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And now, starting for the Los Angeles Lakers, a 5’ 10” forward from South Pasadena, Krikor Chiranian! [cheers and a loud applause ring throughout the Forum.] “Hey, as a young boy I loved basketball and my dream was to play professionally in the NBA,” says Krikor. But with most young kids dreaming of becoming a Read more

Koko working hard on the jobsite.

And now, starting for the Los Angeles Lakers, a 5’ 10” forward from South Pasadena, Krikor Chiranian! [cheers and a loud applause ring throughout the Forum.] “Hey, as a young boy I loved basketball and my dream was to play professionally in the NBA,” says Krikor.

But with most young kids dreaming of becoming a professional athlete, reality sets in at some point, and fortunately for Koko, he got a taste of the trades early on, and there was no looking back.

Fun Fact: How do most of you know Krikor as Koko? Koko Drains (@koko.drains) was named after Krikor’s nickname. “My given name is Krikor, and since I can remember, my family would only call me Koko. In my career in drain cleaning, everyone has always known me as, and called me by, Koko. So, it really stuck with me,” says Koko.

Koko Drains, plumbing, drain cleaning, Krikor Chiranian, sewer cleaning, waste cleanout, waste lines

One of Koko’s techs finds a treasure.

Starting in the trades at the age of 20, Koko went on a call for a kitchen sink drain stoppage with his father, a veteran of the plumbing trade for nearly 50 years. “My father had to call on a man named Ole Bugarin to clear the drain stoppage. Ole came out with his Gorlitz Go 50 1/2” cable and cleaned the kitchen drain from the clean out, and I looked at my dad and said, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ There was just something about that moment while watching Ole clear the drain. It opened my eyes to a new part of plumbing that I found appealing and satisfying. I asked Ole if he would hire and teach me, and he did,” says Koko.

Koko worked for a single company for 11 years specializing in drain and sewer cleaning, and became adept to the work very quickly. “With the experience gained my confidence grew.” Says Koko. “One thing led to another, and I was eventually able to go on my own at age 31. As time passed, we became busier, leading to the hiring of my wife and two technicians. I’ve been self-employed for eight years now with plans for continued growth.”

Koko Drains, plumbing, drain cleaning, Krikor Chiranian, sewer cleaning, waste cleanout, waste linesNow, owner of Koko Drains, South Pasadena, Calif., Krikor Chiranian has been self-employed for the past eight years running a successful drain and sewer cleaning business with a side of waste drainage repair and replacement. In addition, Koko also provides camera inspections with marked pipe location, repairs and cleans of drains or sewer pipes by way of cabling and hydro jetting, as well as toilet and garbage disposal installations. As mentioned, Koko also repairs or replaces waste drainage piping, clean-out installation, pipe descaling, as well as trenchless rehabilitation services, and more. His go-to tool is his sewer inspection camera. “The camera tells all within an underground drain pipe, allowing proper diagnosis,” says Koko. Another daily go-to tool is Koko’s hydro jetter, which allows Koko to move a blockage out of a pipe, and, at the same time, cleans the drain or sewer pipe.”

While Ole was instrumental in mentoring Koko early in his career in drain cleaning and other plumbing essentials “teaching him everything he knows,” does Koko himself consider himself a role model for the younger generation entering the trades?

Koko Drains, plumbing, drain cleaning, Krikor Chiranian, sewer cleaning, waste cleanout, waste lines

Diggin’ in the dirt, working hard and gettin’ it done.

“Absolutely,” says Koko. “We pave the way for future generations. People are influenced mostly by not only what they see, but also by what they hear. To have a successful plan, it’s very important to stop and think before we act—teaching the younger generations the way to honestly and properly accomplish tasks is critical.”

According to Koko, the industry could do a better job promoting more women or minority contractors in the trades, “allowing for the attraction and eventual growth of a more diversified workforce, especially in leadership positions,” says Koko.

Being self-employed and the owner of a business makes it a bit easier to balance work/family time. “My wife schedules our work and personal life events; therefore, my wife schedules time off for me to spend with my family,” says Koko.

The free time is spending time with family, listening to and reading self-development audiobooks/books, and thinking of new ways to improve and grow the business. And, there’s social media. “Social media has allowed us to share our knowledge with others, and we can learn new ways of doing a job through other tradespeople’s perspective,” says Koko. “With social media, the new tools and equipment that are available to contractors are displayed, and they have brought new ideas for our company to utilize and grow. Also, we have made many new friends and customers through social media, building a network of reliable and respectable people.”

In the end, what does Koko love most about his job? “The gratitude our customers show us for getting the job done is the most rewarding. Also, the ability to be in the field, seeing new faces and places. In the trade, we are always seeing and learning something new.”

Southland Industries was founded in Long Beach, California, in 1949 as a Southern California-based supplier of residential heating solutions.  After years of growing organically and expanding their services and capabilities, they are now one of the nation’s largest MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) building systems experts. Today, Southland has 3,200 employees who serve most of the East and Read more

Southland Industries was founded in Long Beach, California, in 1949 as a Southern California-based supplier of residential heating solutions.  After years of growing organically and expanding their services and capabilities, they are now one of the nation’s largest MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) building systems experts.

Today, Southland has 3,200 employees who serve most of the East and West Coast regions, as well as a Mountain West Division with offices in Tempe, Arizona and Las Vegas. The company’s capabilities encompass everything within each stage of the building lifecycle, including customized engineering, construction, building automation, service, and energy solutions.

“When Southland expanded to the East Coast in the mid-1990s, we were the first true design-build contractor in the area,” explained J. Gilbert, Mid-Atlantic Division plumbing supervisor. Gilbert has been with the company for 12 years and has presided over substantial growth during his tenure.

“At that time, other installers had no choice but to hire outside professional firms for design and engineering work,” continued Gilbert.  “We had that capability in-house, which really set us apart from the competition.  We’re now one of the largest MEP firms in the country.”

J. Gilbert, Mid-Atlantic Division plumbing supervisor.

According to Mike Dye, senior purchasing agent, much of Southland’s work in the Mid-Atlantic region includes government contracts, data centers, and pharmaceutical and educational customers.  The company’s ability to bring every element of a project into consideration, including building automation and energy solutions, is a big advantage for large corporations and government agencies.

Professional plumbing

In 2017, Southland outgrew its existing offices and fabrication shop in Lorton, VA, and moved to a new facility in Laurel, MD.

The new facility, like all others owned by Southland, is a one-stop-shop for mechanical customers. The building’s 240,000 square feet is occupied by administrative offices, an engineering department, a sheet metal shop, mechanical piping (hydronic) fabrication space, plumbing, and a process piping area.  It houses 100 union workers, including 30 plumbers.

“Southland Industries pre-fabricates components for every single project we’re on, and plumbing pre-fabrication is no exception,” said Gilbert. “The ability to work in a controlled environment, minimize jobsite waste, and reduce onsite labor is a huge advantage.”

One of the company’s most frequently used plumbing products are commercial water closet carriers. As one would expect, they’re used on every job. Dye purchases hundreds each year through local manufacturer’s representative, The Joyce Agency, based in Chantilly, VA.

“The QT QuickTurn™ closet carrier is one of dozens of Watts products we source through Kevin Cerretani at The Joyce Agency,” said Gilbert.  “Its design expedites both the prefabrication process here at the shop and the final installation in the field.”

Plumber Joe Gencavage assembles many of the carrier systems in the fab shop. There, water supply, vent, and waste water piping is cut to length, attached to the carriers, and disassembled for later use in the field.

“The enamel finish on the QT QuickTurn carrier is great, as are the no-hub vent and wastewater connections and the dual threaded boss for supply water pipe support,” said Gencavage. “For install crews, the ability to adjust the face plate left and right makes the job easier. Same goes for the side-facing carrier support legs. It’s a nicely streamlined design.”

The new carrier system was one of several new products brought to Southland by The Joyce Agency in 2019.

Partnered for growth

“We’ve had a strong relationship with Southland for 15 years,” said Cerretani, who’s been with The Joyce Agency for 29 years. “I think that has been one source of success for both companies.”

The Joyce Agency’s plumbing division provides pipe, water closet and lavatory carriers, drainage products, flush valves, plumbing fixtures, sinks, water coolers, electric tankless water heaters, safety equipment, steam components, acid waste piping and laboratory fixtures to Southland. The agency’s main facility in Chantilly has three divisions: plumbing, architectural products, and HVAC.

“We’re very happy with the Watts products and the breadth of their line, but one of the biggest advantages of buying Watts products for us comes through our relationship with The Joyce Agency,” said Gilbert.  “We can count on them to get products to us in a timely manner and provide exceptional service.”

The Joyce Agency represented a different carrier line for 23 years, switching to Watts six years ago. Cerretani has found that many of the costly options offered by other manufacturers are standard features in the Watts line.

“The epoxy coating on the carriers is one example of a Watts standard feature,” said Cerretani.  “Another feature we like on the QT QuickTurn is the O-ring seal and ABS nipple.  Pushing the nipple into place is much faster than threading the nipple into place.”

“The true superstars in the supply chain are the folks in our quotations group, the commercial inside sales group, and our warehouse personnel,” continued Cerretani.  We have an open line of communications with the folks at Southland to streamline the process of product selection, submittals, and providing the right material on time. I’m blessed to work with the professionals at Southland, as well as my Joyce Agency associates.”

“Watts and The Joyce Agency both really set themselves apart when it comes to customer service,” said Dye. “They’re the experts, and we lean on them both during the design phase and beyond.”

When it comes to 2021 industry forecasts, the most resonant word I hear is optimistic. But that word can become hollow if it doesn’t have any substance backing it up. Now I’ve read reports that residential service repair and remodel may remain constant with a slight increase in early 2021. On the other hand, according Read more

When it comes to 2021 industry forecasts, the most resonant word I hear is optimistic. But that word can become hollow if it doesn’t have any substance backing it up. Now I’ve read reports that residential service repair and remodel may remain constant with a slight increase in early 2021. On the other hand, according to AIA info, there is a predicted 5.7% decrease in construction spending—hotels, office buildings, recreation—for 2021, with pent-up demand leading to anticipated growth in 2022.

NPE-2 Series tankless water heaters and its NCB-H condensing combi boiler, NFC-H condensing fire tube combi boiler and NFB-H condensing fire tube boiler, tankless water heaters, plumbing, Brian Fenske, NavienMechanical Hub continues its Forecast Series with Brian Fenske, director of commercial business, Navien. According to Fenske, the outlook for the tankless looks strong as the recent southern storms “had a huge impact and pushed new units into the market because of availability.” But Fenske cautions, “Raw materials may become a factor in the future.”

Yet, today, Navien’s suite of tankless and boiler units continues to grow and improve, evidenced by the recent release of its NPE-2 (left) Series tankless water heaters and its NCB-H condensing combi boiler, NFC-H condensing fire tube combi boiler and NFB-H condensing fire tube boiler.

We sat down with Fenske recently and he talked about the state of the industry.

MH: What does the short-term economy look like as it relates to Navien?

FENSKE: I concur with the residential hopes and optimistic outlook, many housing markets remain strong, as well as the economy in general. This drives the new and existing housing and construction improvements, upgrades and replacement markets.

NPE-2 Series tankless water heaters and its NCB-H condensing combi boiler, NFC-H condensing fire tube combi boiler and NFB-H condensing fire tube boiler, tankless water heaters, plumbing, Brian Fenske, Navien

Fenske with his wife, Julie.

MH: What are some indicators you look at to determine trends, movements, etc.?

FENSKE: I watch several construction reports, mainly commercial being my responsivity and arena. Regarding commercial, nonresidential building starts fell 11% during the month of December, while total nonbuilding starts were 5% lower. This while residential starts were essentially flat over the month of December. Starts were lower in three of the four regions in December; the South Central was the only region to post an increase. For the full year of 2020, total construction starts fell 10% to close to $775 billion. Nonresidential building starts saw the steepest drop, losing 24%, while nonbuilding starts fell 14%. Residential construction starts ended 2020 up 4% thanks to strong single family activity.

MH: I read somewhere that at the rate the U.S. is distributing the vaccine, we should be back to “normal” by 2024. Perhaps that’s a bit overly dramatic, but how does (has) Navien positioned itself from the “fallout” of COVID-19?

NPE-2 Series tankless water heaters and its NCB-H condensing combi boiler, NFC-H condensing fire tube combi boiler and NFB-H condensing fire tube boiler, tankless water heaters, plumbing, Brian Fenske, Navien

Fenske with a friend during the Builder’s Show last year right before COVID hit the U.S.

FENSKE: Navien continues to do business as usual, as well as adjust to the new ways we all must adhere to, to perform our job and its functions. I myself cannot wait to get back to personal interactions and travel. But in the meantime our adjusted way of life and concerns for everyone’s safety has surely made our business climate a lot different.

MH: Is the only certainty heading into early 2021 uncertainty? How do you forecast and budget for such uncertainty? (Or is it fairly certain at this point during the pandemic?) (Certainly, a lot of certainty here, lol)

FENSKE: My largest concern is mostly that new start construction follows a delayed schedule. If planning is and was off 10-25% in 2020, depending on construction class, this will have a definite effect on the future. As most commercial planning and design is planned 6-18 months into the future, 2021 will surely see a slowdown as an effect of less construction being booked for the future. However, I have to and continue to remain optimistic that retrofit and design build will continue to carry the industry and look forward to a not so much dismal year ahead. Navien will continue to forecast growth in product sales and market share sticking to our plan that we will continue to succeed through our employees, partners and especially our new product offerings in 2021.

MH: Without getting overly political, does a change at the presidential level (and congress) change the outlook for your company, if at all? (Infrastructure, regulations, green energy initiatives, etc.)

FENSKE: There is always concern when there are political changes. I don’t think anyone could pick the perfect president, as well as the members of Congress. We have to watch and observe as well as participate to further the successes of our industry and country.

Designed by Lord Norman Foster of Britain along with architects from DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, the $515 million Health Education Campus for the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, provides a state-of-the-art learning space to usher in a new era of teaching for medical, nursing, dental, physician assistant and Read more

Designed by Lord Norman Foster of Britain along with architects from DLR Group | Westlake Reed Leskosky, the $515 million Health Education Campus for the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, provides a state-of-the-art learning space to usher in a new era of teaching for medical, nursing, dental, physician assistant and social work students.

The campus features a 485,000-square-foot Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion and a 132,000-square-foot School of Dental Medicine to treat patients under the supervision of dental faculty. The pavilion features a 27,000-square-foot central atrium that draws maximum light from a specially engineered roof. It also includes a $5 million conference center with a 7,000-square-foot auditorium and a 4,800-square-foot lecture hall.

With all the expansive spaces and high ceilings, the buildings required a heating and cooling system that would provide exceptional comfort along with energy efficiency. To ensure occupants’ comfort and the buildings’ improved indoor environmental quality (IEQ), the design included a radiant heating and cooling system from Uponor, featuring Wirsbo hePEX™ pipe in a custom-designed, prefabricated network of Radiant Rollout™ Mats.

Cleveland Health Education Clinic, Ohio | Radiant floor heating install with Radiant Rollout Mats in 2018

Efficient installation solution saves time, reduces materials, and protects workers

Designed for large-scale radiant heating and cooling commercial projects, Radiant Rollout Mats provide faster, easier, more consistent radiant heating and cooling installations that can save up to 85% in installation time and add greater job-site safety for workers.

The mats arrive on the job site in large rolls that installers simply unroll and fasten to the concrete surface. The solution reduces wire ties and staples by up to 40%, which also limits bending, kneeling, and body strain for workers.

Already pre-pressurized at the factory, the mats have the option to include a reverse-return header, which can reduce required manifold ports by more than 60%. There is also the option to connect directly to traditional radiant manifolds to meet project specifications. The mats feature Wirsbo hePEX™ oxygen-barrier PEX pipe connected to ProPEX® engineered polymer (EP) fittings, which are safe for burial in the slab.

Cleveland Health Education Clinic, Ohio | Radiant floor heating install with Radiant Rollout Mats in 2018

Watch this time-lapse video to see how quickly installers were able to expedite the Wirsbo hePEX piping installation in the Health Education Campus project using the Radiant Rollout Mats, installing 55,860 lineal feet of pipe in just eight days.

With the faster installation, there was less impact to the concrete pour schedule, helping to keep the project on track, and workers were able to install easier with less strain on their bodies.

Healthier, more energy-efficient comfort with radiant

With a newfound focus on indoor environmental quality for commercial — and especially healthcare — buildings, radiant is quickly becoming the heating and cooling system of choice for large commercial structures.

For the end user, the radiant heating and cooling system provides greater comfort using less energy. That’s because the heat-transfer capacity of water in a hydronic radiant system is 3,500 times greater than air. Thus, a radiant system that uses a circulator to move water (in lieu of a fan to move air) can achieve the same heat transfer using significantly less energy. This means occupants are more comfortable and building owners benefit from lower energy costs.

Cleveland Health Education Clinic; Ohio; Radiant floor heating install; Radiant Rollout Mats; RROM; 2018 install

Additionally, because hydronic radiant heating systems use pumps to move water instead of fans or blowers to push air, the system does not circulate viruses, allergens, or odors throughout the indoor space. This provides better indoor air quality, which is especially important in healthcare facilities.

Lastly, because radiant keeps the comfort near the floor where people are located, it provides an even, consistent temperature without hot or cold spots in a space. And, because radiant systems are designed in zones, it offers maximum occupant comfort control for each individual space — another important benefit for occupants in healthcare buildings.

To learn more about PEX piping solutions for healthcare applications, including domestic water, hydronic distribution, and radiant heating and cooling, visit uponor-usa.com/healthcare. To learn more about the benefits of radiant systems in commercial applications, visit the Uponor Commercial Radiant Solutions page.

It’s that time of year again where media, prognosticators and media prognosticators try to look into the immediate future to predict, and make sense of, the short-term economy. And, yes, even in this uncertain climate. According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), U.S. shipments of residential gas storage water heaters for January 2021 Read more

It’s that time of year again where media, prognosticators and media prognosticators try to look into the immediate future to predict, and make sense of, the short-term economy. And, yes, even in this uncertain climate.

According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), U.S. shipments of residential gas storage water heaters for January 2021 increased 3.4 percent to 397,342 units, up from 384,213 units shipped in January 2020. Residential electric storage water heater shipment saw a 2.4 percent increase in January 2021 to 395,640 units, up from 386,291 units shipped in January 2020.

Commercial gas storage water heater shipments decreased 7.8 percent in January 2021 to 6,642 units, down from 7,207 units shipped in January 2020. Commercial electric storage water heater shipments decreased 7 percent in January 2021 to 11,737 units, down from 12,626 units shipped in January 2020.

Bradford White, Bradford White water heaters, water heating, plumbing, industry forecast, COVID-19, short-term economy, construction, construction forecastHaving said all of that, Mechanical Hub decided to go right to the source to get an up-close sense of how the market is faring. We continue our Forecast Series with Bruce Carnevale, president & CEO, Bradford White.

MH: When it comes to 2021 industry forecasts, the most resonant word I hear is optimistic. That word can become hollow if it doesn’t have any substance backing it up. I’ve read reports that residential service repair and remodel may remain constant with a slight increase in early 2021. What does the short-term economy look like as it relates to BW?

CARNEVALE: In a word, challenging. While demand for our core residential products remains strong, material and labor costs have risen substantially.  Labor availability for manufacturers is still a significant problem and has been exacerbated by COVID-19 complications and government policies. Steel prices are at or near all time highs, and supply is becoming an issue for some manufacturers. These factors lead to longer lead times, higher prices to the end user, and product shortages.

Bradford White, Bradford White water heaters, water heating, plumbing, industry forecast, COVID-19, short-term economy, construction, construction forecast

We know intuitively that the “nesting” effect has led to increased demand because household appliances are being use much more that they normally would be. There is no good data on magnitude of the increased demand, nor how long it will last.

Commercial demand has recovered slightly, but with commercial businesses still in some state of shutdown in much of the country, we don’t see that segment starting to recover until the second half of 2021. It is unlikely that the commercial segment will fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until after 2022 because so many businesses will permanently shut down as a result of the pandemic-forced shutdowns.

Bradford White, Bradford White water heaters, water heating, plumbing, industry forecast, COVID-19, short-term economy, construction, construction forecastMH: What are some indicators you look at to determine trends, movements, etc.? 

CARNEVALE: We look at traditional indicators such as housing starts re-sales, mortgage rates, CPI, consumer confidence, manufacturing output and inventories, unemployment rates, etc. Several years ago, we incorporated student loan debt into our analyses since it has such a significant impact on first time homebuyers. Additionally, we closely follow regulations and all levels and social preferences to determine their impact on product trends.

MH: I read somewhere that at the rate the U.S. is distributing the vaccine, we should be back to “normal” by 2024. Perhaps that’s a bit overly dramatic, but how does (has) BW positioned itself from the “fallout” of COVID-19?

The honest answer is that nobody really knows when we will be back to normal.  Even after we are, there will be lasting effects from the pandemic. We are following the data and trends closely and adjusting our strategy accordingly.  We expect some pre-pandemic trends to change significantly. For example, the trend toward urbanization will change as more people are able to work from home. This leads us to believe that the housing new construction will shift away from multifamily towards single family as people can move further out from cities.

Bradford White, Bradford White water heaters, water heating, plumbing, industry forecast, COVID-19, short-term economy, construction, construction forecast

Additionally, we are solidifying supply chain and strengthening our contingency plans, further developing our own work force, and investing significantly in R&D to bring relevant, innovative products to the post-pandemic market.

MH: Is the only certainty heading into early 2021 uncertainty? How do you forecast and budget for such uncertainty? (Or is it fairly certain at this point during the pandemic?)

CARNEVALE: Uncertainty has made forecasting for 2021 is as much art as it is science. We used an immense amount of data, both historical and forward-looking, and applied significantly more assumptions than we typically would.  We also included insights derived from some original research projects we commissioned.

MH: Without getting overly political, does a change at the presidential level (and congress) change the outlook for your company, if at all? (Infrastructure, regulations, green energy initiatives, etc.)

CARNEVALE: Yes. It is no secret that the Biden administration will have a very different policy positions than the Trump administration. Some of the expected changes may be helpful, and others will present challenges. Infrastructure legislation, for example, will be good for our industry. We know there will be a focus on green energy initiatives, and that too can be good for our industry if they are thoughtfully applied. The regulatory environment will become more challenging, but we are hopeful that the new administration will partner with manufacturers in developing new regulations.