Modern HVAC Solutions for Historic Structures
In the modern world, every building intended for public access, no matter how old, needs an adequate HVAC system. However, integrating modern HVAC solutions into historic structures is a delicate task that requires innovation, respect for the past, and technological finesse.
Here in the MD area, we know all about historic structures and the issues with implementing new HVAC technology into them. This article will cover the challenges of integrating modern HVAC equipment into old structures and how to overcome them.
Understanding the Unique Challenges of Historic Structures
Historic structures were built using materials and techniques vastly different from today’s. Energy efficiency was not considered important many decades ago, while insulation was just not as effective as nowadays.
This means that an HVAC system installed in a historic building will need to work harder to be efficient in these spaces. And dealing with structural issues is only one part of the story.
Another major obstacle is compliance. Stringent preservation laws and guidelines are imposed to protect historic buildings in many areas.
Typically, you cannot just install a modern rooftop package unit on the top of a 300-year-old building. You must find a solution that won’t harm its historic and aesthetic integrity.
An HVAC system for a historic building must meet two requirements: it needs to be both effective and non-intrusive. The task of ensuring a comfortable interior environment while respecting the building’s original design is truly daunting.
Let’s talk a bit about solutions.
How to Fit a Modern HVAC System in a Historic Building
Each historic structure is unique, and the same applies to their HVAC retrofits. There is no chance you will find a ready-made solution for a historic structure on the market. You will either need to build it from scratch or heavily customize available equipment.
This task is impossible without the contribution of an expert team. Architects, HVAC engineers, and conservationists must join forces to achieve maximum HVAC efficiency while maintaining the building’s visual integrity.
HVAC Technology to Use
Ductless Mini-Split Systems
These HVAC systems consist of an outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handling units connected by a small conduit. They can be installed with minimal alterations to the building’s structure.
High-Velocity, Small-Duct Systems
These systems use flexible ducts that can be threaded through existing holes in walls, ceilings, and floors, reducing the need for structural modifications. Their high-velocity air movement effectively distributes conditioned air while being less visually obtrusive. This makes them an ideal candidate for older buildings.
Radiant Heating Systems
Radiant heating solutions, such as in-floor heating systems, can provide even heating without the need for ductwork and can be installed under floors or within walls, preserving the aesthetic appearance of the building.
Variable Refrigerant Flow Systems
VRF systems offer efficient heating and cooling with a relatively small operational footprint. These systems are capable of serving multiple zones with varying requirements. This is especially important for historic buildings where one room might be drafty while another overheats due to structural quirks.
Hybrid HVAC Solutions
A combination of HVAC systems is often the most flexible way to meet the needs of a historic building. For instance, a ductless system in conjunction with radiant floor heating can provide both heating and cooling in a way that respects the building’s integrity.
Which HVAC Solution Is Best for a Historic Building?
This is a decision that you cannot make alone. As mentioned earlier, you will need help from multiple experts, including architects and HVAC engineers. With their meticulous research and knowledge, you will be able to create a viable project that meets both your HVAC needs and your historic preservation needs.
There are scores of historic buildings in the DC area that are being used for commercial purposes these days. If you oversee one of these historic gems, Diversified HVAC is here to help!
Our engineers have decades of experience and will help you find the most effective heat, ventilation, and air conditioning solutions for your historic building. Call us, and let’s talk!