UVC lights keep out unwanted resident in twin condo towers: mold
Located on Toronto’s waterfront in the Harbourfront Centre District, Number One York Quay is one of the city’s most prestigious condominium developments. The complex includes more than 800 luxury suites from 600 to 2,000 sq ft, with some units as large as 4,000 sq ft. Amenities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a fitness center, private restaurant and lounge, sauna and steam rooms, billiard room, squash and basketball facilities, and a 24-hr concierge.
It is widely known that people can develop allergy, asthma, and other symptoms from A/C, but many people do not realize that mold growth in the cooling coil in the heart of the A/C system is the culprit. Mold buildup within A/C systems, including the fancoil units found in condominiums and apartments, is a universal occurrence that is not limited to hot and humid climates.
To make sure mold did not become a problem for its 2,000 residents, the Condominium Board of Number One York Quay (Toronto) proactively found a sufficiently effective and affordable solution: They retrofitted the systems with germicidal “UVC Emitters™” manufactured by Steril-Aire, Inc. to stop the growth and spread of mold and mold spores, viruses, and bacteria.
The search for solutionsThe fancoil units in Number One York Quay’s two 40-story towers had been operating for nearly 20 years and were showing their age. Determined to refurbish the units and eliminate existing mold, the Board did extensive research in concert with onsite property manager Brookfield Residential Services Ltd. (Toronto). They looked into removing moldy insulation lining the inside of the fancoils and replacing it with new insulation and coils, but the cost would have been prohibitive (about $2.5 million); and the solution would have been temporary, as mold would be certain to return in time.
After further research, the Board learned of a device that uses the “C” wavelength of the UVC spectrum to target the DNA of mold, bacteria and viruses, killing the cells or making replication impossible. Installed in A/C systems opposite the coil, UVC is proven in scientific studies to have a dramatic impact on mold proliferation, reducing the formation of mold colonies by well over 99%. The Board brought in Steril-Aire, Inc., to work with them on a solution. The first step was to install the devices in a dozen fancoils to test their effectiveness. The makeup air units serving the two towers were also equipped with UVC at that time to ensure that the air entering from the rooftop intakes would be as clean as possible.
At the time of installation, the maintenance department photographed the coils and took mold samples for analysis by an independent lab. Three months later, additional photo documentation and mold testing were performed to measure results. “Before” and “after” Petri dish sampling measured +99% reductions in mold counts on the test units. Photographs provided further visual evidence of the improvement, as coils were now noticeably cleaner and free of mold and organic buildup that had been present prior to UVC. Residents also reported reductions in asthma and allergy symptoms.
UVC retrofit, other tasks describedClimanetics began installing the UVC devices in February 2008 and completed the project about eight weeks later. The products used were Steril-Aire fancoil kits that include UVC Emitters in the specified lengths along with the hardware components needed to accomplish the installation. Each unit required just one 12 or 16 in. length UVC Emitter to cover the length of the coil.
Sergio Colalillo, vice president of operations for Climanetics, said, “We retrofitted every suite in the two towers with UVC - except, of course, for the units that had already been equipped with the lights during the test program. We coated the drain pans with rust-inhibiting waterproof paint on all units. We replaced drain hoses and insulation on an as-needed basis, and also repaired any control valves or thermostats that were not working properly.”
Colalillo says that the total scope of work averaged about two man-hrs per fancoil and was performed using a production line strategy. “We had a crew of five, and each person had a specific task to perform over and over as we went through the building floor-by-floor,” he notes. “This approach helped the work to flow much more efficiently.
“Since we could not access the suites without the consent of residents, it was a monumental task to orchestrate approvals for entry,” Colalillo adds. “The logistics for all this were handled very ably by Brookfield Residential Services. With the help of their organizational skills, we were able to complete the work on time and on budget.” The total price tag was between $600,000 and $700,000, about 25% of the cost if the Board had used the alternative approach that was originally considered.
Results achievedBoard president Ken Wigley said, “The UVC Emitters have improved indoor air quality and system cleanliness at a fraction the cost of alternative strategies.” The installation, which includes 1,240 fancoils as well as the makeup air units that serve the building, is believed to be the largest of its type.
“We have been very pleased with the performance of the Steril-Aire UVC devices and with the work done by Climanetics,” he added. “The Board has received many positive comments on the air quality, particularly among residents with asthmatic children. We have heard reports of reduced allergy and asthma symptoms from several sources.”
As a bonus, UVC is proving to be a useful marketing tool for owners who wish to re-sell or lease their suites. “Lots of places offer fitness clubs and pools, but the use of UVC to enhance air quality is fairly novel and appeals to a certain type of buyer. It also shows that the Board and residents here take a proactive approach,” Wigley notes. “Recognizing this, some of the sellers in the complex are mentioning it in their advertisements.” ES