Five rows of four, 40-in UV lamps were installed from top to bottom in front of the return side of the A/C coil in this South Beach building, saving up to $10,000 in coil-cleaning costs.

Miami’s South Beach is the epitome of chic. Its fabulous beaches, trendy restaurants, Art Deco hotels, and pulsating nightclubs attract throngs of locals and tourists alike. But there are other elements - largely unseen, but often felt in the air - attracted by the area’s humid climate: mold, spores, and bacteria, as well as airborne contaminants.

Walter Chung noticed it. As the assistant property manager and chief engineer for the SunTrust building on Lincoln Road in the heart of South Beach, it’s his job to pick up issues that affect the eight-story concrete office building, its tenants, and the approximately 350 people who work there.

Dirty A/C coil creates problems

UAI Management LLC, for whom Chung works, had purchased the SunTrust building three years earlier. They wanted to make sure that the building’s air-handling system produced and circulated clean, fresh air, and operated at peak efficiency. When he took a look at its filters and coil, he quickly realized that there were problems.

“It was really nasty,” he said of the old Roll-O-Matic filter system with an oil base that was located on the roof of the building. Fourteen feet in height and 30 to 40 ft around, the filter was dirty. “It was old and messy and it rolled down unevenly,” Chung said, adding that the A/C coil was moldy as well.

To Chung, this discovery made sense. After all, the air inside the SunTrust building never seemed quite right to him. There was a slightly musty odor and the dust was everywhere. The coil and filter were cleaned twice a year, but it wouldn’t be long before mold would reappear. Chung estimates that his annual coil cleaning cost was $8,000 to $10,000.

The tenants, which range from the headquarters for MTV Latin America, law offices, and an advertising firm to dentist offices, an architecture firm, and a casting company as well as SunTrust bank, didn’t complain, but Chung recognized that they had probably gotten used to poor IAQ. They took little notice to the dust and particulate matter that settled on the walls and the furniture because the cleaning crew took care of the mess after hours.

For Chung, a continuous cycle of cleaning the air-handling system that could not get the crisp, clean air that he wanted was not good enough. There had to be another solution.

Ultraviolet lamps to improve air quality?

He visited the South Florida Facilities Expo to explore what type of filters and filter system might work best for the SunTrust building. That’s where he met Daryl McIntosh, the owner of A-One Filters and Josee Osborne of Sanuvox Technologies. After speaking with McIntosh and Osborne, it was clear to Chung that his building needed more than new filters.

A series of high-performance filters would take away the airborne contaminants, but what would eliminate the mold, bacteria and spores? They talked to Chung about ultraviolet (UV) CoilCleaners from Sanuvox. UV CoilCleaners shine on the coil 24/7, destroying bacteria, viruses, mold, chemicals, and its associated odors.

“UV technology is highly recommended to keep your coils clean and eliminate bacteria floating in the air. With this, they can have 99.99% clean air,” said McIntosh. “It helps reduce sickness in the workplace, plus there are savings on energy costs.”

In fact, several studies have concluded that ultraviolet lamps kill germs and other bacteria in ventilation systems. TheLancet Medical Journalpublished the findings of McGill University scientists in which shining ultraviolet purifiers manufactured by Sanuvox Technologies on air conditioning coils reduced overall sickness by 20%, reduced respiratory symptoms by 40% and resulted in a 99% reduction of microbial and endotoxin concentrations on irradiated surfaces within the ventilation system.

Chung didn’t know about these studies. He had some experience with UV lights as a way to eliminate algae from pools and promote plant life in ponds, but he did not expect that such technology could improve the IAQ of his building.

High-efficiency filters + UV technology

Knowing that UAI Management LLC wanted its building to be a first-class facility in every respect, Chung invited Sanuvox; the Filtration Group, the manufacturer of filters; and A-One Filters, which installs systems, to take a look for themselves.

The team photographed and inspected the exterior of the eight-story concrete building as well as the 140,000 sq ft of interior space to determine how the outside environment affected the indoor air. They also inspected the filtration system.

The team clearly had their work cut out for them. They set about a two-pronged strategy of treating the coil with the UV air purification technology and capturing the particulates with a series of energy-efficient filters.

Under the direction of Sanuvox’s Osborne, McIntosh measured the A/C coil - its height, width, and thickness. By inputting all of this information into a Sanuvox computer program, they were able to determine that the number of UV lamps that would be required for the system as well as the owner’s return on investment.

They determined that this system would require five rows of four, 40-in UV CoilClean InLine UV lamps which were installed from top to bottom in front of the return side of the coil. McIntosh needed additional rows because the 20-ft-long A/C coil was actually cut and offset into two 10-foot sections. This required him to weld brackets to a metal beam to fit the required number of lamps.

On the filter side, Brewer recommended the Filtration Group’s GeoPleat High Efficiency Air Filters. The filters would reduce energy consumption while providing high levels of air filtration and indoor air quality, Brewer said. In this case, Brewer said the filters would more than double the efficiency of the previous filter, and still require less energy to push the air through.

A total of 98 24-by-24-in. filter pads were installed. When completed, the filter measured 14 ft in height and 28 ft in length. Each filter is 4-in. thick with a MERV 13 rating. Because of the building girders, they could not use filter pads that were any thicker.

The project took four weekends - two weekends to install the UV system, and two weekends for the filters. Osborne explained that the UV installation normally takes one weekend, but the coil’s design required extra time to build the metal rack that housed the UV lamps.

A cleaner, greener building that is saving money

For Chung and his tenants, the results have been, in a word, breathtaking. “I noticed the air is crisper,” he said. “And there are no odors. It’s just cleaner, fresher air.” And his cleaning crew reports that they do much less dusting. There are fewer airborne particulates in the air to clean up after.

The reaction of tenants has been equally as positive. “A few of the tenants noticed and after we sent out a memo about our new system and its benefits, and they thanked me for being able to breathe cleaner air,” he says.

Because innovative technologies were used, the building earned not only LEED® certification but also won a prestigious national award for creating a cleaner, healthier indoor environment.

Additionally, the installation was also recognized by the National Air Filtration Association with a 2008 National Clean Air Award. The SunTrust building was one of only 15 projects nationwide to receive the award, and it is the first time that a project from Florida has been selected for this honor.

Chung is also reaping economic benefits as well. He’s saving up to $10,000 in coil-cleaning costs, and then there are the energy savings. “This new system has cut my electric bills by 35%,” he says.ES