Pure Building Science
Meet the indoor air quality experts at Steamatic of Connecticut
An array of thoughts cascaded through Vincent Farricielli’s mind as he made his way to an impromptu meeting called by a client. As the owner of Steamatic of Connecticut mulled over recent events, he reflected on how dozens of his employees had just wrapped up a huge job at the client’s 20-story office building in Hartford, Connecticut. His team had worked around the clock to clean and restore the facility’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and ancillary systems, which were damaged by a catastrophic fire after a rooftop air handling unit, aging and neglected, literally exploded.
The estimated three-month job took only two weeks. “We worked night and day to get the building’s remaining HVAC system up and running again,” recalls Farricielli, who basically camped out at the property to ensure everything was completed to his exacting standards. “We cleaned all the ductwork in the building. We located and fixed every single void, every single breach. We cleaned each and every coil and tightened up all the insulation. We discovered that every single VAV (variable air volume) box was either severely dirty or clogged, so we cleaned them all—it took four solid days.”
Manufacturing a replacement for the air handler that exploded—along with retrofitting the structure for the new system—was expected to take a year. Though the facility normally operates on two 100-ton air handling units, it was able to survive on a single unit during this timeframe because Steamatic of Connecticut bridged all the ductwork together, allowing the system’s cooling power to feed the whole building with utmost efficiency.
Also, with the remaining HVAC equipment and ancillary systems now in pristine working condition, air flow was restored to spaces with historically little-to-no air circulation. “People were finally getting air flow in rooms they had complained about for years,” Farricielli says. “Everyone was ecstatic and pleased to have good cooling throughout the entire building.”
His mind goes back to the unanticipated post-project meeting with the client, which also included engineers, building facility representatives and mechanical controls experts. “I didn’t know what to expect,” Farricielli says. “Long story short, they wanted to know how I did it—they couldn’t understand how my team was able to get that one old unit running so efficiently that it took care of the whole building.”
He was blown away by the positive feedback. “It was a good experience on a full restoration on a unit, and I felt great about what we did,” he says. “We really won over that client and all the engineers on that job, which led to many, many referrals.”
Niche in Building Science
This is just one classic example of what makes Steamatic of Connecticut and its work so special. The company serves residential, commercial and industrial customers across Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. It is part of the global Steamatic brand, which has operations in 20 countries and provides a range of services, including fire and water damage restoration and carpet cleaning.
“Sometimes when people think of Steamatic, all they think of are these typical services. While we do a great job in these areas, our niche is in building science, which is being able to go into a building and understand everything,” Farricielli says.
The focus on building science methodologies pairs well with the company’s expertise in air-handling unit restoration. In addition to cleaning and decontaminating air handlers, the team possesses a deep understanding of how these mechanical systems work together with other building components to regulate temperature, humidity, pressure and other elements—any of which can make or break a balanced indoor environment.
“A balanced environment is the most critical thing today,” Farricielli adds. “Nowadays, our buildings are tightly built and well-insulated, so they rely more heavily on HVAC systems to circulate air. Sometimes they’re circulating to keep the air warm or cool, and sometimes they’re circulating to purify the air and remove humidity.”
He continues further, “If air handling systems are not properly maintained, they’re not going to function the way they’re supposed to. It’s like buying a brand-new car and driving it every day without ever changing the oil. You’re just going to drive it into the ground. You’re not going to maximize its efficiency, and the system won’t run to full-life expectancy in a cost-effective manner.”
Proper Care is Key
Farricielli shares another example of a project benefiting from his company’s restoration expertise. This past summer, Steamatic of Connecticut was called on to fix a cooling tower on top of a hospital roof that had suddenly stopped working. The location of the building—next to a busy highway interchange—was an immediate red flag, as vehicle emissions and contaminants from nearby roadwork likely contributed to the equipment’s malfunction. Upon further investigation, the team learned that exterior construction had recently occurred at the property—and none of the HVAC systems were protected from the resulting dust and debris.
“The owner not only reroofed the building, but also repointed the exterior brick facade. The cooling tower sucked in all of the particles from the construction processes, which starved the system of air to the point that it finally stopped working,” Farricielli explains. “We ended up cleaning the cooling tower, all four of the rooftop air handling units, and all the ductwork throughout the facility so the building would cool properly during this hot and humid time.”
Another issue on this project: the cooling tower had received zero maintenance during its 15 years of operation. As with air handling systems, cooling towers require continuous scheduled maintenance to prevent corrosion and avoid growing potential hazardous germs and bacteria, such as Legionella. Cleaning, sanitizing and decontamination help to mitigate the debris, scaling and other problems that often foul proper equipment operations.
Focus on Indoor Air Quality
Farricielli’s desire to leverage building science to preserve and enhance mechanical systems—and to support the comfort, health, well-being and productivity of building occupants—stems from his earlier career experiences.
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial technology from Central Connecticut State University, he worked for several years as a health and safety professional at his family’s masonry business. He remembers, “We were always on dusty construction sites, working in the dirtiest of environments.”
Then he joined BMS CAT, where his work in mold, water and fire restoration services piqued his current obsession with indoor air quality. “From there, my fascination with building science and concern for a healthy indoor environment—specifically, what people are breathing—just took off,” he says.
When he opened Steamatic of Connecticut in 1997, his firm’s initial offerings included selling air purification machines, which remove contaminants from the air and prevent air handler filters from being overloaded. Then the team began installing ultraviolet (UV) lights in HVAC systems, which are shown to reduce or prevent harmful microorganisms from growing on moist interior surfaces such as cooling coils, drain pans and ductwork.
“Our firm truly leads in the building science arena, dealing with many air quality and industrial hygiene concerns that our competitors in the tri-state area just cannot handle,” Farricielli says. “Our highly trained professionals take pride in creating safe, healthy systems and limiting people’s exposure to harmful contaminants in the air.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans on average spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Since certain pollutants are more concentrated in interior environments, it is beneficial to utilize technologies and strategies that support proper ventilation and air sanitation and, most importantly, help to control pollutants at the source.
Farricielli, a state-certified industrial hygienist, stays abreast of best practices and industry trends by being active in the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
“The IAQA has helped me from the start, and I’ve given presentations to its members many times,” he says. “Also, our company is a charter member of NADCA.” In addition, Farricielli is credentialed as an Air Systems Cleaning Specialist through NADCA and is a Council-certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor through the American Council for Accredited Certification.
“We worked night and day to get the building’s remaining HVAC system up and running again.” Vincent Farricielli, Owner and Vice President, Steamatic of Connecticut
Dedication to Stellar Service
Farricielli counts himself fortunate to be surrounded by a group of loyal and dependable employees. “We have just over 40 people today, and nearly a quarter of them have been with me from the start. They have learned and adjusted, like me, as we’ve gone along—and it’s made us who we are today,” he says.
Exceptional customer service is a hallmark of the Steamatic of Connecticut team, according to Farricielli. “Our customer service is over the top, which I think is how we’ve won our clients over,” he says with pride.
Finding ways to improve transparency with customers has been crucial to building relationships over the years. The simple act of communicating project challenges and solutions in a visual format has provided a major boost to customer satisfaction. “Our employees take documentation very seriously. Often, they look for creative ways to capture images and video, like carrying their phones inside of a Ziploc bag to document an entire wet process,” he says. “We also put a lot of effort into writing detailed reports to help our clients understand exactly what we did for them.”
Steamatic of Connecticut strives for seamlessness in managing clients’ projects. “Every single project is assigned to a project manager, who then provides customers with daily and weekly email updates. In addition, we usually assign an in-house health and safety officer to each project, or sometimes we hire an outside firm, depending on the size of the job,” Farricielli says. “Also, every field technician is certified through both NADCA and IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and receives additional OSHA training.”
Heart of Gold
For Farricielli, taking care of his employees is just as important as delivering stellar customer service. For this reason, all employees are guaranteed a minimum of 40 hours each week—even during the typical slowdowns in this line of work. Oftentimes, Farricielli uses this downtime to donate his company’s services at municipal facilities, police departments, K-12 schools, universities, churches, nonprofits and other places.
“I have to pay my guys to do something, and they can only clean our shop and wash our vans so many times!” he jokes, then adds in a more serious tone, “Truly, I consider it to be a win-win for our company. My techs are enthusiastic about looking for opportunities to give back to the communities where we live and work. It keeps them busy, and they don’t ever want a day off.”
As a company owner for over two decades, Farricielli has made it a priority to not stress about where the next job is coming from.
“I love what I do and really enjoy helping people. I never worry about having enough work—we just don’t ever have a problem. Day in and day out, we usually stay busy,” he says.
He feels that his decades-old connection to The Blue Book Network has played a significant role in helping his company to thrive. “I’ve known The Blue Book all of my working life,” he shares, explaining how he used to rely on the classic print directory to market the services of the multigenerational masonry business founded by his great-grandfather. “Every dollar invested in The Blue Book’s ads and services has always come back, be it in the form of a new project or client connection or something else. Just like you need insurance for your business, I feel that if you’re looking for new work, you need to be in The Blue Book.”