West Village Housing at Texas Tech University
Lubbock, TX 

PEX Plumbing Installation First in Texas Tech University System

The university systems in Texas are growing by leaps and bounds, and Texas Tech in Lubbock is no exception where officials are seeing steady student growth, expecting to reach 40,000 students by 2020. Increasing available student housing is a must to keep up with the growth, and Armstrong Mechanical Co. took swift action when they heard of plans for an additional campus dorm and housing expansions.

Chris Carpenter is the President of Armstrong Mechanical, a Lubbock company, and he and his installers have installed Uponor PEX since 1994; both in residential and commercial projects. When Armstrong Mechanical was approached by Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, the contractor for the two West Village Housing units on the Texas Tech campus, they were asked to come up with a creative way to reduce the plumbing budget (initially planned for copper) in order to continue the financial viability of the project.

Eager to show Whiting-Turner the benefits of PEX, the Armstrong team designed a plumbing installation that, according to Carpenter, saved the school about $305,000 by avoiding the expense of copper tubing while cutting down on labor for the installation.

“By omitting copper, we saved the university money, not only on the material costs, but also on labor costs because PEX installations are quicker than copper,” Carpenter said. And the end result? Today, 10 miles of Uponor PEX pipe is installed in the two dorms.

Bruce Wood from Pepco, an Uponor rep firm, worked with Carpenter and his Armstrong team to design an efficient and time-saving plumbing installation.

“Armstrong has installed Uponor Logic in previous jobs so we used strategies that they are familiar with, including brackets, straps and through-the-wall supports,” Wood said.

Pepco facilitated both classroom training and on-site training to get 40 new Armstrong installers trained on how to install PEX in preparation for the Texas Tech dorm project.

“The installers couldn’t believe how easy it was to visually verify that the job was done correctly,” Wood said. “They could quickly identify the tight friction fit against the ring and coupling, providing them peace of mind knowing that the job was done correctly.”

Terry Parham, project manager for Armstrong Mechanical, also sees the benefits of using PEX instead of copper. “With PEX, I can walk the building site and visually see that each fitting is done correctly,” he said. “You simply don’t have that opportunity when you install copper.”

The Texas Tech University system is new to PEX and has a long-standing history with copper. “Old habits are hard to break,” Wood said, “and the biggest obstacle I face in my day-to-day job is to gain acceptance from engineers and owners who are unfamiliar with all the benefits PEX provides.”

Wood is often seen driving the decked-out Uponor van, eager to invite engineers and owners to his mobile showroom to show them how PEX jobs look professional and organized with the use of straps and clips.

“We are slowly changing old behavior through education, site visits to new jobs like the Texas Tech dorm project, and peer facilitations,” he said.

Wood is known to invite pros who are unfamiliar with PEX to call on their industry peers with PEX experience for feedback and information on the product. “It’s the best way to build trust with those who haven’t made the leap from copper to PEX yet,” Wood said. “They can call professionals in their own industry – there’s a level of trust there that we simply can’t provide.”

The Texas Tech dorm project was a large-scale installation and it was imperative to stay organized in order to avoid mistakes and future headaches. “It was important for us to make sure that the installation itself looked nice while also staying organized on site,” Parham said. “We wanted to make sure that the PEX was protected from sharp edges and metal studs, and we checked the worksite throughout the installation to ensure this was taken care of.”

Pepco’s Wood was impressed to see that all the multiports and tees looked great and therefore added to the professional look of the installation. “The worksite had an atmosphere of professionalism,” he said. “I was very impressed with the entire project – from design, training of new installers, and the installation itself.”

The 10 miles of PEX tubing found in the Texas Tech project is only the beginning of many new university projects in Texas, according to Wood who is convinced that the tide is changing with each new completed project. “We are changing attitudes, one project at a time,” he said.

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Project Highlights:

• Location: Texas Tech University
• Project: Two dormitory buildings totalling 234,000 square feet
• Installing Contractor: Armstrong Mechanical Company, Lubbock, TX
• Uponor Rep Firm: Pepco, Dallas, TX
• First buildings in the Texas Tech University System to use PEX over copper

Project Data:

• System: Uponor Logic Plumbing
• Product: Uponor AquaPEX®
• Amount of pipe: 10 miles
• Fittings: ProPEX Engineered Polymer (EP) Multiport Tees
• Accessories: Brackets, straps and ProPEX Out-of-the-Wall Supports

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