At a Glance
HVAC, plumbing, and mechanical contracting
When big-box companies such as Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, or Fred Meyer decide to put a store up in the Alaskan cold, they often end up consulting with Klebs Mechanical, Inc., the largest full-service HVAC and mechanical contractor in the state of Alaska. The firm completes projects ranging from $500 to $4 million, and almost always one of its primary tasks is setting clients straight about building in lower temperatures.
“One challenge we face when a national chain or a franchise moves up here is that their engineering is geared toward construction in the other lower states,” estimating manager Matt Klebs says. “We have to tell them their plans won’t work as efficiently as they could. For example, they’ll have domestic water lines on an outside wall, or the building envelope isn’t as tight as it has to be in this climate, or their plans will show very shallow site utilities, and that leads to freezing. Because of our snow loads, we also require more structure to support roofs.” Providing such extensive expertise has helped Klebs Mechanical establish its name in the region, and its now working to expand by experimenting with prefabrication and a variety of sustainable solutions.
Klebs Mechanical has seen continual, faster-paced growth in the past decade, and a main reason for this is the firm’s turn toward prefabrication of mechanical systems in the past two years. “We’ll build the boiler in our shop, complete with piping and connections,” Klebs says. “Then we can almost drop that boiler in place and only need to make the final connections. We’re out of there in half the time it would normally take. We can do the same with the underground plumbing.”
Top 5 Recent Developments at Klebs Mechanical Inc.
1. The mechanical contractor recently earned Green Star certification, and it’s the only company of its type in Alaska to do so. The firm achieved certification in 2009 and by 2012 will have LEED APs on staff.
2. Off-site prefabrication of mechanical systems has enhanced the firm’s efficiency.
3. Government projects, including mechanical installations at nearby Elmendorf-Richardson military base, have risen to make up 75% of the commercial side of the business.
4. Solar-thermal supplemental heating is being explored for residential homes.
5. Geothermal systems are being explored for both residential and commercial projects.
The firm has gone so far as to set a goal of 50 percent prefabrication of all its systems within the next few years. “We want everything that goes into a building to be prefabbed in some way,” Klebs says. “It limits the exposure to the project, it helps us be more strategic cost-wise, and we can meet and exceed general-contractor schedules.”
In 2010, Klebs Mechanical completed renovations to the mechanical systems of a signature project, the old Valley Hospital in Palmer, Alaska. For this major renovation within a 285,000-square-foot site, the firm installed high-efficiency boilers and water heaters, a new variable-speed central-air handler, variable-air-volume boxes, DDC control upgrades, and new domestic-water and sanitary-sewer plumbing systems. The firm also installed a complete building automation system to make the facility state-of-the-art.
For the Hanshew Middle School, another recent project, Klebs Mechanical upgraded the domestic water, HVAC, and ventilation-control systems throughout the 1960s-era building. The $1.2 million project also included replacing the failing piping throughout the school with CPVC and PEX material and installing 65 VAV boxes with terminal reheat hot-water coils with new controls. The project started early in 2010 and wrapped up by September of the same year—in time for Hanshew’s first day of school.
Looking ahead, not only is Klebs Mechanical increasing its competitive footprint through prefabrication; it is also extending its geographic reach to Wake Island and the Midway Islands atoll in the South Pacific. And the firm has also recently begun experimenting with the installation of solar-thermal heating for residential homes and geothermal heating for larger residential and commercial projects. Such efforts are only likely to solidify the firm’s standing as Alaska’s favored HVAC and mechanical contractor. ABQ
Update: Klebs Mechanical recently restructured its commercial division to be more supportive of prefab construction, and it appointed Matt Klebs to oversee the process as prefabrication manager. The firm will continue to expand its efforts in this sector while pursuing additional competitive strategies to further differentiate itself from the competition.