Located in one of the most storied spots on the Las Vegas strip, the SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas opened in August of 2014 to much anticipation and excitement. The site, formerly the Sahara Hotel and Casino, was purchased in 2007 by SBE Entertainment and Stockbridge Real Estate Group, followed by the official closing of the Sahara in May of 2011. With plans for a $415 million renovation as part of SBE’s chain of SLS hotels, the new owners officially broke ground on the SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Feb. 14, 2013.
Once a hot spot for “Rat Pack” era happenings, the former Sahara was host to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and Louis Prima. It had also served as the location for quintessential Vegas-themed movies including the original 1960 version of Ocean’s 11, and events such as the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. Thus, throughout the renovation SBE placed significant emphasis on combining modern comfort and convenience with design and style befitting of the location’s notable history. With guest rooms and restaurants designed by the renowned Philippe Starck in collaboration with architect at-large Gensler, virtually every inch of the new property was planned to convey sophistication, elegance and excitement.
Additionally, SBE emphasized the importance of ensuring a high level of efficiency across the property’s back-of-house operations. This included evaluating its existing mechanical systems to determine which upgrades and replacements would be necessary during the property’s renovation.
“We were dealing with a situation in which equipment was in various lifecycle stages, because the property encompasses buildings constructed from the early ’50s all the way up to the ’80s,” explains Tony Foti, director of engineering and safety at the SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. “While some of the older areas had undergone renovations in recent years, others, which were part of expansions in the last couple of decades, were in more urgent need of upgrades.”
The HVAC system upgrade solution was particularly varied in the three existing guest room hi-rises on the property—which would be renamed as the World, Story and Lux towers.
“In the Story and Lux towers, we took everything down to the foundational concrete, and therefore a complete replacement of all mechanical systems was necessary,” Foti says.
SBE engaged Southland Industries to design and oversee the property’s entire mechanical system project, including upgrades or maintenance to all HVAC, plumbing and fire protection systems.
“With bold plans for the renovation, SBE still wanted to be smart about using existing elements of the mechanical infrastructure wherever possible,” says Danny Boh, project manager at Southland Industries. “SBE also had an aggressive timeline and strict budget for the project, which meant there was little room for error in making these decisions.”
Southland began by conducting a thorough field investigation of the property’s existing systems to determine which parts of it could be integrated into the new mechanical system plan. During that evaluation, it was also decided that the existing fan coils in the guest rooms of the World tower would remain.
A total of 623 vertical stack and horizontal (MPY and CPY Series) fan coil units from IEC, in a capacity range of 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 CFM, were specified for the Story and Lux guest towers, while an additional 1,265 were evaluated for maintenance and would remain in operation in the World guest tower. General demolition began on the guest room tower renovation portion of the project in June of 2013.
For the three guest room hi-rise buildings, Southland worked with Hansen Mechanical Contractors to install the new HVAC systems in the Lux and Story towers, and conduct the required maintenance on the existing systems in the World tower.
“We were working within a very clearly staged and interdependent construction timeline, which meant everything needed to happen on schedule in order for the entire renovation project to be completed on time,” explains Bill Blumenthal, project manager at Hansen Mechanical. In fact, the hotel opened ahead of schedule.
Hansen commenced work in the summer of 2013, beginning with maintenance on the existing IEC fan coil units in the World tower.
“Despite some issues with not being very well-maintained by the property’s former ownership, the IEC units were in great condition for their age,” Blumenthal says. His team replaced many of the units’ fan motors, as well as cleaned and pressurized all their coils. To integrate with the guest rooms’ new interior designs, Hansen also worked with the general contractor to repaint the units’ outer panels.
Following completion of the World tower fan coil unit maintenance in August of 2013, Hansen moved on to installation of the new equipment in the 203 Story tower and 289 Lux tower rooms that same October.
“Other than drilling holes for new risers and reconfiguring some of the ductwork to accommodate remote versus unit-mounted thermostats, this was a standard job, and everything went according to plan,” says Blumenthal. “Aesthetics were very important, so we also worked with the property ownership to center the units’ grills so they looked more appealing and symmetrical, and allowed for the interior design elements in the rooms to be the true center of attention.”
According to Blumenthal, Hansen spent considerable advance planning time with the installation engineering team at IEC to ensure the new fan coil units would be an ideal fit.
“In addition to our own robust pre-planning process, which includes our CAD department mapping out the building before we ever get into the actual installation, we were able to work with IEC on having them pre-fab all the risers, and also tag everything by project area so the equipment was very well-organized upon delivery,” explains Blumenthal.
All aspects of HVAC system installation, testing, and start-up were complete in the Lux and Story towers by May of 2014, allowing for the final stages of the renovation project at-large to be completed on time.
Officially opening its doors on Aug. 23, 2014, the new SLS Hotel & Casino Las Vegas has already experienced exceptional activity across its casino, four nightclubs, eight restaurants and cafés, a variety of shops and 1,600 guest rooms. The hotel has also received high accolades for its unique design and overall comfort, with the guest room HVAC systems contributing to this positive feedback.
“It’s the ideal mix of classic throwback and modern functionality,” says Foti. “And the IEC fan coil units help make the guests’ in-room experiences very comfortable.”
“We’ve done a lot of HVAC work on the Las Vegas strip over the years, and I was actually personally involved with the original North and South guest towers on the Sahara property,” says Blumenthal. “IEC has consistently provided a reliable product, and our experience with the company’s manufacturer’s representatives have also been very positive. I anticipate the systems we’ve installed at the new SLS Las Vegas will continue to operate as planned for many years to come.”
Blumenthal additionally shared that Hansen Mechanical will soon be replacing four of the fan coil units in the World tower, presently located in a luxury suite designed by Lenny Kravitz in conjunction with Philippe Starck, with new units from IEC.