Hotel HVAC Service Reaches A New Pinnacle

July 2, 2002
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VANCOUVER, BC, Canada — The new Delta Pinnacle Hotel in Vancouver is a gem. The “architecturally stunning” property is located on Hastings St. in the heart of the city’s business district.

The hotel’s 434 well-appointed suites offer views of Burrard Inlet, the mountains of the North Shore, and downtown Vancouver. It is a 340,000-square-foot luxury hotel on prime commercial real estate. Vancouver’s Robson St. shops and restaurants, the Vancouver Trade and Exhibition Center, and cruise ship terminals are all nearby.

The News bypassed the lobby, spacious suites, and sweeping views. They’re nice, but we prefer to visit with director of engineering Victor Pankrantz, whose main interest is the care and operation of Trane chillers installed in the basement, Baltimore Aircoil cooling towers on a mezzanine-level rooftop, and Trane fancoils behind walls and ceilings.

“I’ve worked in hotels for the past 16 years,” said Pankrantz. This chiller-fancoil arrangement “is typical in many ways,” but Delta Pinnacle’s is a four-pipe system feeding all the fancoil units. Other systems he has worked on were two-pipe arrangements that required more manual changes. In addition, a free-cooling coil helps take advantage of cooler weather.

By choice of the hotel owner, guest suite comfort systems feature concealed fancoils for heating and cooling.

IAQ, COMFORT, AND EFFICIENCY

The owners, Strata Properties of Vancouver, made guest comfort a priority. Indoor air quality is a large part of the comfort equation.

According to local consulting mechanical engineer George Steeves, from Sterling, Cooper and Associates, the emphasis on guest comfort drove the choice of chilled-water cooling and fancoil terminal units for guest suites. Chilled water is provided by two 500-ton Series R helical rotary chillers. The 500 fancoil units are horizontal, concealed UniTrane™ models.

To meet guests’ IAQ needs, all the fancoils have fresh air and return air ducts, explained Pankrantz. “We may have a few balancing items yet to be addressed,” he said. In the basement, for example, the engineering crew had to circulate more air, especially to the staff lunchroom.

Upstairs, all guest rooms have operable windows. “Hallways are all pressurized,” said Pankrantz, “and fresh air filters into the rooms.” Individual suites exhaust their room’s air through a concealed slot, via an in-slab duct embedded in the poured concrete floor of the room above. Bathroom air is exhausted directly outside.

For public and administrative offices, Trane modular Climate Changer™ central-station air handlers and Model BCHB blower coil units are used. Air from the public spaces and service areas is exhausted above street level, through the building podium.

The chillers were chosen for their expected lifetime and operating efficiency. According to Pankrantz, the chiller plant was designed to allow a single unit to meet the entire building requirement 95% of the time.

“We use the moderate climate of Vancouver to our advantage, too,” he said. “The system is designed to allow us to use free cooling via the cooling towers in the cooler months. From November through March, we are using this option much of the time.” The free-cooling system is operated using a plate-and-rail heat exchanger, explained Trane. Because Vancouver is in an area of seismic activity, plant design includes special attention to pipe supports and equipment suspension systems.

The hotel’s heat input is provided by steam from a central Vancouver utility, according to Trane. The hotel was also designed with a scavenger heat exchanger on the steam condensate system to capture waste energy. Steeves said that the entire system design was intended to provide maximum efficiency without paying a comfort penalty.

Chilled water for comfort systems is provided by two water-cooled helical rotary chillers, rated at 500 tons each.

MAINTENANCE PLANS

Regular service is critical to maintain acceptable IAQ, comfort, and efficiency. However, such maintenance is often limited by space and staff constraints. The Delta Pinnacle is no different — but Pankrantz is working to minimize those restrictions.

When asked whether the hotel has enough staff to perform regular maintenance, Pankrantz chuckled. “We always want more,” he said. However, “You can get the work done in different ways.” The chillers and controls, for example, are maintained by an outside firm whose service includes major equipment teardowns.

The engineering staff performs water treatment, Pankrantz said. “We flush the condenser system a little bit each week to check for dirt,” which could damage some components.

“We do all the fancoils in- house,” said Pankrantz; it’s the best way for staff to become familiarized with the equipment. They started doing guestroom fancoil maintenance every three months, he added, but it wasn’t often enough; problems were cropping up that could have been prevented or spotted early. Then staff started checking every month; that turned out to be too often. Maintenance performed every two months was “just right.”

Guest room components are easier to maintain than those in meeting rooms, Pankrantz said, where fans are suspended up in the ceiling space. The staff has to use a lift in order to reach them. “A couple of fans are 30 feet up there,” Pankrantz said. He’s trying to get management to buy a lift; right now they’re renting one.

The hotel’s indoor pool and fitness area requires “quite a bit of maintenance,” Pankrantz said. The area’s fancoil unit has humidity control and an outside air damper. The mechanical system also has pumps for the pool and two small boilers. “We’re there twice a day for maintenance,” Pankrantz said. The area also boasts an underfloor heating system.

The entire Delta Pinnacle Hotel property is controlled by a Tracer Summit™ building management system.

CONTROLS SYSTEM

The fancoils are capable of being centrally controlled. The units are interfaced with Trace Summit™ direct digital controls (DDC); in the future, heating-cooling could be started up when the guest checks in and turned off after they leave.

In summer, the cooling towers run solely to cool the chillers. In cooler weather, explained Pankrantz, they are manually changed over to the free cooling mode. The hotel is looking into automating the system for summer-winter changeover, or for temperature-initiated changeover whenever outdoor conditions make it beneficial.

The building management system also offers off-site dial-up monitoring capability. According to Pankrantz, “Both the control system and the equipment itself allows us to watch and maintain comfort levels very closely.”

Sidebar: Hotel Highlights

The Delta Pinnacle Hotel in Vancouver, BC, Canada, was designed to serve both business and family travelers.

Its suites include a computer access desk and multiple phone lines. The health club offers a 52-foot indoor lap pool, whirlpool, steam room, dry sauna, exercise equipment, three massage rooms, and an outdoor sun deck (summer months), plus full locker, shower, and changing room facilities.

The 35-story hotel building was completed and opened for business in January 2000. It is one of the latest additions to the well-known Delta family of Canadian hotels and resorts and is owned by Strata Properties, a Vancouver-based real estate investment trust.

  • Project developer and general contractor: The Pinnacle Group, Vancouver; Toronto, ON, Canada; and San Diego, CA;

  • Architect: Hancock Bruckner Eng & Wright, Vancouver;

  • Mechanical contractor: National Hydronics Ltd., Surrey, BC;

  • Consulting mechanical engineer: Sterling, Cooper & Associates, Vancouver.

    — B. Checket-Hanks

    Publication date: 07/08/2002

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