Adorned with frescoes painted between 1508 and 1524 by Renaissance artist Raphael, the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican are universally known as one of the greatest works of art ever created. During a typical summer, temperatures in Rome can soar as high as 104°F. So the decision to install air conditioning in the Raphael Rooms for the first time ever was an easy one.

To meet the unique needs of the historic space, engineers at Carrier developed and installed a custom solution utilizing a new system design that delivers heating and cooling in one-quarter of the traditional footprint, all without altering the existing historic infrastructure.

The Vatican Museums have the mission to ensure the protection and safety of the artwork, spaces, and visitors. As with Carrier’s prior HVAC work at the Sistine Chapel in 2014, the Carrier team worked with the Vatican’s technical divisions on how to update these rooms that were not originally conceived as a museum … places built not years or decades ago but more than 500 years in the past.

The right solution for the space had to be installed without impacting any of the historic elements within the rooms but would still function to deliver proper ventilation and maintain comfortable temperatures.

The problem was, the space available for equipment inside the Raphael Rooms was very reduced, said Michel Grabon, director of Carrier AdvanTEC/Building Solutions Group Europe. And it was already being used in a previous heating system as the place where a small heat exchanger was installed. What was needed was a small piece of equipment that would fit the specific dimensions of that exact space.

The project required a small 2.5 kW fan coil but with 10 kW of capacity — a powerful piece of equipment, and one that is totally unique because this type of product did not exist. It was up to the Carrier team to imagine and design it themselves.

Carrier engineers did simulations, built a prototype, tested it in the laboratory, and then went on to manufacture the actual piece of hardware. For the project, they specifically designed small yet high-capacity fan coils to circulate the air. The fans were installed underneath the windows in the Raphael Rooms, remaining invisible to visitors. Energy-efficient Carrier AquaSnap 30RQV chillers were also installed in a location unnoticeable to visitors. Additionally, an iVu building automation system is now in place to help optimize the HVAC systems to deliver a healthier, safer, and more efficient indoor environment for visitors.

Now that it’s installed, the custom Carrier solution serves to both enhance comfort for the more than 6 million people who visit the Vatican Museums every year, and preserve the artwork not just today, but for generations to come.

All photos © Governatorato S.C.V. - Direzione dei Musei