16.3 million contract for heating, air conditioning and process piping work.

According to IPS, when Boyd Gaming considered a new casino boat to replace one in Michigan City, Ind., they sought to resolve two complaints about the previous one. One was a lack of fresh air in gaming rooms and the other was congestion in narrow spaces between tables and slot machines.

“The Las Vegas gaming company’s new Blue Chip Casino boat, near the shore of southern Lake Michigan, would not only be spacious – it would be the world’s largest,” IPS says. “But the ship’s initial plan encountered rough water early, when estimators put its cost at $200 million, nearly twice what the owner originally thought it would cost.”

In order to meet the budget, IPS says the ship’s size was reduced from five decks to four, which affected its piping systems. Lempa, 

Vice President of Sales Greg Maus and Project Man­a­ger Dave Sawtell met with marine arch­itect Guido-Perla Associates and shipbuilder Jamestown Metal Marine Sales Inc. to downsize the mechanical systems.

“The owner recognized IPS’ commitment and expertise early in the project, and when it came to build, named IPS the lead mechanical contractor,” the company says. “Unlike pro­jects on dry land, where every detail is drawn before assembled, much of boat building takes place ‘on the fly.’”

This meant the project’s design phase overlapped with construction, leading IPS to build one part of the ship before other parts were designed. “The mechanical contractor’s planning and scheduling mastery were also challenged,” it says. “The ship’s heavy duty chillers, boilers, generators and other components and piping had to be set inside the 160,000-square-foot hull in a choreographed seq­uence that kept in step with the shipbuilder.”

In addition, the company says it needed to have materials delivered on time in the right sequence. While piping assemblies were prefabricated as much as possible, “Material handling was a daily priority, as everything had to be scheduled around availability of the busy cranes,” IPS says. 

“The IPS crew made a rubber tire fork truck or ‘Lull,’ their workhorse, running it non-stop to set everything they needed alongside the boat for hoisting,” the company says. “When possible, they set sections of large pipe on temporary supports inside the hull to avoid a second, more difficult lift when the deck from it would hang was finally built.”

IPS says it is proud of getting the boat on the water. “The careful, detailed approach brought to the planning table was sustained throughout the construction phase,” it says. “When it opened in January 2006, the 400-foot-long Blue Chip could still lay claim as the world’s largest and roomiest casino boat.

“Its extra wide gambling rooms with tall ceilings and majestic décor have more the look of a grand hotel ballroom than a gambling boat,” the company says. “And with a high-end HVAC system capable of 15 full-indoor changes per hour, it’s also the freshest and most comfortable.” 

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