American Warming and Ventilating
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
American Warming and Ventilating (AWV) began as a division of American Furnace and Foundry Company in Bloomington, Ind., in 1904. AWV started out as a small, regional company, installing gravity heating systems, but the company is now one of the largest and most diversified firms in the industry. “We’re one of the few in the U.S. to celebrate a centennial,” says Darby Benroth, executive vice president and general manager of AWV. “We have years of experience and a resume of projects that exceeds our competition by far.”
Becoming a Big Name Player
Until the mid 1940s AVW operated as a contractor, but with the development of forced warm air heating systems the company changed its direction, adding air control equipment to the lineup. AVW gradually phased out furnace contracting and began to focus on designing and manufacturing of louvers, dampers and shutters. “We’re well-known for our specialty ventilation dampers,” shares Darby. “We don’t do a lot of cookie cutter products -everything is custom engineered because each system is different.”
With a more diversified product lineup, by 1968 AWV’s reputation extended throughout the U.S. and into Canada, Spain, Puerto Rico and South Africa. “We now deliver systems throughout the U.S. and overseas,” adds Darby. “Domestically and abroad, people know our name. Although most of our work is in the U.S., it really depends on the industry and application. We’ve done a significant amount of tunnel and nuclear installations overseas.”
As AWV continued to expand its reach and capabilities, the company was acquired by Mestek Inc. (Mestek) in 1987. With Mestek as the parent company, AWV joined a group of design-engineering companies that manufacture customer louvers and dampers to satisfy a broad range of needs, from intake control to light and heavy duty industrial applications along with sophisticated fire and smoke control.
Today, AWV calls Holland, Ohio, home and employs 200 union and nonunion professionals. “What really sets us apart is diverse service and the competent people we have on staff that not only understand the product but also the application,” explains Darby. “If we’re installing an architectural product, there’s also the need to understand civil engineering -whether it’s a nuclear plant or a subway tunnel- everything plays into system and how it’s suppose to function.”
Comprehensive, Custom Design
Darby says no two jobs are the same and therefore no two production solutions are the same. “Almost every product we manufacture, from specialty dampers to louvers, is engineered based on the application,” he notes.
With a broad range of custom solutions, AWV serves numerous markets in the architectural, industrial and commercial industries. “We’ll do everything from heavy industrial dampers for subway systems and mass transit to marine dampers for large U.S. Navy ships,” reveals Darby. “We also maintain several high-end original equipment manufacturer accounts. We’re in multiple markets but we try to keep a balance of everything all under one roof.”
But keeping a balance and self performing so much in-house isn’t easy. “We’ve fully transitioned from a company that supplied standard products to one that supplies highly engineered products,” explains Darby. “The more you get involved with that, the more demanding and challenging it is. On the architectural side, every architect wants their building to look different -they don’t want a product that’s been used 12 other times- they want something that hasn’t been done before.”
On the industrial side, Darby adds that engineering hurdles, such as paperwork, red tape and strict regulations make business difficult. “A mediocre company just doesn’t cut it,” he says. “You need to make sure you’re supplying safe, tested products that meet stringent quality reviews.”
AWV’s dedication to unsurpassed quality has landed the company some high-profile jobs. “We provided the dampers for the subway system on the World Trade Center project,” notes Darby. “That was a major undertaking and there was a lot of pride that went into that job.”
The company is also in the midst of the major Toronto subway expansion, supplying tunnel safety dampers for retrofits. “We manufacturing and install about 90 percent of products in-house,” reveals Darby. “That helps give us some control over quality and service.”
After just shy of 20 years in the industry, and 14 spent with AWV, Darby is optimistic about the company’s future potential. “We’re going to focus on the most active markets and right now those are infrastructure development and commercial construction in health care and education,” he details. “As the economy picks back up we’re starting to see private money coming back and people are spending it again. And there’s always a need all over the world for infrastructure development from the U.S. to India.”
“2014 will still be a question mark, but I think into 2015 and 2016 we’ll start to see significant growth” continues Darby. “The guys who are prepared for that are the ones that will be on top.”
For over a century AWV has been delivering innovative, customized solutions for any architectural, industrial or commercial ventilation need. American Warming and Ventilating continues to lead the industry after 109 years.
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