Air movement plays a crucial role in all aspects of controlling an indoor environment via HVAC. Everything from comfort to IAQ depends on air being moved by the system. Following are three diverse examples of that show the importance of air movement and the creative ways in which contractors and manufacturers have dealt with it successfully.
Cannabis Grow Facility
Cannabis operations may take years to find the optimum HVAC combination for the most profitable growing environment. However, Brandon Schmitzer, cofounder and chief operating officer of High Mountain LLC in Vassar, Michigan, found the best design promptly when he and cofounder/managing member Allen Franks opened their 8,500-square-foot medical marijuana facility.
The proof that HVAC design can positively affect cannabis profits is in High Mountain’s impressive harvest statistics of high THC content and nearly 3-pound/1,000-watt light (or a minimum 100-pound/50-light room), which is an impressive output when compared to growing meccas like California and Colorado.
Schmitzer comes from a family of HVAC contractors and was even an EPA-certified HVAC technician himself for six years before opening the High Mountain. He also had growing experience during a 10-year patient/caregiver career under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program (MMMP). High Mountain’s environmental control systems combine conventional split-system HVAC air handlers, fabric ductwork for uniform air distribution, UV-C disinfection lamps, carbon media to adsorb volatile organic compounds (VOC), HEPA filters, and other tricks of the trade that Schmitzer learned from both the HVAC and cannabis industries.
The HVAC design features more than 700 linear feet of 16-inch-diameter fabric ductwork from FabricAir for three 1,581-square-foot flower rooms and a small nursery. There’s also a one-of-a-kind fabric dispersion plenum for the dry/cure room that Schmitzer designed with FabricAir factory engineers.
Oriflow arrays span linearly along the entire duct at the 5 and 7 o’clock positions to disperse the air uniformly and at a gentle rate of 150 to 200 feet/minute. Additionally, the Combi 70 fabric’s factory-engineered permeability allows approximately 15% of the air to flow through the fabric surface.
The linear orifice arrays and surface permeability create uniform dispersion throughout a space. Improved dispersion results in shorter mechanical system run times to satisfy temperature set points and reduced energy costs compared to metal duct/register systems.
Schmitzer initially considered supplying conditioned air through single-room outlets and then relying on fans to disperse it. Later, he realized ductwork was also necessary but required fabric due to condensation issues. He opted for fabric ducting due to its lower condensation potential.
Schmitzer, with assistance from FabricAir’s Michigan territory manager Bradley Bonnville, designed a fabric plenum for the dry/cure room. The plenum supplies uniform, highly-filtered air from end to end of the 47x13-foot cure/dry room to prevent mold, mildew, and static air pockets. Inspired by “air showers” that blow off coal dust from miners, Schmitzer’s supply plenum design consists of two 12-inch-wide cavities created by a 104-square-foot fabric wall. The plenum is supplied with carbon media-filtered return air and fresh conditioned/outdoor air. In conjunction with a return air plenum wall, the design successfully provides uniform airflow throughout the room despite its extreme density of drying plants. The fabric also sports a fashionable silk-screened High Mountain logo.
The facility is sheathed mainly with anti-microbial treated plywood, and the fabric duct and the plenum fabric also have a built-in anti-microbial agent. The fabric can can be removed for laundering in the facility’s commercial washing machine.
High Mountain’s five-year mission is to expand to at least 10 more buildings. Expansion will depend on local power availability, but one thing is certain: New additions will have state-of-the-art HVAC.
Resort and Convention Center
A large combined resort and convention center in Colorado opened its doors in 2018. The sprawling complex houses 1,501 rooms, convention center space, and an extensive indoor/outdoor water park.
The hotel and convention center features several A-framed rooftops, reminiscent of a mountaintop chalet. But the unique design of the 12-story hotel made it challenging to specify louvers that didn’t interfere with the building’s aesthetics.
When project managers and LONG Building Technologies engaged with Ruskin Air Control to specify louvers for the hotel and convention center, a triangle design was first discussed. But it was soon discovered there were issues with space limitations, as well as obstruction of mechanical equipment behind the openings.
NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN: This louver from Ruskin provides protection from both wind-driven rain and snow loads. (Courtesy of Ruskin)
Ruskin proposed creating a specialty-shaped trapezoid louver that could fit in a space right below the roof level. Ruskin was able to create a redesign using the same triangular louver originally specified. The company simply changed the design to a trapezoid to fit in to the wall application. This was important since the selected louver (EME520DD) was specified for its wind-driven rain and snow-load resistance. Ruskin customized 27 trapezoid-shaped louvers ranging from 159 inches to 297 inches in width. A total of 78 louvers — both rectangular and square — were specified for the project.
In 2016, a manufacturer of plumbing and HVAC equipment constructed a new U.S. corporate headquarters, including offices and a separate building for training and seminars.
The project architect was looking to create a building envelope that reflected the company’s industrial heritage. The design included materials that resembled valve and pipe fittings, along with glass walls coming from beneath a barrel-vaulted roof that evoked water running from a pipe. Below the curved structure was a flat roof that housed HVAC equipment.
The unique design of the rooftop required a screen to fill in the section between the curved roof and the main roof. This was needed to block the rooftop equipment while providing free airflow through the building, per city code. This presented a challenge, since the equipment screen had to be curved in order to fit the architectural construction.
LONG Building Technologies, Ruskin, the contractor, and the architect worked to develop a cost-effective solution of shop-fabricated louver panels that provided visual screening without the need for a custom curved screen. The Ruskin equipment screen was manufactured in 10-foot sections, allowing the contractor to install the system piece by piece. This made the installation simpler, further reducing costs.
“Ruskin gave us the flexibility to do what we wanted using different colors and patterns while reducing costs by about half from the original solution,” said Nils Jergensen of OZ Architecture. “They eliminated the cost of creating a custom screen on site but still gave us an aesthetically pleasing look.”
In addition to the curved equipment screen, the architect also wanted to put a design twist on the traditional louver blade screens. The architect wanted blades placed in specific locations so when you look at the equipment screen, it reads the first nine notes of Beethoven’s “Für Elise.”
Ruskin came up with the idea to have accent blades that were larger than the main blades (and in an accent color). The accent blades would be scattered through the screen, and the positioning of the “notes” was very important. After several rounds of drawings, they achieved the precise position on the panel to read the music.