New air handlers at Dell Children’s Medical Center helped the hospital achieve LEED® Platinum status.

When Dell Children’s Medical Center began the development of its new facility in Austin, TX, the organization established a compelling vision: to heal children without harming the environment. That’s no easy task for a power-intensive industry like health care.

The 500,000-sq-ft facility that opened in July 2007 achieved its mission through sustainable design, green materials, and energy-efficient systems. Air handlers from Temtrol® support the organization’s green initiatives. In addition, Dell Children’s Medical Center recently installed a Temtrol unit with FANWALL TECHNOLOGY that manages critical ventilation in a 6,500-sq-ft intra-operative MRI surgical area.

In March 2009, the USGBC recognized Dell Children’s Medical Center with LEED® Platinum certification. The facility is the world’s first LEED Platinum hospital.


“The decision to ‘build green’ started early and encompassed all aspects of the Dell Children’s Medical Center project,” explains Phil Risner, P.E., Dell Children’s senior project manager and mechanical engineer. “There’s a definite connection between a healthy environment and improved patient outcomes,” he states. “Our vision with this new facility was to create a truly green hospital, to set new standards for our industry.”

From its location to its components, the hospital raises the bar for sustainable design and energy efficiency. The Dell Children’s facility sits on the site of the former Austin Mueller Airport, a brownfield that was painstakingly recycled and reclaimed as part of the green build process.


Unlike traditional health care facilities that tower many stories surrounded by concrete, Dell Children’s occupies a modest low-rise layout, with wings set up like a pinwheel. Preferential parking is reserved for carpools and hybrid vehicles. Several garden areas feature prominently, including a rooftop green area with a penthouse structure to conceal the new Temtrol FANWALL air handler. The entire design creates a less intimidating approach for the young patients that Dell Children’s serves. Dell Children’s features a variety of high-tech and green solutions, including high-efficiency fluorescent lights equipped with motion sensors, a high albedo roof to reduce the effects of the urban “heat island,” and finishes and floorings that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Natural light penetrates more than 80% of the building’s interior. A clean-burning natural gas plant on the hospital grounds generates electricity and uses waste heat to produce chilled water and steam for the entire site and surrounding area.


When it came to A/C and ventilation, the CES Group’s representative, Rusty Vaughn of Texas AirSystems in Dallas, assisted Dell with the initial design and implementation of the facility’s air-handling system in 2007, and returned in 2009 to install the FANWALL unit.

Texas AirSystems worked in conjunction with CCRD Partners of Dallas, the lead engineering firm, and Risner’s team at Dell to meet their air quality and efficiency objectives.

“It was critical to us to create an optimal facility that not only supported quality care but also enhanced our surroundings,” Risner explains. Hospitals are notorious for high capacity energy usage. According to the UUSGBC, health care facilities use nearly twice as much energy per square foot as office buildings, accounting for over $3 billion annually just in electricity costs. With its current system, however, Dell Children’s saves enough energy every day to heat and cool approximately 30 average-sized Austin homes.


FANWALL TECHNOLOGY’s compact design is energy-efficient and quiet, and completely re-engineers how air moves. Unlike traditional air handlers that are comprised of one or two large fans, the air handler with a FANWALL array delivers airflow and meets redundancy requirements through smaller, manageable fan arrays that fit constrained areas. The new air handler with FANWALL measures 31- x 7- x 6-ft and is comprised of four direct-drive fans capable of 12,000 cfm and an additional 3,000 cfm of backup.

“Chief considerations for the Dell Children’s project - and for many health care facilities - were adequate redundancy for the operating rooms, acoustical performance, and capacity for future expansion,” explains Meers. “With a traditional unit, to achieve 100% redundancy requires a really big box,” he says. “With FANWALL TECHNOLOGY, because you’re using direct-drive fans, you only need 25% of the size as a backup, and that takes a much smaller footprint.”

The new Dell Children’s installation serves an intra-operative MRI operating room and a diagnostic MRI room, with additional “shell” space for future needs. The current project requires approximately 9,000 cfm, enabling the hospital to easily expand without the expense of adding or replacing its air handlers.

“We have four fans, but we only need to run three at any time,” Meers says. “The advantage of multiple fans is that unlike bigger units, the FANWALL array can be sized for 100% of future capacity. We handle hospital projects all over the country, and that’s a common need.” FANWALL’s quiet acoustical performance also supports the sensitive medical technology to be housed in the new wing, which can be disrupted by intensive vibrations. “The FANWALL is quiet - hardly noticeable,” adds Risner.


Another benefit of the air handler with a FANWALL array is reduced maintenance. Because it is comprised of an array of direct-drive assemblies, FANWALL eliminates moving parts commonly prone to repair, such as, external fan shaft bearings and wear items like belts and pulleys.

The air handler with FANWALL on this project has all the ‘bells and whistles’ - redundancy capacity, airside economizers, HEPA filtering, and UV lights in the coil section to reduce airborne bacteria - but it is all contained in a less than 35-ft-long unit.

With the unit up and running for almost a year, Risner is satisfied with its performance.

“Everyone at Temtrol, Texas AirSystems and the CES Group is grateful and pleased to be part of the team that created and delivered this solution,” added Vaughn. “It’s a credit to Dell Children’s Medical Center and the CCRD staff, who pulled the key players together to work for the best solution for a given application. It’s a great fit for the facility and the environment.” ES