East / Regional Reports

Roanoke Newspaper Plant Requires Advanced Cooling System

April 16, 2004
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ROANOKE, Va. - The Roanoke Times is the dominant newspaper in southwestern Virginia, with a daily circulation of 100,000 in its 19-county area. The need for longer press runs and larger papers recently drove the decision to install a new, larger printing plant at the newspaper's headquarters located here. The new facility required additional comfort cooling plus a chilled water plant dedicated to process water cooling for the new press.

The 85,000-square-foot building in downtown Roanoke houses the editorial offices, the circulation department, and until recently, the printing operation. According to Dennis "Chip" Harris, project director for the Times, the paper had in recent years identified the need for additional press capacity, especially for the large volume of color printing used in modern newspaper design.

"Over the years, we'd done everything we could to upgrade it. Now it was time for replacement," said Harris.

In the newspaper business this is no small project because daily production cannot stop. Further, the existing press hall was not nearly large enough to accommodate the type of new press needed. An additional challenge was that downtown streets, railroads, and existing bridges tightly confined the existing building site.

The solution taken was to develop a new building across the street from the existing facility and to connect the two buildings via a skyway. The bridge would achieve the physical connection needed for the communication between the building and for delivery of printed papers back to the circulation department.

The general contractor for the project was R.L. Price Construction of Salem, Va., and Southern Air served as the design-build mechanical contractor (Lynchburg, Va.).

According to Harris, Southern Air worked closely with the Roanoke office of Trane to develop the mechanical design for the new facility.

The new press hall totals 47,000 square feet and is a two-story design. The second floor pressroom portion of the structure includes the new press consisting of 48 printing couples on six towers. It allows color images to be printed on just about every page and prints up to 80,000 newspapers per hour.

The floor below the press area is used to store and supply reels of newsprint for the press above.

The two Roanoke Times buildings have separate comfort systems. The original building has three Trane Series Râ„¢ Model RTHA water-cooled screw chillers rated at 125 tons each. In the early 1990s, these replaced three old Trane centrifugal chillers, 1950s vintage Model CV units that used CFC refrigerants.

Harris noted that with the original system both chillers needed to run to supply independent chilled water networks in the building. In the upgrade, the piping was modified to put all of the chillers on a common header, thus the chillers can be staged on as required.

During the 1990s, the newspaper also replaced older constant-volume built-up type air handlers with Trane Modular Climate Changerâ„¢ air handlers. These were installed with a Trane Tracer Summitâ„¢ building control system in order to provide improved ventilation rates. The system upgrade was completed in 1999.

According to Harris, replacing the air handlers with the more compact modular units also freed up floor space.

"A constant refrain in our HVAC planning has been conserving floor space for newspaper operations," he said.

Two cooling towers serving the chillers are located on the roof of the building.

In the new facility, a somewhat different approach was taken. The press itself requires an ample flow of chilled water to cool bearings, rollers, motor controls, and variable speed drives. This requirement was met with the use of a Trane air-cooled Series Râ„¢ Model RTAC air-cooled chiller rated at 140 tons. To assure trouble-free, year-found operation, the air-cooled chiller uses a glycol solution rather than straight water to supply the press.

In addition to the chiller for process cooling water, environmental control is provided to the press building with two Trane IntelliPakâ„¢ rooftop units, with a cooling capacity of 130 tons each. This control is important to assure a stable environment for the press and the paper supply feeding it.

"We want to keep the relative humidity in the building between 40 percent and 60 percent at all times," said Harris.

To accomplish dehumidification, rooftop air conditioners are used. Humidification in the winter months is provided by a misting system.

Again, because of the restricted nature of the site, putting the rooftop equipment in place was a scheduling and rigging challenge. A total of 57,000 pounds of equipment was lifted to the rooftop, using a narrow space alongside the building for the crane and as laydown space. Delivery of equipment and the crane lifts themselves were scheduled for low-traffic times of the day.

All of the comfort equipment was tested in detail months before the system startup to assure a trouble-free startup of the new press operation. In addition to the rooftop air-cooled chiller and the large IntelliPak units, there are also ten Trane Voyager Precedentâ„¢ small package cooling systems that serve various smaller zones within the building.

The Tracer Summit system in the original building was expanded to support the new facility.

"We've had this digital control system since 1997 and have been impressed with its flexibility and the support it gives us for maintenance programs," said Harris. "So it was natural for us to extend the Tracer Summit system to the new facility."

He also pointed out that the Virginia Trane team in Roanoke is involved in keeping the system operating at peak efficiency.

"They keep the maintenance records and do preventative maintenance activities, including equipment inspections and overhauls, filter changes, and software upgrades," Harris explained.

He also indicated that the Roanoke Times building has not had a comfort system interruption since 1991.

Publication date: 04/19/2004

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