VRF Zoning Technology: The Only Choice for an Upscale Apartment Complex

The 101 Bedford apartment complex in Brooklyn, New York is a 340,000-square-foot facility with 351 luxury apartments. From an HVAC perspective, this situation presents the ultimate challenge of finding a high-end cooling and heating system that enables energy allocation. The challenge gets further complicated by 101 Bedford’s wide-ranging amenities, including a swimming pool, audio recording studio, roof-top event space, spas and wine vault. Accommodating such myriad room types and uses meant that HVAC designers Glickman Engineering Associates PLLC (GEA), New York, had to select an HVAC system that satisfied numerous criteria.

This system would have to be discrete and user-friendly to match the building’s luxurious design, employ zoning technology, make a minimal rooftop footprint and allow energy allocation by individual tenant billing. A CITY MULTI® Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. Cooling & Heating Division (Mitsubishi Electric) was the only system for the job.

Challenge: Finding an HVAC system that could meet the varying needs of a high-end apartment complex.

The owner of 101 Bedford had experience with the difficulties of tenant billing from a previous project: a 98-unit apartment building. This earlier building was originally designed with packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs, i.e., through-the-wall units) for cooling and a boiler for heating. The boiler made tenant billing difficult, though, and the PTACs were noisy. VRF was substituted and worked well, encouraging the 101 Bedford designers and owners to use VRF at 101 Bedford, too.

David Glickman, president, GEA, said that, in fact, VRF was really the only possible choice that would satisfy all of 101 Bedford’s requirements: “VRF is ideal for residential multi-tenant applications because its condensing units can serve multiple apartments, while allowing each room to be controlled separately.” Glickman was also impressed by VRF’s energy efficiency: “The efficiency of VRF is so high that an economizer isn’t required. VRF systems can be three to four times more efficient than conventional PTACs.”

Glickman added that once the decision was made to go with VRF zoning technology, it was a foregone conclusion that the Mitsubishi Electric CITY MULTI® system would be chosen due to its sophisticated control network. The network calculates the energy used by each apartment, keeping track of all BTUs for cooling and heating.

Ener-Con Technical Services (Ener-Con), Brooklyn, installed the HVAC system at 101 Bedford. Josh Kalimi, president of operations, added two more reasons why he liked the Mitsubishi Electric system for 101 Bedford: “First, Mitsubishi [Electric]’s training on VRF was excellent. I’ve attended courses in design, installation and system start-up – all very informative.” Touching on Mitsubishi Electric’s unique two-pipe system, Kalimi added, “Second, we didn’t need shafts throughout the building to run lots of pipe or ductwork because there are no gas pipes, hot water pipes, flue pipes or chimneys. With fewer roof penetrations, there was more roof space for recreation.”

Solution: A VRF zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric offered an elegant solution to tenant billing with a versatile, high-end system.

Bernie Gipps, owner, Ener-Con, touched on another important requirement for 101 Bedford: sound. Gipps said the outdoor units operate very quietly. “This is especially beneficial in this project since a large portion of the roof is being used for social activities. With conventional equipment, the noise level would have been too high for people to enjoy a simple conversation on the same roof.”

All of the features 101 Bedford needed – precise control, quiet operation on the roof and in rooms, low energy consumption, heat recovery, individual billing and ease of installation – were answered by the Mitsubishi Electric VRF zoning system. Put together, their end result is a major advance in indoor environmental control and extremely high customer satisfaction.