The Helena J. Sturnick Village student residence village at Montserrat College of Art offers apartment-style living, complete with bath, kitchen, and living room. (Feature photos by Terry Slater.)

In the late 1960s, a group of artists working and teaching in the Boston area had a bold idea: to create a new kind of school for professional education in the visual arts. Boston’s North Shore was home to America’s oldest working artist colony, so the executive committee looked 18 miles north of Boston in Beverly, Mass. They found the ideal space for the school in the 100-year-old neighborhood of Montserrat. By 1970, the Montserrat School of Visual Arts was born.

A decade later, the still-young institution was accredited and granted the authority to award the Bachelor of Arts degree. With that milestone came a new name: Montserrat College of Art. By 1990, Montserrat had outgrown its original facility and moved to historic downtown Beverly. Expanded teaching facilities, studios, and residence halls opened in a vibrant, artistic environment of restored wharf-side warehouses, lofts, and old shipbuilding offices.


By 2005, Montserrat’s success demanded additional space for student housing. Led by Interim President Helena J. Sturnick, the board of directors created the college’s first-ever capital campaign to raise money for the new student housing. To oversee this ambitious project, the college turned to construction manager Windover Construction Inc., Manchester, Mass., because of its excellent construction reputation on the North Shore. Jim Burke was named project manager for the design-build team.

“We decided that the design-build process would deliver the finest results for the student village,” Burke said. Abandoned buildings adjacent to the campus were purchased and demolished by the Windover team to make room for the new housing. “We hired a Beverly architectural firm and tasked them with incorporating the latest in eco-friendly, green design and blending the building into Beverly’s surrounding distinguished neighborhood.”

The board directed the architects to design the residences around the independence of apartment-style living - a minimum of four students including at least two bedrooms with complete bath, kitchen, and living room. They wanted their new building to include light-filled common areas, studio spaces, and galleries for exhibiting student work. To successfully blend into the historic neighborhood, the architects created a mini-residence, modular village of four buildings for apartment-style living, which is named the Helena J. Sturnick Village.

Helena J. Sturnick Village incorporates eco-friendly, green design and blends into the historic neighborhood.


For the most current design in sustainable, eco-friendly cooling and heating solutions, the architects turned to their MEP consultants, Crossfield Engineering Inc., Groveland, Mass. Over the previous two years, Crossfield had successfully designed Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning solutions from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating Solutions for a 911 call center, radio station, and performing arts center.

“We always get savvy support from our local Mitsubishi sales manager,” Crossfield said. “We called her in to look over the building plans for the new village.”

She believed the Hyper-Heating Inverter (H2i™) system to be a perfect fit for the village.

New from Mitsubishi in 2008, the Hyper-Heating Inverter technology features a redesigned, redefined heat pump that delivers full heating comfort even when New England winters dropped to a chilly -13°F outdoors. The H2i outdoor units use flash technology which re-collects heat energy that is normally wasted in the flash process at the outdoor coil.

The exclusive Mitsubishi H2i heat pump adjusts its speed to precisely match the load requirements within each zone, providing Montserrat with significant energy savings. Use of the inverter-driven compressor would provide residents of the village with year-round, constant comfort. The system’s unique modular architecture would give Crossfield optimum design flexibility in addition to longer refrigerant line lengths.

The quietness of the system would be important for the students, be well within local sound ordinances, and have zero impact on the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Finally, the system’s “dry mode” would offer great dehumidification benefits because of the proximity to the Beverly Harbor and Atlantic Ocean.

The project HVAC contractor, Dry Air Systems Inc., Newburyport Mass., began on the project in Sept. 2008, working on “all the ductwork for the units as they were being built at the modular building facility,” said Chuck Brunelle, assistant project manager, Dry Air Systems Inc.


“The arguments for the H2i system made a lot of sense and we wound up recommending this new system to the board,” Burke said. “Everything came together beautifully. Because of very limited space surrounding the village, we were able to tuck the four outdoor units inconspicuously on the roof - they have a very small footprint and are extremely lightweight by industry standards.”

Brunelle agreed that space was an issue. “The main challenge on this project was space. Everything was very tight and had to be carefully planned, and that’s why the Mitsubishi system was a great fit for this project, because it is compact. We overcame this issue with great project management [Ken Patten was the Dry Air project manager] and coordination with the engineer, general contractor, and other trades.”

“Village neighbors love the fact that they cannot even tell when the system is running,” Burke said. “The installation was commissioned in late July, and we have heard nothing but good news from the first Village residents. There are indications that the inverter-driven compressors are already delivering energy savings that exceed our cost projections.”

“The Mitsubishi VRF system is really contractor friendly to install,” commented Brunelle. “We enjoyed working with this product because, in addition to being extremely quiet and energy efficient, the very small size of the equipment was tailor-made for this modular Village.”

Brunelle noted, “The [HVAC] system has run great from the day of start-up.”

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Publication date:06/14/2010