People in the Paulding County Courthouse (Dallas, GA) were feeling like prisoners of IAQ assault and battery, thanks to extremely poorly positioned air intakes. A series of design and equipment improvements yielded the comfort for which occupants had been pleading.

Since before the Civil War, the historic Paulding County Courthouse has been the downtown focal point in the charming town of Dallas, GA. Although its interior has been updated on many occasions to provide modern functionality, special precautions have always been taken to retain the unique character of its red-bricked façade.

Ten years ago, a new hvac system was installed and, over time, building occupants began experiencing symptoms believed to be a result of poor indoor air quality. Employee productivity was low due to frequent headaches and general discomfort. Courtrooms on the second and third floors were often hot and stuffy in the summer, and they suffered from stale air year-round.

An Exhausting Problem

Because of constant building user complaints, county officials called on Lynn Wilson, of Wilson Air Conditioning Service, Inc. in nearby Powder Springs to assess the situation. Wilson, along with the help of sales engineer Steve Greer, began to determine the functionality of the current hvac system, including a chilled-water system with numerous air handlers.

He found that air intakes were drawing outside air filled with auto exhaust fumes and, because ventilation fans were not operating properly and installation never occurred on certain specified ventilation equipment, contaminated air was able to enter the airshafts. In addition, ductwork in the upper two floors was incomplete, and ventilation in the courtrooms came from the hot, dusty attic.

“Many improvements were needed for the system to operate at its peak level, and because we were dealing with an important historical structure, we had to work within certain limitations,” says Wilson. “The job was a challenge and, as it turned out, a huge success.”

Rehabilitation Pays Off

Wilson’s team of technicians repositioned the air intakes to eliminate drawing air filled with auto exhaust fumes. Programmable override timers were installed on lower-level office controls. With these cost-effective timers, the hvac equipment runs primarily during occupied times. Wilson also added CO2 detectors to the upper level courtroom controls to assist with late court sessions or after-hour meetings. As CO2 levels increase due to the influx of people, detectors sense the change and activate the heat-recovery ventilator. The improvements were completed with the installation of seven PerfectAire (Madison, WI) fresh air exchangers.

The PerfectAire units introduce a continuous supply of fresh air into the building, which is then distributed through the air handlers. These units preheat or precool the incoming air by using the energy in the exhaust air. By using this technique, conditioned air is easily able to remain at its intended temperature, and electricity normally used to recondition the air is kept at a minimum.

The results have been uniformly praised. Building occupants no longer complain about stale air, and productivity remains steady due to the elimination of recurring headaches — all of which proves that old buildings don’t have to be uncomfortable buildings.