Fast Action and Expert Drying Ensure Water-Damaged Hotel Opens on Time

Nov. 1, 2010
Structure inundated mere weeks before opening

With only the furnishing of the top three of its 19 floors to be completed, the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando hotel in Orlando, Fla., was set to open in less than a month when disaster struck.

On the roof, an elbow joint serving the main hot-water feed came apart, unleashing thousands of gallons of water.

"Water flooded through a pipe shaft into a single guest room on the top floor and then into elevator shafts and a nearby stairwell before spreading to various floors of the building," Brian Kuckelman, senior vice president of architecture and construction for developer Rida Development, said. "Every floor experienced water damage, and the amount of water was so extensive that it blew out the lobby ceiling, 19 stories below the pipe break."

The project's general contractor, Welbro Building Constructors, immediately contacted Munters Moisture Control Services (MCS). Within 45 min, Ken Gennett, Florida restoration account manager for Munters MCS, was on the scene.

"When I arrived on site, water was still pouring everywhere," Gennett said. "It drenched you from above, ran through the lobby, and flowed down the stairs."

Within hours, Gennett had equipment, including portable desiccant dehumidifiers, air movers, and dehumidifiers, up and running in rooms and hallways. By the middle of the night, Munters MCS personnel were on hand, and by early morning, additional equipment had arrived from all over the country.

A Major Undertaking
The project involved the quick drying of all structural components, including carpet, walls, and ceilings in rooms and hallways, and maintenance of good air quality to prevent the formation of mold.

Munters utilized 18 desiccant-dehumidification units of varying sizes and 130 smaller refrigerant units in saturated areas of the hotel. The larger dehumidification units provided dry air through ductwork going up the side of the building. Munters also utilized 1,500 air movers in hallways and rooms.

A 53-ft enclosed supply trailer and three emergency-response units, each containing a dehumidifier, a fuel cell, and a generator, were on site.

With the hotel lacking adequate power, nine diesel generators were used to temporarily power the drying equipment.

"The hotel transformers were not designed for every room to be on full load simultaneously, so we brought in distribution power to most of the floors that required tons of cable distribution," Gennett said.

With the hotel elevators out of service for several days, workers had to carry dehumidifiers and air movers, some weighing as much as 200 lb, up stairwells—in the warm, humid conditions typical of Florida.

Mission Accomplished
The workers were able to minimize tearout and prevent mold growth, saving tons of drywall, paint, carpet, and other building materials.

"Significant areas of carpet and pad that were going to be discarded by the building contractor were able to be saved due to our quick response," Gennett said. "Also, minimal drywall was torn out from the 18th floor down. Some of the lobby ceiling was removed due to the damage there, but overall, we saved many materials."

The drying process was completed in just over a week, after which the furnishing of the rooms and construction resumed.

"This was a total team effort, with everyone responding immediately to keep the damages to interior finishes to a minimum," Gennett said.

The hotel opened as planned during the fall of 2009.

"It was a herculean task to achieve an on-time opening, not just by Munters, but by the construction firm, county officials who had to re-certify the building for occupancy, and all of our many vendors who had to replace building materials, furniture, and amenities," Kuckelman said.

For Design Solutions author guidelines, call Scott Arnold, executive editor, at 216-931-9980, or write to him at [email protected].