Move-in and move-out days at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando used to involve running air handlers while exhibitors were setting up and huge doors were open. New fans have reduced energy consumption by as much as $1 million per year.

Walking into the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) North-South Building in Orlando, Fla., prior to a show setup is a truly impressive sight. Most of us have seen these enormous arenas only when they are full of trade show booths and convention attendees. Long aisles are filled with people of diverse, but on a given day, common interests. Trade shows appealing to anything from industry to religion, from HVAC to golf, gather for weekly expositions and conferences hosted in the massive surroundings.

The view of an almost empty hall quickly puts the sheer volume of air and ventilation requirements into perspective. How does a facility this size face the difficult task of being a good environmental citizen? Is this a manageable feat and where do you begin?

In 2005-06, OCCC management undertook the task of designing methods for cooling the exhibit halls on show move-in and move-out days. There are 98 air-handling units in the entire convention facility. Their concern was the cost of running two to three air-handling units in a given location with huge open doors while exhibitors were setting up. The numbers, like the building, are astonishing. The necessity for cooling is created by the high temperatures and humidity that are byproducts of the weather found on a typical Orlando day.

The questions that had to be addressed by OCCC management and planners were:

1.Do we continue to absorb the costs of running the air handlers in such an inefficient, but seemingly unavoidable way?

2.Do we pass these costs on to the show organizers and ultimately on to the exhibitors and attendees? If so, do we risk losing shows to other venues?

3.What other options do we have?

Orlando is the second ranking convention city in the United States, trailing only Las Vegas. OCCC is currently the second largest convention facility in the country. The reasons for OCCC’s success may be many, but one is a philosophy that is addressed in one sentence on its Website. “The Orange County Convention Center is always looking for ways to improve the way we do business.”


At this point, Patterson Fan entered the picture. Patterson Fan was exhibiting at a Government Services Administration (GSA) show being held at one of the OCCC complexes. The high-velocity fans that were on display attracted the attention of OCCC planners, a discussion followed, and a walk-through was arranged to look at possible solutions.

Patterson Fan had been designing a quiet, energy-efficient model of smaller versions of the fans that were eventually chosen by OCCC for this project. “We see it as a duty and as a good business decision to begin improving the energy performance of the fans we have been selling worldwide,” stated Vance Patterson, president and CEO. “We have been selling since 1989 on the basis that fewer, more efficient fans are good for a company’s bottom line. Fewer fans mean less energy, lower installation costs, lower maintenance costs, and often less upfront capital expense.”

The question facing OCCC and Patterson Fan was: How will 3-hp, high-velocity fans equate into a solution for OCCC in energy savings, operating costs, and dependability?

In May of 2006, OCCC ordered its first two fans from Patterson. The fans were tested and designs were completed calling for 48 column-mounted fans to be placed, four each, on 12 columns in the exhibit halls. In June 2006, an order was placed and manufacturing, delivery, and installation began on the project.

Several factors went into the decision to use Patterson fans on this project. First, the following cost analysis projections was provided by the OCCC planners and engineers:

• Air conditioning cost per hour: $2,375.70

• Fan cost per hour running all (48) circulating fans: $6.46

• Fan maintenance cost: $28 per fan annually

• AHU maintenance cost: $250 per unit annually

Another consideration is that Patterson fans will move air at high volumes from mounting positions high above. Even more important, perhaps, is the fact that the fans are controlled individually through OCCC’s design to put air where it is wanted, when it is needed.

The Orange County Convention Center in Orlando installed 48 column-mounted fans in exhibit halls to enhance the comfort and reduce the dependence and energy consumption from air-handling units.


On move-in and move-out days, exhibitors can contact OCCC Engineering, refer to an identification number on the column of the fan they wish to have turned on, and the fans are designed to be controlled remotely. The designers have engineered alerts for any potential problems that could result from a fan not running due to a malfunction in the process.

OCCC realized early in the process that by running fewer air handlers and circulating the cool air that could be generated from one or two less air handlers, they would reduce energy run costs and demand charges.

This is good for everyone. For the conventions, it reduces costs on setup days. Exhibitors are able to enjoy the fun and locale of the Orlando area, without the additional costs of cooling the massive facilities.

OCCC achieves their lower run and maintenance costs goals. The power company may even profit from lower facility costs in the form of expansions and upgrades. The citizens of Orange County will not have to bear the burden of utility price increases to offset the need for the upgrades, and will continue to enjoy the continued strong economy provided by the large convention industry.

A great deal of time and thought have gone into this design. “It was nice to be involved in this project. OCCC’s achievement of ISO 14001 Green Certification for other participation in the national Environmental Management System initiative (2003-2005) shows their forward-thinking attitude for environmental concerns and this enhances their position as a good steward of our nation’s energy supply,” stated Patterson. “We think the use of our products in an industry that used 7.3 million square feet of convention space in 2006 will have a dramatic impact on energy concerns.”

What will the outcome be? OCCC conservatively estimates 1,000 hours of fan use on move-in and move-out days may result in savings in operating/run costs in excess of $1 million per year in their 900,000-plus square feet of new North-South exhibition space.

Publication Date:08/27/2007