ACHRNEWS

Hydronic System Keeps Native American College Warm

December 29, 2003
Stone Child Community College.
A major new structural addition to a small community college on an Indian reservation in Montana comes equipped with the heating comfort provided by a new Taco single-pipe LoadMatch® hydronic system.

Stone Child Community College serves students of the Chippewa-Cree tribe who live on the Rocky Boy Reservation in northern Montana. This year the community college, one of 32 in the nation dedicated to educating Native Americans and preserving their culture, brought three new buildings on-line: a cultural learning facility, Sitting Old Woman Hall; a library and student services building; and Kennewash Hall, a 25,000-square-foot main academic and administration building.

For Kennewash Hall, a variable air volume (VAV) with hydronic reheat LoadMatch system was installed and is now providing daily indoor comfort for students, instructors, and administrators. For this design/build project, the tribe's architectural firm, Springer Group Architects, convinced college officials that the LoadMatch hydronic system would not cost much more than the all-air system they originally called for, and would be more comfortable and reliable in its delivery of Btu within the two-story building through the cold Montana winters.

The Client

By 2000, the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation's Stone Child Community College had simply run out of room in the local high school at the Rocky Boy Agency, where it had occupied space since 1990, and a 50-acre site on the reservation was dedicated for the new campus. With funding from a variety of U.S. government agencies and private foundations, the new $4 million campus began to take shape three years ago. It now consists of the three buildings, with room to expand.

The Building

Bozeman-based Springer Group worked closely with tribal members and college faculty in the design of the new campus's centerpiece academic building, Kennewash Hall, named after Chief Kennewash, an original tribal member and strong supporter of education during his lifetime.

The building's design combines traditional Native American aesthetic in a thoroughly contemporary building. To that end, the iconic shape and design of Kennewash Hall, supervised by Springer Group partner Doug Morley, emphasized the unique tradition and sense of space of Native Americans, especially as an oral culture given to occupy round buildings and not rectilinear ones.

Morley's design for Kennewash Hall provides a dimension to the $2 million building that is particularly appropriate for its role as a tribal college. In the middle of the building's rotunda stands a large wooden pillar. The rotunda was designed to evoke a sun dance lodge, both with its shape and especially through its commanding center wooden pillar; twisted wooden stairways connect the building's two floors, and large windows on both floors allow a flood of light into the building.

Kennewash Hall contains 16 classrooms, six computer labs, and two science labs. Satellite and high-speed Internet access are tied into the college's network. The general contractor for the building was Arrow Construction, a tribal business located in nearby Box Elder.

The Hydronic Heating System

The college originally wanted an all-air heating system designed to minimum code standards. Considering the severity of Montana winters, however, a system had to be designed to handle minus 30 degree F days and nights, and Springer Group Architects, working with design engineering firm Three Rivers Engineering, didn't feel that gas-fired furnaces would be sufficient or meet minimum code standards for ventilation. A higher performance preheat system would be necessary.

Even though hydronic systems usually cost more than all-air systems, the LoadMatch design that designer John Tetrault came up with - a VAV reheat system employing Taco "00" LoadMatch circulators - did not cost that much more. The supply piping is located on the first floor with the return on the second. Kennewash Hall has a central mechanical room linking all occupied areas and has a single air-cooled chiller for summer cooling needs.

According to Taco, the LoadMatch system provides better comfort than DX air systems as well as conventional four-pipe hydronic systems. It is self-balancing and eliminates the need for most balancing valves and expensive, energy-consuming control valves by replacing them with small, energy-efficient LoadMatch circulators. The Taco "00" circulators direct water to where it needs to go, as opposed to forcing the water through a conventional system's long piping loop, says the manufacturer.

Tetrault calls the LoadMatch system "a great application, with significant dollar savings for a building over the life of the system."

For Kennewash Hall, one of the big considerations for the heating system was a desire for low maintenance. "They wanted as few potential problems as possible with a new heating system," said Morley. "And it needed to be accessible. With LoadMatch, because there's no control valves, there's a lot less stuff in the ceiling, and Taco's "00" circulators have a long field history of being virtually maintenance free."

Results

Kennewash Hall was finished in the spring of 2003, and classes for the new academic year commenced in September. Stone Child Community College now has an enrollment of some 300 students, and room for more. While the worst of winter lies ahead, the LoadMatch heating system is ready to meet winter's match with the warm, uniform comfort of hydronic heat.

Sidebar: Stone Child Community College Project Participants

Owner's representative/construction manager: Frank Henry, Box Elder, Mont.

Architect: Springer Group Architects, Bozeman, Mont.

LoadMatch system engineering: Three Rivers Engineering, Bozeman, Mont.

General contractor: Arrow Construction, Box Elder, Mont.

Installation: Nault Plumbing & Heating, Havre, Mont., and Rude Sheet Metal, Cut Bank, Mont.

For more information on the Taco single-pipe LoadMatch hydronic system, visit www.taco-hvac.com.

Publication date: 12/29/2003