The Air Conditioner of Notre Dame

August 4, 2008
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The renowned Notre Dame football stadium was built to withstand the test of time, but it was designed at a time before air conditioning. This caused a small, but not insurmountable problem when the school wanted to provide cooling in specific stadium and athletic areas.

Founded in 1842, the University of Notre Dame is an independent, national Catholic university in Notre Dame, Ind., adjacent to the city of South Bend and 90 miles east of Chicago.

The university has an enrollment of 12,000 students and is organized into four undergraduate colleges, the School of Architecture, the Law School, the Graduate School, the University Library system and 10 major research institutes. With a property replacement value of $2.2 billion, the 1,250-acre campus has a total of 137 buildings, including the renowned Notre Dame football stadium.

“Buildings at Notre Dame are built to stand the tests of time,” explained Anthony Polotto, senior project manager, Office of the University Architect. “They are clad with durable materials, such as masonry and slate.”

When the school wanted to add air conditioning to some stadium and athletic areas, at first there seemed to be a problem. Many of the buildings were designed before the advent of air conditioning, and therefore offered very little extra space for ductwork. Building occupants would be provided with a comfortable environment for the 12 weeks out of the year when it is hot and humid in northern Indiana, but the options to provide that cooling were limited because of the limited space.

The solution in this case was Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Advanced Products Division’s Mr. Slim® split-ductless cooling and heating equipment, and City Multi® Variable Refrigerant Flow Zoning (VRFZ) systems. The outdoor units are suited for most historic structures. They have a small footprint, do not intrude on the integrity of the architecture, can be hidden with landscaping, and perform quietly.

The indoor units are so quiet, in fact, they can be installed in noise-sensitive areas like chapels, libraries, and study rooms. A 3-inch hole in the exterior wall connects the ductless indoor units to the outdoor units with electrical wires and piping, Polotto said.

IN THE STADIUM

The Mr. Slim split-ductless systems were introduced to Notre Dame in 2003, when the school determined that it needed air conditioning in the three medical treatment rooms within the football stadium. In addition to covering football games, the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) office is on call 24/7 and monitors more than 750 events on campus each year.

Only one treatment room was air conditioned previously, and the EMS team was concerned about the lack of cooling comfort in the emergency treatment rooms during early season home football games.

When covering games, EMS personnel monitor the game from a command post within the broadcast floor of the stadium. In order to hear radio transmissions, the booth must be as soundproof as possible. During the early fall, the booth was uncomfortable due to the lack of air conditioning. The assistant director for medical outreach mentioned these concerns to the assistant athletic director of facilities and one of the campus’s HVAC contractors, Ideal Consolidated Inc., South Bend.

Three ductless-split systems were installed to provide cooling by the contractor. The EMS staff reports that the comfort and sound levels in the three treatment rooms and broadcast booth are at an ideal level, and the systems have performed well for more than four years.

The City Multi ceiling-recessed (four-way airflow) cassette indoor unit delivered relief from temperatures that often soared over 90°F during games on the Working Press Level 3000 at the University of Notre Dame football stadium press box.

MORE INSTALLATIONS

Based on this success, more ductless-split systems were installed at the stadium. Its three-level press box is a large steel and glass structure overlooking the football field.

The top floor is the VIP donors’ level, in which air conditioning had been installed during the recent stadium remodel. The middle-level broadcast floor includes the EMS, broadcast center, visiting athletic director’s suite, visiting coach’s box and Notre Dame’s head coach’s family suite. The bottom floor houses the stadium’s press box, which can accommodate as many as 330 reporters and staff during any game.

Both of these levels use Mitsubishi Electric HVAC systems for their air conditioning comfort. Temperatures in the press box, an area that was not air conditioned, often reached more than 90°F during games, with the glass curtain wall preventing any way to open windows for outside air. Large fans provided some relief, but didn’t alleviate poor indoor air quality.

According to distributor Bruce Heberle, Excelsior Manufacturing & Supply Corp., provisions for air conditioning the press box were included in the 2007 facilities budget. The contractor took delivery of the equipment at the end of 2006 and completed installation in early 2007. Although the requirements for the press box were for cooling, the ductless system is a heat pump - it also offers heating. A sudden cold spell in February 2007 dropped temperatures to -9°F. However, the press box was comfortable.

The City Multi ceiling-recessed cassette indoor unit delivered relief from temperatures that often soared over 90°F during games on the Working Press Level at the University of Notre Dame football stadium.

PEOPLE CAN TALK

“When we started up the system around 8 a.m. on April 21, for the annual spring football game, it was 83° in the press box,” said Heberle. “After we turned on the systems, when I arrived at 10 a.m., it was 67°. At game time it was 67°, even with a packed room,” he said. “At the end of each quarter, it was still 67°. All systems performed flawlessly.”

After the game, Mike Danch, Notre Dame’s assistant athletic director of facilities, told Heberle, “I couldn’t be happier. We have over 200 people in the press box and it’s just great. It is so quiet, people can have a conversation, and they can’t figure out where the air is coming from. They love it.”

Before installing the systems in the press box, a serious need for air conditioning surfaced across campus at Cushing Hall, home to the School of Engineering. Heavy-duty cooling was needed because of a large computer lab and several research labs filled with computers.

For this installation, Paul Quigley, Excelsior north Indiana territory manager, recommended the zoning capability of the VRFZ R2-Series system, which provides simultaneous cooling and heating and can operate up to 32 ducted or ductless indoor units of various designs.

According to Quigley, “We first had to convince the Notre Dame engineering professors that a heat pump was the best solution to their problems before they would consider installing these systems. Providing pinpoint accuracy and quiet comfort in a confined space, like the computer labs and classrooms, would have been impossible without this technology.”

The results of the installation were convincing to the engineering professors and paved the way for adding the systems to the university’s growing mix of climate-control solutions.

The systems have also been installed in the athletic department break room and video room; an art department computer lab and departmental offices; a computer classroom in the psychology department; a student study room in a residence hall; a dishwashing room in a dining hall; a TV studio in the School of Arts & Letters; and an office complex in the School of Earth Sciences.

Publication date: 08/04/2008

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