Chicago School Installs Air Conditioning Equipment Through BILCO Roof Hatch

Press Release from The Bilco Company

NEW HAVEN, Conn., June 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Workers from a Chicago mechanical team created an opening in the roof of a public school to install and remove two 750-ton air conditioning chillers through a customized roof hatch manufactured by The BILCO Company.

Blackhawk HVAC completed the difficult and complex project at the Roberto Clemente Community Academy, which enrolls more than 700 students in grades 9-12. The air conditioning units were removed and installed through BILCO's Type D roof hatch, which provides a convenient way to install and remove heavy mechanical equipment.

Rich LaCien, the mechanical general contractor for the project, developed the plan to open the roof and install the roof hatch for handling the air conditioning equipment. A 550-ton crane handled the oversized apparatus, lifting the failing equipment out of the building and lowering the new units into place. The new chillers have a cooling capacity of 750 tons, and each unit weighs about 12 tons.

LaCien said Chicago Public Schools, engineers and structural team members discussed various plans to deliver the equipment for the school, which was built in 1974 and is named after Clemente, a Hall of Fame baseball player and native of Puerto Rico who starred for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The school is home to a significant population of Hispanic students.

Chillers at the school had failed about 30 years ago, and teams installed new ones by entering a building after removing a sidewall. "It was bricked in, and in 2010 they needed a different piece of equipment, so they took it apart and put it back together again,'' LaCien said. "It seemed like a waste of time and money to keep opening up the sidewall every time they needed new mechanical equipment."

Blackhawk's team cut through the roof and removed concrete to establish room for the BILCO roof hatch, which measures 9-feet, 8-inches x 18-feet, 3-inches. The roof hatches are commonly used in projects for the removal and installation of large and heavy equipment that is used in heating and air conditioning. Hatches are also frequently used to install oversized radiology equipment and other devices in medical buildings.

"We built a 2-foot curb and installed a temporary cap after we removed all the concrete,'' LaCien said. "We also put a pitch on the cap. The hatch will only be used for mechanical upgrades."

BILCO's D roof hatches are engineered with compression spring operators to provide smooth, easy one-hand operation regardless of size. The doors include automatic hold-open arms that lock covers in the open position to ensure safe egress. They include an overlapping cover design, full-welded corners on covers and curb, EPDM rubber gasket and fully insulated cover and curb that ensure weather tight efficiency.

The doors included a positive latching mechanism to maintain building security and are constructed with corrosion resistant materials to provide years of trouble-free, dependable service. Architectural Building Solutions assisted Blackhawk with procuring the BILCO hatch.

"BILCO met and exceeded my expectation with the roof hatch,'' LaCien said. "I was impressed with the quality. I can be very critical of products, but we set it, squared it, set the bolts and it was done. There was no messing around with the latch or any other part of the hatch."

The hatch establishes a well-conceived long-term solution for the district, LaCien said, and he envisions more projects in which the hatch will be specified.

"If I come across another project like this, we're going through the roof with the opening and the roof hatch,'' he said. "We're not putting brick and louvers back in. It's spending so much money every time you do that. It will pay for itself just the second time that it's used. The hatch will only be used for mechanical upgrades, and it's a worthwhile investment for the district."

For more information about residential products from The BILCO Company, contact 1-800-854-9724.

For over 90 years, The BILCO Company has been a building industry pioneer in the design and development of specialty access products. Over these years, the company has built a reputation among architects, and engineers for products that are unequaled in design and workmanship. BILCO – an ISO 9001 certified company – offers commercial and residential specialty access products. Its basement access products are available through online retailers and major home improvement centers. BILCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of AmesburyTruth, a division of Tyman Plc. For more information, visit

About AmesburyTruth™
AmesburyTruth™ is a leading manufacturer of window and door extrusions, hardware, and sealing systems, which are used by leading window and door manufacturers throughout North America, for both residential and commercial markets. Based in Edina, Minnesota, the company has facilities throughout North America. The company is a subsidiary of Tyman Plc. (London Stock Exchange: TYMN). Tyman Plc, headquartered in London, is a leading international supplier of components to the window and door industry. Visit .

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