Vandever Historical Building
Tulsa, OK 

From Haute Couture to Modern Living

Once the top of fancy for local shoppers, Vandever Department store, built in 1924, was stocked with luxury items for the wealthy Tulsa in-crowd. But with the passing of time and changing economies, the famous six-story, redbrick building closed down for business in 1970, and according to the Tulsa Historical Society, stood vacant for decades.

Brickhugger LLC, a local real estate development company with long-standing experience in reviving historical buildings (including the Mayo Hotel and Detroit Lofts), became involved in 2012 breathing new life into the long-time abandoned stately building.

Today, 40 new apartment units stand in place of the fancy department store and add to the bustling life of downtown Tulsa where the demand for apartments and condos are on a steady rise.

Palmer Mechanical, a local company, was asked to design a new plumbing system for the historical renovation. Todd Ringgold, vice president for plumbing services for Palmer Mechanical, has years of experience in historical renovations and he was asked to oversee the project. He identified a significant obstacle the first time he visited the building.

“Vandever is located on a busy, two-lane downtown street with no parking lot for us to use for loading or unloading,” Ringgold said. “You have to work around these obstacles of course, but it takes more manpower and time to move product in and out of the building.”

The other obstacle that Ringgold and his team needed to consider (and this is a fairly common issue in historic renovations) was the lack of ceiling space. “Tenants want tall ceilings, so the contractors are trying to extend as much wall height as possible,” Ringgold said.

And with the lack of ceiling space, the various trades (from lighting to plumbing to heating and cooling) needed to work together to accommodate all the equipment and manpower required to install the different components. “I ended up using mostly two installers because we were working in such a cramped space,” Ringgold said.

Over a 10-month period, Ringgold and his installers worked around traffic issues, material orders and other trades who needed access to the ceiling. “PEX was a perfect product for the job,” Ringgold said. “While the workers framed rooms, we would pre-cut pipe and install brackets and then run pipe when the room was completely framed.”

This way, Palmer Mechanical was able to stay ahead of the game all the way through the project. And of course, PEX was easier for the installers to unload from the trucks and move around the building than other products (like CPVC and copper).

Ringgold, who started installing PEX in 2005, prefers PEX over any other product and in design/build situations, like the Vandever project, Palmer Mechanical completes the design work in-house and specifies PEX whenever possible.

“It makes sense to use PEX since it’s flexible, easy to install and comes with the proven ProPEX® expansion fittings system,” Ringgold said. And with almost 10,000 feet of PEX installed for the project along with PEX bend supports, PEX angle stops and PEX valves, speed and reliability are important considerations.

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Project Highlights:

• Developer: Brickhugger LLC, Tulsa
• Contractor: Palmer Mechanical, Tulsa
• System: Uponor Plumbing System
• Six-story historical building downtown Tulsa

Project Features:

• Uponor AquaPEX® Pipe
• ProPEX® fittings
• Engineered Polymer (EP) Multiport Tees

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