Retrofitting For Older Buildings:
air-conditioning upgrades in older apartment buildings
and more, owners of apartment complexes are facing a problem quite common
with older apartment buildings. Is it time to bring these buildings
up to modern standards? How much renovation and modernization will be
necessary to keep an acceptable rate of occupancy? In particular, should
air conditioning be installed?
Buildings of the
50's were, of course, designed with then-contemporary equipment and
features of the period. However, air conditioning was a rarity then.
Also, since energy was cheap, there were few energy-conservation concerns;
windows were single pane and most often heating systems consisted of
recessed hot-water convectors directly under the windows. Through the
years, energy costs have escalated and other major maintenance problems
have worsened. Windows in older buildings are developing water leaks
and exterior brick walls show the need for refurbishing. In addition,
as new air-conditioned buildings go up, competition for tenants becomes
costs of keeping current in the market
An apartment complex in a prestigious location can get top rental rates
if the owner can attract the kind of long-term, high-quality tenant
who is able to pay those rates, thus maintaining the owner's return
on investment. But as the building ages, decisions must be made as to
the level of maintenance/upgrading needed to hold those tenants. Questions
arise. Should the owner absorb those costs or pass them on to tenants
in the form of higher rentals? In each case, what does that do to the
return on investment? What degree of renovation seems necessary?
is disruption. It seems that most of the tenants of these buildings
are older people, many of them women alone, who are long-term residents.
How quickly can such a job be done? How can interruption to tenants'
daily routines be held to a minimum?
The decision to accomplish a major building renovation, complete
with a new HVAC system, requires careful thought. Builders must be convinced
such a step will prove affordable and ultimately profitable.
When a building's
floor plan is repetitive, with all similar apartments stacked one above
another, the choice for the air conditioning might be two-pipe vertical
fan-coil units designed and manufactured by The Whalen Company. Such
units are relatively easy to install with minimal inconvenience to the
tenants---core the floors, stack the units, and conceal them with drywall.
Let us describe a typical makeover as suggested by The Whalen Company.
Work moves upward from the first floor. A schedule is given to all tenants
so they will know when and what to expect as the work progresses in
their residences. With effective coordination of necessary tradesmen,
total work time in each apartment can be kept to just a few hours, helping
to ensure that start-to-Þnish intervals are brief and that completion
dates are met on schedule.
The first step
is to establish in each apartment the exact location for the Whalen
units. They are usually installed in the bedrooms on a bedroom/living
room wall, with the return air, one cooling outlet, and thermostat located
in the living area. Depending on the apartment layout, some units may
be installed in the living room.
and drilling of interior surfaces
To facilitate the location and cutting of necessary wall openings, the
installing contractor may choose to develop some basic templates. A
water-cooled core drill is used to drill through concrete floors. The
water also helps keep down dust and is picked up by a large shop vac.
A worker in the apartment below catches the plug and any water as the
coring is finished. The core hole, if large enough, will be used not
only to connect the piping from one unit to another but also to accommodate
the electrical conduit and a master TV cable.
piping, and connecting
After wall openings are cut and floors cored, a vertical fan-coil unit
is lifted into position, and the three piping connections are then made
to the unit in the apartment directly underneath. Each is carefully
plumbed so that the drywall installers will have minimal cutting to
do. After the riser piping joints are sweated and the electrical connections
made, the remaining space in the core hold is insulated to meet local
fire code requirements.
neatly and efficiently
Whalen units are normally finished with just two pieces of drywall,
cut to size in the hallways to keep dirt out of the apartments. Then
painters, matching individual apartment colors, move in to finish the
job. The basic but highly effective 2-pipe heating/cooling unit offers
simplistic operating characteristics: energy efficient PSC motor, preferred
fan cycle control, low maintenance, and no troublesome motorized valves.
The use of Whalen vertical fan-coil units enables the installation of
a heating and cooling system at low cost with quick installation time
and minimal disruption to the residents. With the help of this product,
previously outdated buildings are brought up to standard and able to
sustain an improved occupancy rate.