The Dearborn Civic Arts Center recently benefited from a major $43 million, three-year renovation that involved extensive HVAC and BAS work. The center's centerpiece is its 1,200-seat theater, which required two separate HVAC systems - one to control the wide range of seating zones (balcony, alcoves, floor) and one for the stage.
Thirteen years ago, Bob Moran, superintendent of the Power House (Dearborn, MI), entrusted Bart Bale, president of Technical Energy Solutions, with the task of installing energy efficient building controls in the city's civic center and police department. Several boilers, chillers, VAVs, AHUs, and DX rooftop units later, Technical Energy Solutions, a Novar Technology Center based in Byron Center, MI, has completed 11 installations for the city.

A $43 million, three-year renovation of the Civic Arts Center is the latest collaboration for Bale and Moran. With a 1,200-seat theater leading the way, the center received a full makeover. The theater consists of loge and balcony seating, an orchestra shell with rigging, a scenery shop and loading dock, and a formal lobby/ticket office. A more intimate 200-seat studio was also added.

The recreation area has also been enhanced so that the center would meet Dearborn residents' fitness needs. Additions included basketball courts, a climbing wall, and aerobics and exercise equipment. A new indoor aquatics area boasts a regulation-size lap pool, a zero-depth entry pool with water slides and toys, a "lazy river" channel, a vortex perfect for low-impact exercise, a hydrobed, and a whirlpool spa.

A symphony of climates

"The theater, the pool, the kitchen, the fitness area, the art gallery - all of these come with a different set of temperature requirements," said Bale. "And we had all of them under one roof." The first step was to keep the existing equipment functional during production so the center could go on with business as usual.

"We started by moving the administrative staff into the Dome Room [the community's fellowship center]," Bale said. "We simply cut over to standalone mode until the offices were finished." Once the offices were finished, the staff made the move to its permanent quarters. Novar Controls then controlled the rooftop units in a standalone mode until the system was completely integrated.

The next challenge stemmed from the center's size increase (52,976 sq ft to 230,000 sq ft). The water mains couldn't feed the necessary gpm back to the chillers housed in the Power House, which serves the center's entire campus. To compensate for the added capacity, Technical Energy Solutions used five DX rooftop units. Technical Energy Solutions' Rick Wingeier explained: "The project's timing eliminated several options. To stay on schedule, the engineers went with DX cooling, allowing us to solve the problem with a contained unit."

A "pool" of resources

According to Bale, the biggest hurdle may have been the swimming pool - a competition-sized pool with six 25-yard lap lanes. "Dehumidification units were selected for the aquatic area so we could maintain consistent humidity, dewpoint, and temperature settings. Engineers considered the alternative, a DX unit that would heat the water and air together, but it was more energy intensive than the DH [dehumidification] units," Bale said.

Based on that advice, the aquatic area is now controlled by Des Champs dehumidification units. Monitored and controlled with Novar Controls' IOM/2 programmable controller, these units automatically change their operating mode to match seasonal climatic changes. They recover energy in the dehumidification process, which is then recycled to heat the air being supplied to the pool area.

"The DH units go a long way in helping to conserve costs," explained Bale. "Because they're able to handle higher - 50,000-plus - cubic feet per minute, we can keep energy expenditure to a minimum."

The final act

The center's top billing goes to its 1,200-seat theater. The auditorium features the latest lighting and sound systems. "This is a very high-profile auditorium. Nothing could be exposed," Moran said.

To meet that demand, the engineers selected two separate systems - one to control the wide range of seating zones (balcony, alcoves, floor) and one for the stage. "Novar Controls' modular controllers provide us with the flexibility to customize each air-handling unit for that night's performance," said Bale. "For example, we'll keep the patrons comfortable at 72 degrees F, while maintaining a cool 65 degrees for the performers under the hot stage lights."

According to Bale, the first installation he did for the city of Dearborn was a test. One that he and his team were eager - and prepared - to pass. "We had to show how the building controls update would impact the city's bottom line," said Bale. "The results immediately improved the building's energy efficiency. Costs were down. Maintenance calls were down. Complaints were down."ES