Hill Hall was built in 1884 and is the first of 16 Victorian-era mansions on campus to be air conditioned. A two-pipe zoning system turned out to be a good fit for this historical retrofit, since the City of Burlington has very strict zoning laws that force builders and developers to maintain the turn-of-the-century look in all building renovations.

Champlain College in Burlington, VT, is home to several Victorian-era mansions that were built in the mid 1880s and now serve as residence halls. One such building, Hill Hall, is a co-ed dormitory for 40 students (13 rooms for two to four students each on four floors).

The college board of trustees has authorized an A/C upgrade every other year. With a first-ever budget approval for A/C in an existing dormitory, Holly Mussatti, director of the college's physical plant, challenged her staff to fast-track an installation to be up and running in time for the 2004-2005 academic year. She chose Hill Hall because it was in need of total rehabilitation. Only the newest dorm on campus (2003) had been built with air conditioning, and this would be the first retrofit to be installed in-house by her staff.

Doing the due diligence

Mussatti researched current HVAC systems to accommodate this historic building, including systems with flex ducting and rooftop chillers. No system or technology seemed possible until contractor Steve Hayden, of local company Mountain Air Systems, recommended that she look into the CITY MULTI® Variable Refrigerant Flow Zoning (VRFZ) systems from Mitsubishi Electric HVAC.

A former certified plumber, Mussatti was immediately struck by the design and engineering of the CITY MULTI units. "The heat exchanger in the outdoor unit reminded me of my days installing boiler manifolds," she said. "The Mitsubishi engineering design is brilliant, simple, and amazingly easy to install. I was impressed by the fact that a single outdoor condensing unit requiring only a small bit of real estate was all I needed to run 16 8,000 Btuh wall-mounted indoor air-handling units," she added.

"With no costly ductwork accessories and labor involved and serious interior limitations posed by the 121-year-old structure, all I needed was a 3-in. hole in one wall to bring in the wiring and piping from outdoors. The installation went very smoothly, and we were able to open on time 70 days later."

"We were also impressed with the ability to use the system as a backup for our gas-fired boilers. Vermont has high electric rates, and this backup helps us conserve energy costs," Mussatti said.

A green mountain STATE FIRST

Twenty seven-year HVAC veteran Hayden is the man responsible for finding and introducing CITY MULTI to Vermont. "When Holly and I first spoke about installing air conditioning in Hill Hall, she told me she was looking for a system that could provide individual temperature controls, was quiet, had minimal outdoor equipment, looked nice, and could be installed in an old building with minimal space," Hayden said.

"Fortunately (for both of us)," Hayden added, "I had just discovered the CITY MULTI VRFZ System a couple of weeks earlier. This system would provide everything Holly was looking for and more, such as the simultaneous cool/heat option. Soon after this discovery, we had the system installed and running. The installation and start up went very well."

Hayden said that CITY MULTI was a perfect find because the City of Burlington has very strict zoning laws that force builders and developers to maintain the turn-of-the-century look in all building renovations. "This system is a perfect solution for providing air conditioning in buildings with no space for ductwork and large fan systems. Thanks to our Champlain College installation, we now have a contract with the New England Culinary Institute to install a CITY MULTI system in one of their 12,000-sq-ft historical office buildings located in Montpelier, VT. The new system will be air conditioning approximately 3,500 sq ft."

Mussatti said the first year of operation has been flawless. "We have not had to call Mountain Air once over the past 12 months. In fact, the board of trustees has been so impressed with the performance of CITY MULTI that it has designated Hill Hall the ‘Admissions Hotel' for visiting high school guidance counselors during the summer months."