Development prospects for Cincinnati’s eclectic Northside neighborhood have been given a big boost by the opening of the former American Can factory as a new mixed-use complex. Once an abandoned industrial complex, the redeveloped facility is attracting young tenants and relocated empty nesters alike to its spacious apartment settings. Today the American Can Lofts’ 110 apartment units are at full occupancy, and residents enjoy efficient indoor comfort.

An Urban Opportunity

The 180,000-square-foot brick building complex, dating from the early 1900s, is comprised of an east and west wing with cavernous interior spaces on five floors. The American Can factory made the machinery for tin can production and saw its heyday for the first 60 years of the 20th century; in subsequent decades, after the relocation of American Can, the building space was occupied by other metal fabricators up until 2000, when it fell silent.

In 2005 Bloomfield/Schon + Partners, with the city and neighborhood’s encouragement, purchased the building with the objective of redeveloping it as a New York-style rental lofts property. One of the firm’s top priorities is to redevelop unique, sustainable urban opportunities with enhanced energy efficiency for their tenants.

Despite the financial crisis, which severely limited access to capital, the firm remained committed to the project and gradually assembled a complex mix of public and private financing, including stimulus money provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to get the project underway. Work began in earnest on the American Can building in 2008 with the removal of asbestos, lead paint, and PCBs from the interior of the building.

The firm’s partners — being architects — acted as their own architectural consultant and hired Cincinnati-based Turnbull-Wahlert as general contractor. Turnbull-Wahlert hired Cincinnati Air Conditioning to handle the HVAC installation.

HVAC Installation

The HVAC needs for the American Can Lofts project were complicated because there are over 30 apartment configurations in the facility, a building with two ceiling heights (all above 10 feet), plus lots of exposed brick, exposed ceilings, and window glass. Some apartments with two exposures and lots of glass also required auxiliary duct heaters for added heat in winter. Proper sizing of the heat pumps was critical to the eventual comfort experience of tenants.

The solution was to install ClimateMaster heat pumps with Taco’s LoadMatch system. The single-pipe system utilizes small, low kilowatt circulators in a self-balancing system that ensures the required flow to all heating and cooling units at all times.

Cincinnati Air’s Bob Stiens recommended the Taco LoadMatch system to Ray Fischer, the design engineer on the American Can Lofts project, telling him that LoadMatch would be a good fit.

Because of the way the construction schedule developed, Fischer had to work fast — he had five weeks to design and size the system instead of a typical timeframe of two to three months. After being introduced to Taco’s Hydronic System Solution© (HSS) software by Taco’s local rep agency, Weber-Huff, Fischer sized all the equipment with it. HSS allows design engineers to size plant and equipment, calculate loads, and flows automatically, and make design changes quickly and easily while reducing the chance of errors and time spent on recalculations.

“The HSS tool saved me a lot of time,” Fischer said.

ClimateMaster assembled its Tranquility© High Efficiency (TR) Series heat pump units with on-board LoadMatch circulators at its factory in Oklahoma City, prewiring and pre-controlling all of the 122 units to be installed throughout the building in the circulation corridors on each floor and within individual apartment units. That made Cincinnati Air’s job that much easier, as did the single wall penetration that LoadMatch’s single-pipe configuration afforded the crew.

“Piping was a challenge in this project because there are actually two joined buildings, with one built earlier than the other (1907 and 1921, respectively) and at different levels,” Stiens said. “With the LoadMatch system, we were able to find a way to route across the older building and into the newer building on a similar level and feed all of the apartments.”

ClimateMaster TR Series are console-type heat pumps available in both horizontal and vertical configurations. They provide easy service access from multiple sides.

“ClimateMaster is one of a select few manufacturers that can provide the option to mount the circulators onboard each heat pump prior to job site installation,” says John Noyen, president of Weber-Huff Inc. “Doing so eliminates the mounting, wiring, and controlling of the individual pumps by the contractor, so its saves a lot of time and labor costs. It makes for a nice marriage between ClimateMaster and Taco.”

Powering the HVAC system for the building comes from equipment installed in a rooftop penthouse mechanical room. This space was a small, former elevator machine room in the former factory, and the tight space required close coordination to fit all of the necessary equipment. In it are twin Thermal Solutions gas-fired condensing boilers at 1.5 million Btu each, supported by four Taco KV and KS vertical in-line pumps, a Taco plate and frame heat exchanger, and a 4900 Series air separator. Just outside on the roof is a Baltimore Aircoil Co. supplied cooling tower. Despite the close quarters in the room, Stiens reported it was a “turnkey install.”

Project Success

The American Can lofts building opened in November 2011, and is a key element driving the Northside neighborhood’s revitalization. Individual apartments feature concrete floors, bedroom and loft carpeting, granite countertops in the kitchens, and tiled bathrooms — plus lots of window space. The building’s amenities include private conference rooms for residents who work from home, spaces for musicians and artists, an exercise and yoga room, and even a bocce court. Within the building, hundreds of wooden and metal molds once used as patterns for machine parts in the tin can manufacturing process now serve as artwork and sculptures.

The project has been a “great success, for us and the community,” said Adam Bloomfield, who manages the building.

While the winter of 2012 was mild and hardly tested the heating systems capacities, Bloomfield has every confidence in the performance and efficiency of the heat pump/LoadMatch system. “This is the second project we’ve used LoadMatch on,” he related, “and we’ve been quite pleased with its efficiency, cost savings, and benefits.”

Publication date: 10/29/2012