California Medical Office Sidesteps Installation Challenges with New Louvers
Retrofitting a commercial HVAC system to accommodate an existing building can be challenging. In many cases, the building and the original system were not designed to meet current codes and design requirements that impact IAQ and energy efficiency.
A large medical office building in California presented the director of engineering at a Ruskin representative on the West Coast with an even bigger challenge — one he had never encountered in his almost three decades with the company. In addition to a system that used two large air handlers housed in two separate rooms on the building’s roof, a permanent pipe ran diagonally behind the building louvers in both rooms.
“Our task was to replace the components of the building’s large, built-up air-handling system,” the director of engineering explained. “This included the outside air louvers that cover a large opening in the building’s exterior and bring fresh air into the structure. What made this job somewhat out of the ordinary was the large structural steel pipe that ran behind the opening. The pipe could not be moved because it was part of the system designed to support the building in the event of an earthquake. Unfortunately, the pipe interfered with the installation of actuators on the jackshaft of the damper. Our job was to find a solution that compensated for the sheet metal wall separating the two rooms and provided a work-around for the pipe.
In addition to replacing louvers and other key components of the air-handling system, operations managers at the medical office building planned to install dampers and air-measuring stations. The goal was to measure and control the amount of air entering the building, thereby meeting new building codes and standards that dictate how much fresh air a building must bring inside. An additional benefit would be an HVAC system with improved energy efficiency.
As he has so often in the past, the director of engineering turned to Ruskin for help, as his company has served as a manufacturer’s representative for Ruskin for approximately 20 years.
“During that time, we’ve always appreciated the quality of Ruskin products and the service of its people who regularly apply their expertise to specific challenges,” he said.
According to Rachel Larimore, sales application engineer at Ruskin, “We were challenged by the pipe and the thin, 18-gauge wall separating the two rooms. The project required a lot of back and forth to work out the details with four to five iterations of drawings to be certain we got everything right.”
For this project, Larimore recommended the Ruskin IAQ350XL. This three-in-one product features a class A, wind-driven rain louver; class 1A-rated, low-leakage damper; and an integral air-measuring station in a common sleeve that is only 12 inches in the direction of airflow. Specifically designed to save space in tight mechanical rooms and air-handling units, the compact model reduces the space requirement by as much as 93 inches, when compared to typical air-measurement installation requirements, and provides accurate flow measurements to within ±3 percent accuracy.
“The IAQ350XL offers more variety and ways of doing things with air measuring,” added Larimore. “Prior to this project, the building featured plain louvers with no dampers or air-measuring stations, which meant there was no ability to modulate or control airflow. The louvers just covered a large hole in the exterior of the building, providing protection from rain while letting in a constant flow of air.”
Ruskin provided 14 sections of the IAQ350XL to cover the 336-by-118-inch opening.
“They were able to fabricate the unit with a jackshaft that fit around the pipe,” Larimore said. “The units could also be adjusted in the field, which provided the installing contractor the flexibility to adjust as necessary to ensure a good fit. Additionally, those in charge of the building’s HVAC system can monitor all 14 sections and individually control them.”
The 14 IAQ350XLs are located on the roof, approximately 10 stories above the ground.
“The building owners were concerned they would need to rent a crane to get the units on the roof,” said Larimore. “Instead, we were able to fabricate the units in sections small enough to fit on a freight elevator, which eliminated the costs associated with renting a crane.”
Today, the units allow the building to meet the standards and codes that dictate fresh-air intake while providing money-saving operating efficiencies.
“This project demonstrates the reasons our company continues to represent Ruskin products,” the director of engineering added. “Ruskin offers a variety of quality products that can be customized to meet the unique challenges we see in the field. In this case, Ruskin responded with a product that perfectly addresses space limitations by combining the functionality of three products in one. The result is a system that maintains proper ventilation and meets energy efficiency goals.”