Praxair Case Study
Challenges of Using Out-of-State Contractors in an Industrial Building Project
Praxair, based in Danbury, CT, is the largest industrial gases company in North and South America. It has 26,000 employees in more than 50 countries. The company produces, sells and distributes atmospheric, process and specialty gases, as well as high performance surface coatings. There is a 15-year agreement in place for Praxair to purchase carbon dioxide (CO2, a byproduct of Honeywell’s caprolactam plant in Hopewell, VA) from Honeywell. Honeywell has leased land to Praxair to build and operate a plant where CO2 will be captured, purified and liquefied.
Praxair utilizes out-of-state contractors with expertise in the construction of industrialized facilities but not in local code requirements for permitting, review and inspections. Additionally, these contractors are not always knowledgeable of building and life-safety requirements as adopted and enforced at the government local level, that keep people safe in the event of an emergency.
The plant was designed and built to purify and liquefy CO2 gas produced by an existing industrial facility. This plant consisted of a pre-engineered/prefabricated main plant building, several Industrialized/Modular buildings (which in Virginia are regulated by the state), a site-constructed control/maintenance building, several tanks, and process equipment.
Under a Professional Services Agreement with Praxair, IBTS provided plan review, inspection, and associated project management services as required under the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code for construction of Praxair’s CO2 plant in Hopewell, VA. IBTS provided these services in coordination with the City of Hopewell Building Official, and in accordance with state and local requirements. IBTS provided a single point of contact and a one-stop shop for all building code-related aspects of this industrial project, from plan review to permitting, inspections, and issuance of an occupancy certificate from the City.
To meet the challenges of an out-of-state contractor, IBTS was retained to perform the following services:
- Review of plans for all elements of the project regulated by the building code
- Monitor groundwork including underground utility line installations, water line backflow-prevention device installations, building and tank foundation installations, and site egress plans
- Verify assembly, completion and on-site hookup of a pre-engineered/prefabricated, steel, skid-mounted sectional building that housed two production lines and served as the primary plant building
- Inspect installation of two Industrialized/Modular buildings on pier foundations including a process control building and a QA/QC lab building
- Inspect construction of a CMU and metal maintenance and control building that contained a defend-in-place safe and secure, sealed area to be used in the event of an emergency
- Witness operational testing and verification of all fire alarm and smoke detection systems
- Inspect all emergency lighting, exiting/egress paths, and fire extinguishers
- Routinely meet with the City Building Official to provide status updates, review and inspection reports, present potential problem and discuss solution options- all while construction was at a stage where the potential problems could be addressed quickly and with minimal costs
Although services were paid for by the developer, IBTS worked in coordination with the City of Hopewell. This eliminated the City’s small staff from worrying about the construction of a high-profile, potentially hazardous, industrial gas production facility. “Working with IBTS proved to relieve the burden of monitoring this complex project from my staff,” said Roger Brown, City of Hopewell Building Official. “The IBTS team provided confidence that construction was being done to code and ensured the safety of our citizens.”
Praxair benefited from IBTS’ relationship with officials in the following ways: access to the inspector, technical assistance, immediate response to inspection inquiries and consistent inspections utilizing the same inspector. Having consistency during the plan review and inspection process was important to Praxair in eliminating project delays due to lack of local building code knowledge.
Additionally, our client was able to receive timely inspector audited third-party reports, have firsthand knowledge of expectations regarding types, numbers and requirements of inspections. Finally, Praxair was able to save time and money by expediting code compliance during construction.
Sometimes even projects that appear to be relatively small and straightforward demand more services from a jurisdiction than can reasonably be provided in a timely and cost-effective manner. Although it may appear that the Praxair construction project was beyond the scope of plan review and building code inspections, many elements of the project are regulated for life-safety reasons. The coordination with the building official was critical for the success of this project. IBTS, working in coordination with the city Building Official, provided reliable, on-demand services. These services gave the developer and citizens of Hopewell assurance that this project was designed and built to be safe, as defined by building and construction codes.