MIDDLEVILLE, MICH. — Featuring a 5-million BTU capacity “live-fire” training lab with 10 working stations for live demonstrations and a hands-on learning experience,  Bradford White’s International Technical Excellence Center ( iTEC) offers contractors, reps,  wholesalers, engineers, etc., a first-class, hands-on learning experience.

The 18,000-sq.ft. building is U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold certified, and there is a mechanical room in the building showcasing a variety of energy-efficient HVAC systems and much more.

According to Chad Sanborn, product marketing manager at Bradford White Water Heaters, LEED Certification was attained by designing the facility around the most advanced technology that would provide the most significant training value to those visiting iTEC.

Bradford White plans to enhance the facility as new technologies are introduced that will benefit the company’s customers, business partners and the industry at large.

“We have had over 700 customers this year attend a variety of events such as live-fire training or overall product presentations at the iTEC facility,” said Sanborn. “The customer base for these trainings varies amongst distributors, engineers, contractors, and other business partners.”

The cutting-edge technologies at work within the facility are impressive. The scope of the iTEC mechanical system has a lot to offer all key audiences. ITEC’s flexibility allows for training on almost any topic related to hot water generation and distribution. When taking a tour of the 4,000-sq.ft. mechanical room, down the hall from the training lab, contractors get to see all these technologies first hand and at work.

The room showcases VFDs, boilers, pumps, heat exchangers, geothermal equipment and DHW tanks.  All hydronic piping is color-coordinated to aid in visualization of the system, and the equipment is installed on a 24-in. mechanical pad, bringing the equipment to eye level.

Color-coded pipe insulation allows contractors to follow system flow and operation. Each color has different meanings: red is specific to the heating loop, dark blue identifies chilled water, etc. iTEC’s mechanical system includes six different colors.

“Each and every operating mechanical component of the building’s mechanical system serves as a training tool,” said Dustin Bowerman, director of technical services at Bradford White Water Heaters. “There’s no substitute for seeing these components in operation and seeing how they interconnect; it’s hands-on training in the best sense.”

The training facility also features a rain water harvesting system that provides the building with non-potable water; solar thermal panels that supply heat and hot water throughout the building; photovoltaic power that supplements electrical power; and an in-floor radiant heating system and outdoor snowmelt system.

“Customers love to see the building and its working components as well as Bradford White’s top-notch, hands-on training that is unlike any other in the industry,” said Sanborn.

Heat sources in the mechanical room include five modulating and condensing Laars NeoTherm boilers with a combined input of up to 1.7 million BTUs and the live fire lab has 10 working hands-on stations, each with a variety of equipment chosen to match course curriculum.

The heating capacity of the training lab is up to 5 million BTUs. The live-fire lab and heating system are connected via Taco-HVAC plate/frame heat exchangers.

The facility uses a Honeywell building management system that is housed in control panels with glass doors to show the numerous connection points branching throughout the facility. Danfoss VFDs are installed next to the Taco pumps they control. Where VFDs are not used, Taco ECM-driven, variable speed Viridian pumps are employed. 

Systems at work

The iTEC geothermal system has 14 bore holes, each 300 feet deep, that carry a combined load of 28 tons. It is dedicated to the four ERV/AHUs for cooling, each conditioning a different part of the building. Each ERV/AHU has an energy wheel (air-to-air heat exchanger), plus heating and chilled water coils.

Air that goes into the building is the same temperature as the exhaust air because air exchanges are done at neutral temperatures. The VFD-driven ERV/AHU system handles building air balance and also monitors carbon monoxide/dioxide levels. 

Excess heat from the live-fire training boilers work in tandem to provide optimal air temperatures when in heating mode.  To heat the majority of the building, in-floor radiant was used throughout the newly-constructed portions of the building while hydronic baseboard was installed in the remodeled area. 

A snow-melt system was also installed in portions of the parking lot. There is approximately 9,000 lineal feet of 5/8-in. PEX tubing under the sidewalks and main parking areas, served with a BTU load just over 700,000. During most of the winter months, this load can be handled by hot water from the live-fire training lab.

Domestic hot water is provided via a solar thermal array. The solar panels are installed at ground level, so no one has to climb a roof to see the technology at work.

The solar thermal indirect tank is in series with a second indirect tank that is connected to the live fire lab loop. When the lab is not in use, NeoTherm boilers located in the mechanical room can provide hot water to the indirect fired tank. 

Other LEED point features include a 4 kW photovoltaic array, which has the framework to grow to 20 kW, and a rain water harvesting system.  The system captures 30,000 gallons and stores it underground to supply irrigation water for outdoor landscaping and gray water for toilets and urinal flushing. 

All light fixtures, whether indoor or outdoor, use energy-stingy LED bulbs.  The TV screens in the lecture hall are also LED.