A lush cattle ranching valley in western Colorado, Plateau Valley is east of Grand Junction and north of the largest flat-topped mountain in the world, the 11,333-foot-tall Grand Mesa. Located at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Collbran is the largest community in the valley. Named for one of the original homesteaders in 1882, this historic cattle town has a population of more than 700.
The Collbran Congregational Church purchased the grounds and building in 1903 to meet the maternity needs of women in the valley. In 1972, the Plateau Valley Hospital District (PVHD) was formed in the Mesa County District Court. In 2010, the PVHD board decided it had outgrown the 8,000-square-foot homestead that had housed the PVHD hospital for decades and started budgeting for a new facility.
A New Medical Clinic Is Born
A longtime resident of Plateau Valley, architect Frank Wagner has served on the PVHD board for eight years. He and the board formed a planning committee for the new center and distributed an RFP to western Colorado architects, engineers and contractors. Wagner’s firm, Wagner/Galloway Architects LLC (Wagner/Galloway) from nearby Palisade, Colo., was selected by the board, winning the design bid over two other firms.
Wagner/Galloway requested that Big Horn Consulting Engineers, Inc. (Big Horn) in Grand Junction be the mechanical engineers for the new center. Shawn Brill, LEED AP, BD+C and Certified Energy Manager (CEM), is a founding partner of Big Horn and a 30-year HVAC engineer. He was introduced to the advanced Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating Division, Suwanee, Ga., several years ago by his partner, who had toured the Mitsubishi Electric factory in Japan. In the past three years, Big Horn has installed CITY MULTI® VRF zoning systems in the Grand Junction Fire Department administration building, a U.S. Department of Energy building in Grand Junction and the Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado administration facility in Montrose, Colo.
For the new facility in Collbran, Wagner/Galloway designed a dramatic 6,400-square-foot, curvilinear clinic building for around-the-clock care, with an emergency room, five examination rooms, lobby, nurse’s station and offices. “Curves can create a calming effect,” Wagner explained, “so we created a radius intensive design that we felt fitting for a health care facility.”
VRF Zoning Technology Integral to Health Care Facility Design
For the clinic’s HVAC system, Wagner told Brill he was interested in a system that was designed for individual temperature controls in each room. The system had to be quiet and comfortable as well as super efficient to minimize energy costs.
Already experienced with the success of Mitsubishi Electric’s VRF zoning installations in nearby Colorado communities, Brill thought the selection of Plateau Valley’s HVAC system was a “no brainer.” “It was actually the basis of the clinic design. The space constraints were very tight, and there would be little room for a more traditional air system.”
“Arrow in Our Quiver” of Energy Solutions
As a consulting engineer, Brill said he has to balance the owner’s expectations with budget, space and energy-usage constraints. “VRF systems are another arrow in our quiver of energy solutions for building systems.”
Brill also explained why he specified Mitsubishi Electric’s PURY R2-Series Outdoor (compressor) units — the only two-pipe heat-recovery system that simultaneously cools and heats. “I admire this technology because of its excellent energy performance, flexible zoning capability and ability to load share. Our western Colorado climate is cold in the winter and hot in the summer — sometimes cold and hot on the same day! The heat recovery function of the PURY is the integral reason for using VRF in our climate.”
A Sophisticated and User-friendly System
The Mitsubishi Electric VRF zoning system was installed by service manager Terry Sweetin of Keenan’s Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Montrose, Colo. Sweetin was impressed by Mitsubishi Electric’s Lossnay® Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs). Installed at either end of the clinic, the Lossnay units deliver neutral air to 20 indoor cassette fan coil units, providing increased indoor air quality for the facility. “This system runs great,” Sweetin said, “just like it’s supposed to. It is very quiet and provides improved indoor air quality, which is so important in a medical center.”
Sweetin was also pleased with the VRF zoning system’s zoned controllers. “They are sophisticated but at the same time very user-friendly,” he said. “The hospital district administrator can walk into the clinic’s mechanical room at any time, look at a screen for each indoor unit and change the temperature settings with no trouble at all.”
VRF Zoning Ideal for Health Care Facilities
Jessi Clark is the administrator for the Plateau Valley Hospital District. She helped orchestrate the entire building process and is enormously pleased — as is her board — with the final results. “I love the performance of this VRF system,” Clark said. “I have an indoor unit in my office directly over my desk. It is so quiet I don’t even know it is operating. This HVAC system provides a healthy, quiet environment for my patients and is ideal for health care facilities.”