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Case Study: Aquarium Expansion

Vancouver Aquarium Chooses PVC Pipe for Saltwater Application

Situation Analysis

The Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver’s Stanley Park has a rich, 55-year history as a conservation organization. Its Revitalization, the largest expansion ever undertaken at the aquarium, is currently underway. Upon completion, visitors will experience additions, including a new entrance pavilion, development of an outdoor plaza, enhanced animal environments, and greater open spaces for exploring and learning within inviting, spaciousgalleries and public circulation spaces.

On track for LEED Gold certification, the Revitalizationincludes a rainwater harvesting system for non-potableuse and radiant floor heating and cooling.

Application Insight

The project involves extensive mechanical upgrades to the existing building, which includes replacing deteriorating concrete and obsolete piping, and construction of a three-story, 96,000-square-foot addition with new exhibit space and offices. The addition will also house a large underground mechanical room, four new temporary, self-contained exhibit tanks, and four ozone towers. Alpha Mechanical Contracting Ltd. installed piping, mechanical pumps and heat exchangers. Allyn McFarlin, Alpha Mechanical Contracting’s lead project manager, explains that the district energy system (DES) was installed in the existing building in a hydraulic loop to connect the heating and cooling [plant], heat exchangers and cooling towers. Designed by Integral Group (formerly Cobalt Engineering), the single-pipe ambient DES loop provides low-temperature energy to the refrigerant-based heating and cooling plant.

Vinyl Benefits

About 1,100 feet of 12-inch-diameter Xirtec140® Schedule 40 PVC piping from IPEX Inc. runs throughout the existing facility. PVC was the optimum choice for the critical life support piping systems in the aquatic life display tanks. “[The PVC is] unusual,” notes McFarlin. “You typically see a schedule 40 steel pipe, but the aquarium and Integral had the foresight to use PVC. It’s more cost effective. And PVC won’t corrode — an important feature, given saltwater runs through the heat exchangers.”

Xirtec140 PVC is an excellent alternative to steel piping for pressure pipe systems. It has a high level of corrosion resistance in moist environments, or in this case, for the more aggressive application of salt water transport. Xirtec140 offers longevity, reduced weight for handling and installation, and improved flow capacity when compared with steel pipe both now and well into the future.

Project Name: Vancouver Aquarium
Location: Vancouver, BC
Owner: Vancouver Aquarium
Date Completed: Phase 1B 2013
Architect: Musson Cattell Mackey partnership
Mechanical Contractor: Alpha Mechanical Contracting Ltd.

Mechanical Engineer: Integral Group (formerly Cobalt Engineering)
Piping System: Xirtec140® Schedule 40 PVC piping
Manufacturer: IPEX Inc.

Vinyl Benifits: PVC pipe has a high level of durability and corrosion resistance with a projected life span of over 100 years. PVC pipe also inhibits the accumulation of biofilm, and provides better insulating properties and flow capacity than metallic pipe, with a reduced potential to form condensation.


Information for this study prepared through interviews and research conducted by Interline Creative Group, Inc. on behalf of The Vinyl Institute©