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AKRON, Ohio - Providing year-round comfort is the challenge that HVAC contractors and manufacturers face on a daily basis. IAQ, seasonal changes, efficiency, and making changes with building occupants still present can be some of the toughest challenges. The contractor and technicians at Kidron Electric and Mechanical, Kidron, Ohio, found innovative ways to deal with these challenges when they were chosen to implement a complete electrical and mechanical renovation of The Akron Beacon Journal building in Akron, Ohio.
TALL ORDERAt 250,000 square feet, the building covers an entire city block and consists of three connected buildings: the original one built in 1929, a second built in 1955, and a third in 1985.
“Before the renovation, it was always hot in one office and cold in another,” said Andrea Mathewson, production manager, Akron Beacon Journal. “There was a noticeable temperature difference between floors, too. We tried to keep everyone comfortable with a middle-of-the-road temperature setting, but that was almost impossible with such an old system.”
With the largely diverse structure and the potential cost, the opportunity for installing the new HVAC system didn’t present itself until the building’s source of steam heat was in jeopardy. For years the newspaper bought its steam from the City of Akron’s energy plant where trash was burned and then converted. When the city sold the operation, however, rumors circulated that the plant might close, and we decided to take action, noted Mathewson.
“A primary problem with the old system was the changeover season,” said Mike Dean, facility manager for the building. The changes between winter and summer and then summer to winter were the most uncomfortable for the staff. “If we got a warm January or February, we’d have to shut down steam heat and then fill up the chiller tower with water because we didn’t use glycol.”
There were 38 DX units on the roof that, according to Dean, were placing a strain on the energy bill. The company also endeavored to save money during the 1970s energy crisis, closing many of the air intakes and decreasing IAQ.
“I decided that the new system had to meet or exceed American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ standards for IAQ,” said Dean. “Once I had decided to completely renovate the mechanical system, the list of needs kept growing.”
Dean finally awarded the project to contractor Art Neuenschwander of Kidron Electric and Mechanical because he had the best solution for one additional and very important criterion: The whole project had to be completed without slowing the newspaper’s workflow in any way.
ABOVE THE RESTNeuenschwander, along with Paul Miller of Kidron Electric, decided the best solution was to work on one small section at a time. They built a temporary workspace in the newsroom, big enough for 16 cubicles. While a small group of employees worked in the temporary space, Neuenschwander and his crew moved into the staff’s permanent space, building a temporary floor just above the area. In this catwalk space they installed variable air volume (VAV) boxes, hot-water piping, new lighting, a sprinkler system, fire alarm, and a new ceiling. The entire project gave the newspaper modern climate control without interruption to the workflow.
According to the staff, they are now working in more comfortable conditions. Each office has its own temperature control, and the new four-pipe and VAV reheat system ensures that even during changeover seasons when the sun warms one side earlier than the other, the entire building is comfortable.
The contractor also installed two McQuay® 300-ton air-cooled screw compressor chillers and 13 McQuay Vision™ air handlers. These were chosen for flexibility in interfacing with the building’s control system, said Neuenschwander.
“With the new four-pipe system, we can provide heating or air conditioning virtually any time, day or night, 365 days a year,” explained Dean.
FLEXIBLE CONTROLNeuenschwander knew that this system would require some ingenuity. “We wanted efficient equipment, and we wanted the lowest possible operating cost,” he said. “We needed a redundant system, so that if one chiller went down, the building wouldn’t be out of air conditioning. The electrical system needed to be redundant as well; we installed twin switchgear and twin electrical supply lines.”
Working with Wadsworth Slawson, the McQuay representative in Cleveland, Neuenschwander chose the McQuay chillers due to their flexibility in interfacing with the Alerton® control system. According to the company, the unit controls on McQuay chillers are designed to integrate with building automation systems (BAS), eliminating external gateways and avoiding the costly maintenance of one-of-a-kind software gateways.
“The control system allows us to monitor pretty much everything,” Neuenschwander explained. “We can monitor the dirt levels in the filters so we know exactly when to change them. We also monitor the return water to the chillers. If water temperature is out of the correct range, the system notifies us so we can fix problems before anyone else in the building even knows there was a problem.”
As with any daily newspaper, the building is in use around the clock. Neuenschwander wanted a system that could be controlled from just about anywhere.
“If the building manager is at home, he can pull up the system on his PC and do some diagnostics. Or he can change an office temperature in preparation for a meeting. The controls are also easy for people to use. We have maximum, minimum, and night setbacks in many rooms. But there’s also a simple way that people can override that and set a different temperature for a couple hours if they have a meeting in a room.”
HIDDEN TREASURESIn addition to the benefits of flexible controls, Neuenschwander chose screw-type chillers for quietness and reliability. When determining how to support the two 15,000-pound, 40-foot-long McQuay chillers, Neuenschwander found the original 1929 blueprints.
“I crawled through parts of the building that no one has ever seen and actually discovered the original 1929 blueprints,” he said. “They showed steel columns installed in the center of the building to support several stories to be added later.
“Chipping away some plaster revealed the columns right where the drawings said they were, with holes already drilled. All we had to do was extend the I-beams up four feet and build a steel structure on the flat roof to support the chillers.”
The chillers feed the 13 McQuay Vision™ air handlers. According to McQuay, because the cabinets for these air handlers are available in 2-inch-size increments for both height and width, they can be fitted to existing spaces. Vision air handlers also feature a custom modular platform, which gave Neuenschwander the flexibility to design a system specific to the building’s needs. He chose the air foil fans for their efficient design and steady airflow. To increase IAQ, the units were tied into an on-demand fresh-air system provided by the BAS, with one carbon dioxide (CO2) sensor mounted in each air handler. Based on CO2 levels in the building, the fresh-air system automatically adjusts to levels for reduced occupancy.
“The chillers have worked well,” said Dean. “But when the circuit on one failed, the McQuay service techs were here right away and kept the system running.”
The McQuay systems installed at the Beacon Journal by Kidron Electrical and Mechanical are now in their second year of operation. They’re delivering reliability and efficiency that, according to the staff, “helps get the news out every day.”
For more information, visit www.mcquay.com.
Publication date: 04/14/2008