Dorvin D. Leis Co., Inc.
Dorvin D. Leis Co., Inc.

Hawaii's Premier Mechanical Contractor Since 1967

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GCA Ala Moana Ewa Expansion


Ala Moana Shopping Center – Eva Expansion

When the Ala Moana Shopping Center first opened in 1959 it became the largest shopping center in the United States. It has since gone through many changes, additions and modifications but is still the largest open-air shopping center in the world. It is Hawaii’s premier shopping, entertainment and dining destination with 290 stores, including almost 70 dining options that continue to be popular with locals and tourists alike. The owners decided to add a new “Ewa Wing” to the existing structure and referred to the project as the Ala Moana Ewa Expansion. The project consisted of the construction of a 3 level 650,000 square-foot expansion with a large 4th level central mechanical room and cooling tower bay.

Dorvin D. Leis Co., Inc.’s (DDL) scope of work for the project consisted of providing all of the plumbing, HVAC and fire sprinkler coverage for the 81 new tenant spaces, back of house and public areas and new parking structure throughout the 3 levels. This involved the installation of over 85,000’ (16.1 miles) of plumbing piping and over 55,000’ (10.4 miles) of fire sprinkler piping. In addition, DDL also constructed the mechanical plant which consisted of a mechanical room and cooling tower bay. The mechanical room contained an 800 total horsepower condenser water system capable of sending 5,250 gallons per minute throughout over 11,000’ (2.1 miles) of newly installed condenser water piping. This system provides a massive 1,750 tons of cooling capacity to the tenants of the new Ewa Expansion. The mechanical room contained two 150hp Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) pumps circulating condenser water through two 10’ tall 10,000 lb. plate and frame heat exchangers to absorb the buildings rejected heat prior to being sent to the four cell VFD controlled 24’x36’ cooling tower. Two 250hp VFD circulation pumps feed the 16” condenser water distribution system.

In order for the project to succeed, a number of significant challenges had to be overcome. The project was fast-paced with a set schedule and completion date, yet the project by its nature was very dynamic with thousands of changes necessary “on the fly” in order to accommodate the needs of new tenants and to minimize any shut-down to the existing mall operations or to the adjacent community. The extensive construction operations occurred largely during business hours in the very congested Ala Moana / Piikoi district and while the rest of the shopping center and surrounding roadways remained open.

The collaborative effort and teamwork between the Owner, Mall Operations Dept., Tennent Owners, Architect, Engineer, Contractor, all of the Subcontractors and the local community was the lynchpin that allowed this project to complete on schedule and be successful.

The owners of Ala Moana are very pleased with the new Ewa Expansion which has become seamlessly integrated into the shopping center. Because of the high profile nature of the project, the extent of the work involved, the challenges overcome, and the successful end result, we are very proud of our involvement in this project. It is for these reasons that we feel the project should be considered for a 2016 Build Hawaii Award.

Meeting the Challenge of a Difficult Job

The Ewa Expansion project presented a number of unique challenges that required both thought-out planning as well as quick decisions that had to be made suddenly by all Team Members. Due to the project’s size and location, the very aggressive construction schedule and the thousands of changes, planning and coordinating became critically important in order to complete the project as scheduled and this perfect storm required the entire team to pull together and collaborate to an extent we believe not often seen within our market in the past.

The project scope for DDL was performed in two phases with the first phase being the construction of the shell structure itself and then the build-out of the individual tenant spaces. Once the structure had been constructed, and while the individual tenant build-out was on-going, the construction of the Mechanical room and cooling tower bay on the 4th level was able to begin.

During the construction of the shell structure, DDL was able to successfully identify and connect the extensive existing utilities, many of them underground, with the new Ewa Expansion with no incidents and without affecting any of the tenants in the existing mall. The many Service outages were performed during off-hours to ensure we did not impact existing mall operations. During the construction of the shell and subsequent tenant build-outs, DDL was able to coordinate the MEP (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) interface with dozens of the individual tenants. In addition, the Team was presented with an enormous challenge in the form of the Park Lane Condominium project which was immediately adjacent to the Eva Expansion. This change affected already installed underground that had to be removed and reinstalled at lower depths and changed the structure and routing of above ground work. Regardless, the Team met the challenge and accomplished the goals, and the Team still met completion. Further, DDL was able to provide early condenser water to the project and operate the central cooling plant to allow the owners tenants to have air conditioning in their spaces long before the actual completion of the project.

The construction of the Mechanical plant was a significant challenge due to the size of the equipment as well as the fact that it had to be installed on the 4th level. To support the construction schedule and specific sequencing of the installation, the mechanical room was fully constructed prior to the arrival of the mechanical components. Once at the jobsite, the individual components were lifted to the 4th level and maneuvered to various staging locations by using tank rollers and a mobile 10-ton lifting gantry. The equipment staging required complex coordination of the planning and lift sequencing in order for all of the components to be lifted, maneuvered across the large area and then set into their final installation place. All the while giving special attention to the required structural weight distribution restrictions to ensure no damage occurred to the existing and new structures. Due to the size and weight of the mechanical equipment being within 5% of the maximum capacity of the crane, thorough Critical Lift Plans and corresponding Safety Plans were generated and implemented that required close coordination between the Architect and Engineer, the Contractor, DDL, the safety and health directors of all involved parties, the crane manufacturer, the crane operator, and the men on the job performing the Work and anyone that might be in the area of the Work. . Even though all of the mechanical room components had a total combined weight of over 115 tons (230,000 lbs.), they were delivered, lifted and staged in the mechanical room and cooling tower bay within a single day. Due to the need to minimize impact to the surrounding community and mall operations, this necessitated just-in-time-delivery and significant coordination to facilitate the oversize truckloads that required partial traffic lane closures and police escort.

Excellence in Project Management

The project’s huge size and high profile location were just some of the unique challenges that required the entire Project Team be extremely organized both logistically and in the execution of the work. The project was a retail shell build that required constant attention to our end clients leasing strategy, which nearly always resulted in changes to accommodate a new tenant. There were a total of 3,233 actual issued addendum to contract drawings and 1,187 actual issued SK (sketch) revised contract drawings and details. The project issued 2,513 Requests for Information (RFI’s) with 197 coming from DDL. That number would have been much greater, but for DDL taking on the role as lead project coordinator. We facilitated constant online based videoconferencing and Autodesk 360 BIM (Building Information Management) file sharing to maintain the project schedule while under constant pressure to implement changed work to accommodate new tenants throughout the entire construction process.

DDL performed the coordination for all BIM modeling on the project by compiling all Structural, Architectural and MEP models into a single Navisworks file and performing clash detections. Through this BIM facilitation process, DDL was able to identify numerous design issues early in the project and lead the Teams of contractors, subcontractors and consultants to a successful redesign with zero lost time or schedule slippage. In fact, the project was completed early and under the anticipated budget.

Contractor’s Innovation in Construction Techniques or Materials/Value Engineering

Over the years the Ala Moana Shopping Center has undergone numerous changes and renovations. During the initial Ewa Expansion demolition phase DDL identified several piping cross-connections where modifications had been made to both the copper irrigation piping and the copper domestic water lines. It became apparent that there was the potential for confusion because there was no easily identifiable way to tell the difference between the two identical looking systems. This had the potential to be an extremely serious threat to public health and safety. Once the separate connections were identified, DDL proposed changing the specification of thousands of feet of new copper irrigation piping in the Ewa Expansion to easily identifiable Charlotte Plastics ReUze® CPVC CTS piping. The ReUze® piping system is not only clearly and permanently marked “NON-POTABLE WATER / DO NOT DRINK” but is also easily identifiable by its purple color – the industry standard for non-potable systems”. This single change will allow for quick and easy identification of the piping by anyone in the future, eliminating the threat of cross-connections and potential harm to the public.

Contractor’s State of the Art Advancement

The new Ala Moana Ewa Expansion mechanical system is controlled and fully integrated into the Triduim Niagara® Building Automation System (BAS). This allows the customer to access and control all of their diverse systems through any standard web browser. To control energy costs all mechanical room equipment is controlled by VFD which allows the various pumps and fan motors to respond to the minimum demand the system requires. Numerous remote condenser water temperature and pressure sensors report to the BAS, the BAS analyzes the data and sends commands to the appropriate VFD to control the speed and distribution of the condenser water and cooling tower fan speed. The non-powered heat exchangers and VFD controlled cooling tower fan cells combine to remove heat from the system allowing the water source heat pump air conditioning units throughout the project to operate with minimal energy consumption and maximum efficiency. All equipment is controlled through the BAS via Occupied and Un-occupied time schedules further reducing energy consumption. The open cooling tower loop condenser water is continuously subject to fouling due to the influx of dust and particulate drawn in through the cooling tower fans. Typically the water is cleaned through chemical treatment, and by forcing the water through a filtration system. Not only does this increase energy cost by significantly increasing the load on the pumps, but it is also not very effective and results in significant amounts of water being lost by using a blow-down system to keep the filtration system clean. This results in tens of thousands of gallons of water lost every year. Rather than install a normal filter on this project, DDL installed a cyclonic separator that mechanically cleans the water by separating the water and the particulate solids. The Filter System operates intermittently and physically removes organic and inorganic particulate down to 50 microns from the cooling tower loop water by means of a cyclonic mechanical screen. This reduces water blow-down to a fraction of that of a normal filtration system. DDL also worked closely with the manufacturer of the separator to design a system of supply and return to the cooling tower designed around the typical trade wind pattern (the trade winds deposit the most dust and debris on the facing end of the cooling tower) to maximize the efficiency of the unit. These changes all result in less energy use, less operating costs to the Owner and considerably less water loss, all which benefit the local environment and infrastructure.

Contractor’s Sensitivity to the Environment

The Ala Moana Ewa Expansion was constructed during an El Nino year. For several months in 2015 the project was inundated with near constant heavy rains. These sometimes torrential rains exceeded the existing storm drain capacities across the project and throughout the entire area of main city wastewater piping systems. In the parking structure several levels of decking were being added and by design these levels were all to drain to the sanitary system. This is an acceptable condition once fully constructed as the drains would be covered and protected from rainfall and runoff by the deck above, however during construction these decks had yet to be built which meant that the drains were fully open to the atmosphere and were being inundated by the heavy rainfall and thus overloading the City sanitary piping, creating a problem for the entire local area that shared these systems with Ala Moana Mall. DDL identified these issues early on and instituted plans to alleviate the wastewater overloads by selectively rerouting and disconnecting the 14 drain risers through the parking structure allowing them to correctly drain to the storm drain system. DDL also worked to assist the owner and the State of Hawaii Department of Health Wastewater Branch to survey and identify additional cross-connections in existing piping systems to remedy these cross-connections and minimize overloading on the City wastewater and storm drain piping. To help prevent flooding and its byproduct of construction site runoff, DDL constantly monitored all storm drain piping and along with the project civil contractor constantly maintained all above and below grade storm drain piping to ensure all remained clear and draining freely to the correct utility completely free of construction runoff.

Excellence in Client Service

Our Project Manager, General Superintendent and all of our Trade Foreman made a sincere effort to develop a strong relationship and rapport with the owners, general contractor and other subcontractors. This communication and close relationship fostered a strong sense of teamwork that was conducive to the resolution of issues and ultimately the overall success of the project. In one instance, at the request of the owner, DDL was able to come to the aid of a major owner/tenant by providing an over a 20 man crew to assist in getting the tenant caught up with the current schedule. This was accomplished on one shift, in one day and with one crew and was tremendously appreciated by both the owner and the tenant. In all instances, DDL always made the extra effort to help the entire Team be successful.

In addition, DDL was able to process larger than usual amounts of changed work with no incidents, errors or rework. DDL submitted over 200 proposals to perform changed work that was often the result of individual tenants changing floorplan configurations, sometimes multiple times. In one instance, the fully-piped and roughed-in completed public restrooms had to be relocated to a new location over 30’ away on two separate levels with no time extension to the project schedule. DDL was able to successfully complete this work in the time allotted by assigning secondary crews to the relocation work exclusively. DDL maintained a workforce of 45 team members (10 men over the original allotted and planned workforce) in order to maintain the owner’s desired schedule. We believe our extra effort allowed the Team to be successful.

Contractor’s Contributions to the Community

At DDL we pride ourselves in being active in the communities where we do business. The company strongly believes in the spirit of “Giving something back.” This involvement may take the form of donations to various local charitable, civic, athletic or scholastic organizations or participating in events that support community organizations and efforts. Recently the company has made corporate donations to many Honolulu based organizations including the University of Hawaii Foundation, American Heart Association, The Heart Ball, Kapiolani Health Foundation, Child & Family Services, Aloha Council Boy Scouts of America, YMCA of Honolulu, American Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters Society, Kapiolani Children’s Miracle Network, Kapolei Rotary Foundation, Honolulu Police Foundation, Oahu Arts Center, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Shriners’ Hospitals for Children (Honolulu), West Oahu Little League, and numerous others. So a portion of our profits from the Ala Moana Center Eva Expansion were returned to the community. Our way of saying “Thank You” for helping us to be successful.

Additionally, our extra efforts outlined above on this project helped minimize the impact of the construction to the local community, helped reduce energy requirements and carbon footprint, and helped resolve some existing problems like the storm and sewer overflows that impacted the local community.


At DDL, safety is always a primary concern at all of our work locations and we pride ourselves on our efforts to provide our employees with the safest possible working environment. Our full-time Safety Director first evaluates each aspect of the Work and then regularly visits each jobsite to ensure safety plans are being implemented and proper safety procedures are in place and are being followed. In addition, each new employee receives safety training prior to reporting to a jobsite and then receives follow-up training on specific safety topics through dedicated training and weekly jobsite safety briefings.

This aggressive safety program has paid off with an Experience Modification Rating (EMR) of .73 which we believe is among the lowest in our industry. This program has proven to be very successful in not only minimizing the number of injuries but also ensuring than none of those injuries has been serious. In the case of the Ewa Expansion project, particular attention was given to working so close to the general public and ensuring all work operations would not endanger the public along with those involved in the Work. This comprehensive safety program for the Eva Expansion paid off with a perfect safety record of no recordable injuries and no lost time, even though the entire company’s volume increased by 50% during this time period.