The historic Landmark Theatre in Richmond, VA, was built in 1926, and has been owned by the city since 1940. When it was renovated and updated, breaking into walls to access old control equipment and install new wiring was not a desirable option.
Penetrating priceless, decorative walls in historic structures can be a real challenge for systems engineers trying to bring old buildings into the new age of comfort conditioning technology. This was a recent dilemma for the Landmark Theatre in Richmond, VA, as the city's Parks & Recreation Department administrators struggled to improve comfort and arrest further interior decay.

Breaking into walls to access old control equipment and install new wiring was not a desirable option, as Floyd Everet, the department's superintendent of facilities maintenance, pointed out. Still, aging pneumatic temperature sensors embedded in the walls and ceilings had become operationally unreliable. Engineers wanted these to be replaced with new, digital models to complement the facility's new BAS being installed at the same time. The answer was a wireless room temperature sensor (RTS), developed by Siemens Building Technologies, Inc. This device proved to be ideal for installing in the many hard-to-wire rooms and on the numerous surfaces that had to be left undisturbed.

"Wireless sensors were the ideal choice in this application because they allowed us to the preserve the history and integrity of the walls while eliminating time-consuming and expensive wiring," explained Everet. "Most of the surfaces contain original murals and other artwork that are a key part of the building's history."

A Unique Building

The city regards its 3,667-seat Landmark Theatre as one of its most unique buildings. Built in 1926, the theatre today sits on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. In 1940, it became the property of the city, and it is now managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities (DPRCF).

The theatre's exotic splendor can be seen from many angles from around the campus area: the dome alone comprises 75,000 sq ft of gold leaf and 35,000 sq ft of aluminum leaf. Formerly known as The Mosque, this lavish replica of a Moslem temple features an interior design that includes Saracenic decorations and paintings, and ornamental tile from around the world. The multiuse structure, which hosts touring Broadway shows, symphonies, operas, ballets, and other events, also includes 24,000 sq ft of office space, an 18,000-sq-ft ballroom, and even a swimming pool.

Wireless was ideal for the many hard-to-wire rooms and numerous surfaces that had to be left undisturbed. But age and the diminishing reliability of HVAC control had begun to take their toll on the building's interior surfaces. The effects of high humidity and condensation were causing surfaces to deteriorate prematurely, while poorly controlled temperatures were lowering the comfort levels for performers and patrons.

DPRCF commissioned an energy audit of the facility, which uncovered many opportunities for improvement while identifying the potential firms to do the work. The process led to a $1.2 million performance contract for an energy retrofit and renovation of the theater, which was awarded to Siemens and Bowers Family Enterprises, LLC. The contract is self-funding, as the improvements will be paid for out of actual energy and operating savings.

Engineered For Greater Reliability

Siemens installed major new equipment: four chillers (two 240-ton and two 210-ton multistack), six ABB VFDs, and a Weil-McLain 160-hp boiler. These particular units were specified due to their high-efficiency energy characteristics. Additional work included lighting retrofits, duct cleaning, and technical services.

The key piece to the control strategy was the installation of a Siemens Apogee® BAS. To perform such extensive energy improvements without changing the older pneumatic control system would have left an extremely weak link in an otherwise solid chain of new technologies.

For this job, wireless technology was the most sensible approach to temperature control of individual rooms and zones: the existing sensors and their respective wiring could remain in place, undisturbed inside the walls. Equally important, no new wiring was needed to install the new sensors.

Actual installation of the wireless RTSs was simple because they direct-mount in practically any location and on virtually any surface. The sensors communicate directly with the transceivers and terminal equipment controllers, which can be located above ceilings or anywhere up to 100 ft from the sensor. The RTSs are integrated seamlessly with Apogee.

Not only was damage to historically valuable walls and surfaces eliminated, the costs associated with installation labor and materials for traditional sensors were considerably less. But the Landmark Theatre project's most significant result is in the preservation of the building itself. The priceless, delicate interior surfaces remained undisturbed throughout the entire project. The theater-going public can now continue to enjoy the theatre's original splendor in complete comfort for decades to come.ES