Plumbing Contractor Replaces Steel with Copper; Builds Florida and National Markets through Renovation Know-How

March 3, 1997


HARRISBURG, PA— A ten-year-old plumbing company has carved out Florida and other national markets by perfecting large-scale, short-term renovations, mainly replacing galvanized steel water distribution plumbing with copper.

Plumbing Management Systems, Inc., which covers Florida, has sister operating divisions within the parent company, AMSI, Inc., that provide full-service mechanical and plumbing work in 48 states. James M. Hightower is founder and president of Plumbing Management Systems and AMSI.

Plumbing Management Systems and AMSI replace galvanized steel with copper and perform various other plumbing and mechanical installations for hotels, restaurants, prisons, hospitals, apartment and office complexes as well as pharmaceutical, industrial and commercial companies. Clients in Plumbing Management Systems home state include Florida Medical Center, Florida State Prison Systems, Shering Plough, Trammel Crow Properties and nine hotel chains.

Sheraton Bal Harbour, just north of Miami Beach, is one of the largest luxury resorts in the area and has undergone a $60 million renovation in the last two years. It has 660 rooms in 16 stories.

The hotel was opened in the 1950s, along with a number of other hotels for which Plumbing Management Systems works. In recent years, this company has replaced the original galvanized hot- and cold-water distribution systems with copper in several of the hotels.

Jim Hightower explained, "The Sheraton is very busy most of the year. If an existing plumbing system fails, the hotel requires immediate repairs without disturbing their daily operation."

Richard A. Smith, general manager of Plumbing Management Systems, says, "We're one of the very few companies in this state - and in many others - to have invested in the equipment to drill and extrude large-diameter copper fittings on the spot. This allows us to work faster and be more competitive in large copper systems, since we have already amortized the cost of the drilling unit."

Approximately four years ago, Plumbing Management Systems began utilizing mechanical joint connections and its own $17,000 drilling and extrusion equipment to quickly and economically join copper tubing in diameters through 8 inches. By extruding tee branches up to and including 4 inches, the company replaces three solder joints with one. Plumbing Management Systems even extrudes joints for competitors that lack the volume of business to justify investing in the larger drilling equipment.

Recently, the firm repiped the Sheraton's pump and boiler rooms, and over the last five years, it has replaced most of the vertical and horizontal mains throughout the hotel. In the most recent job, it installed approximately 3000 feet of copper pipe in diameters of 1/2 inch through 6 inches.

Plumbing Management Systems prefers copper partly because its integrity permits the reuse of existing concrete slab-to-slab penetrations. All the fire-stopping compound required around another material often mandates the drilling of new holes in slabs or installing (and exposing) extensive fire stopping material beneath a slab.

The company says, in almost all cases, it can replace deteriorating steel plumbing with copper pipe faster and more cost effectively than by using any other material. "Even when copper costs more than another material, the savings from using drilling/extruding equipment and mechanical joint connections as well as greater customer satisfaction with copper more than make up the difference," according to Perry W. Carrow, vice president of Plumbing Management Systems.

Copper tube and fittings do not burn or support combustion and therefore will not decompose to create toxic gases during a fire. Installation does not require adhesives or solvents containing volatile organic compounds. Copper will not carry fire through floors, walls or ceilings. Even when subjected to flames, copper maintains its integrity. That's one of the reasons why it's preferred for most piping systems.

For more about Plumbing Management Systems, Inc., or AMSI, Inc., contact James Hightower at 305-651-0422, 101 NW 176th Street, Miami, FL 33169.

For more about copper tube and fittings, contact the Copper Development Association, the information, education and technical development arm of the copper, brass and bronze industry in the United States. Plumbing and mechanical information can be found in our Plumbing section.