ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corporation
It’s not uncommon for ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corporation (ABCO) to install thousands of fire suppression sprinklers in a single project site. In fact, ABCO’s president, Timothy Bowe, estimates the company has installed close to two million sprinklers since his father and grandfather launched the company in 1958.
Today, ABCO specializes in the design and installation of fire suppression piping systems in office buildings throughout the New York City area.
A family legacy
More than half a century ago, shortly after William G. Bowe graduated from college, he started working for a New York City-based sprinkler company. He learned the ins and outs of the industry, and several years later, he felt prepared to start his own sprinkler company. Bowe and his father-in-law, Anthony Robillotta, launched ABCO in 1958 on Bowe’s 30th birthday.
The first project they completed was Antun’s Restaurant in Queens Village, New York, which still operates in the original building protected by ABCO. Today, the company takes on even more complex projects, like updating the fire suppression system in MetLife’s seven-floor office in the 50-plus story Manhattan skyscraper at 200 Park Avenue. It has also done work for Fed-Ex, Lowes and Sysco Food Services facilities.
William’s son, Timothy Bowe, grew up around the business, and now he owns and operates the company, which has approximately 150 employees, including engineers, union steamfitters and an in-house staff that handles the behind-the-scenes work. Timothy’s sons Patrick and Tim II, both licensed professional engineers, now hold management positions as well. They represent the fourth generation of Bowe family leadership.
Because it’s been in business for almost 60 years, ABCO has seen disasters ranging from a 1970s arson fire in a Brooklyn knitting mill to 9-11. ABCO’s work has prevented countless disasters and contributed to updating building and fire codes along with watching new building trends and technologies emerge. As a result, Bowe is passionate about the work he does.
“Fire sprinklers save lives,” he says. “That’s it. That’s really what we’re all about. For me, it’s a feel-good business. I feel really good about doing what I do, what I’ve done for my entire adult life.”
It’s not just building occupants who ABCO’s sprinkler systems protect.
“There’s tremendous reduced risk for first responders when these systems are in place and are designed and installed and maintained properly,” Bowe says.
Preventing fires one sprinkler at a time
Contrary to what the movies show, when a fire breaks out, most of the time only a few sprinklers go off. That’s enough to put out a fire, save a business and, most importantly, save lives. It also minimizes the potential for water damage, which can be as destructive as the actual fire to structures as well as merchandise and other items.
“We have fires occasionally,” Bowe says. “Most fire events are kept in check or completely extinguished by one or two sprinklers.”
Sprinkler systems are especially crucial in the large warehouses that ABCO outfits. In some cases, those warehouses store products on rows and rows of pallet racks that are 40-feet-high and two pallet racks wide.
“If a fire starts in the middle of that array of storage, how are you going to get the water in there to get the fire out?” Bowe asks.
To put these “high challenge fires” out, ABCO has embraced new ESFR, or early suppression fast response sprinkler technology that’s capable of pumping 100 gallons-per-minute (GPM) through a single sprinkler. A sprinkler system protecting an office will typically discharge between 15 and 25 GPM.
ABCO installed ESFR sprinklers in a 150,000-square-foot Lowes facility in Commack, New York, involving more than 1,600 sprinkler heads, a fire pump room with a fire pump rated for 1,500 GPM at 80 pounds-per-square-inch (PSI), complete seismic bracing to protect the fire suppression system from earthquakes and other safety features.
ABCO also installed ESFR technology in the 385,000-square-foot Sysco Food Services storage warehouse in Central Islip, New York. That two-story facility got more than 5,150 sprinkler heads, a fire pump room with a fire pump rated for 2,500 GPM at 80 PSI, the same type of seismic bracing and other important safety features.
New developments, renovations drive business
ABCO’s work isn’t limited to industrial and storage facilities, though.
Much of ABCO’s work is now in “restacking,” that is, installing sprinkler systems in existing high-rise office buildings. For instance, the company installed more than 4,000 sprinkler heads in MetLife’s seven-floor, Manhattan office space at 200 Park Ave.
On Manhattan’s West Side, the mixed-use Hudson Yards neighborhood is driving development and, in turn, business for ABCO.
“What happens is when you’ve got a new development, companies want to be in those properties, which means they’re vacating other properties, which means there’s more interior work because those properties have to be rented to someone else, and then the process starts all over,” Bowe says.
Even when tenants don’t relocate, office spaces are usually renovated every seven to 12 years, Bowe says. Now, many property owners are removing paneled drop ceilings to gain more floor-to-ceiling height. That means that all of the piping and conduits normally hidden behind ceiling panels are exposed, and they often have to be installed so that they are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
ABCO did a large restacking project for LinkedIn in its office space at 350 5th Avenue—the Empire State Building—and it’s often called to “restack” lofts, like those in Chelsea, that are being converted from manufacturing facilities into office and residential properties.
“Currently we’re busy,” Bowe says. “The entire industry is busy.”
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