Heating Required 10 Months a Year

Located in the heart of this renowned ski resort town, the 3-story, 28,000-square-foot Vail Professional Building was completed in September 1984. It is home to law firms, architects, doctors’ offices and The Golden Bear Company, a women’s jewelry, accessories, fashion-clothing designer and manufacturer.

Project History

For nearly 20 years, the Vail Professional Building (VPB) served its tenants without air conditioning. Over the years, with the emergence of more and more electronic equipment in the office, the original electric baseboard heat and 20-year-old ventilation system caused more and more tenants to complain. But the building owners had another, even larger concern. Because of altitude, Vail buildings require heating almost 10 months out of the year. The baseboard heat demanded a huge amount of electrical consumption and the expense was becoming unmanageable. Also, more and more commercial real estate in the Vail Valley was coming online with newer and better equipment.

An Amazing Discovery for 20-year-old Building Retrofit

For many months, Tye Stockton, building manager, and Kyle Webb, AIA, searched for an intelligent cooling and heating solution for the building. Their journey took them to many competitive, ducted systems, but none seemed to be the right answer. They searched for a system that would be cost-effective, flexible and quickly installed, causing the least tenant disruption. Impressed with the performance of an existing Mitsubishi Electric split-ductless unit in one VPB office, Webb went to the Mitsubishi Electric HVAC website and made an interesting discovery— a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating Solutions, Suwanee, Ga.—the world’s first and only simultaneous cooling and heating multi-split, modular system. Intrigued, Stockton contacted Drew Rader, Rader Engineering, Inc. in nearby Avon, to help Webb develop drawings for pricing the system for this retrofit.

A Superior Solution for a Fraction of the Price

With a nod from the owners, working with the Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Sales representative, Katrina Shaffer, Vista Sales, Lakewood, Colo., Rader designed the HVAC mechanical for the retrofit and presented the drawings and price for the system. For the three floors and 24 suites, Shaffer specified five PURY 100 outdoor units driving 40 indoor air-handling units: 10 PDFY ceiling-concealed ducted units, six wall-mounted PKFY units, and 24 ceiling-recessed 4-way airflow PLFY cassette units. Mitsubishi Electric’s Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning system enabled the building owners to provide each tenant’s individual zone with its own personalized comfort system. The G-50A controller made Btu/h usage super efficient and provided the building owner, Kirch Enterprises, with a convenient tool for charging each tenant only with the power consumed in their own space.

Mitsubishi Electric On-demand Engineering: Absolutely Brilliant

Kirch Enterprises approved the plans and authorized the installation to begin in May 2004. For systems installation, Rader contacted Climate Control Company, Glenwood Springs, Colo. Climate Control’s Service Manager Chris Allen said, “This on-demand INVERTER technology is absolutely brilliant: it takes care of everything! What really amazed me is that the system saves energy costs by working only as hard as it has to.”

Calling Mitsubishi Electric’s INVERTER technology “too good to be true,” Rader said there is no other comparable product on the market. “The outdoor units are so unbelievably quiet, one can have a normal conversation standing right next to them. VRF zoning gives the owners not only a marketing edge (tenants did not leave), but a big bonus in the system’s heating capacity. They operate effectively, providing sufficient heat to the building when it is as low as 20 degrees outdoors.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Shaffer said. “The entire installation worked so well that everyone liked it—from the owner to the contractor to the design engineer. That is so rare! The work environment is very productive. When we turned the system on in the summer of 2004, VPB tenants at first complained that their rooms were too cold!”

Stockton said, “not only did Mitsubishi Electric deliver cost effectiveness, flexibility and quick installation, but most of all, we were able to realize a superior solution for only a fraction of the $800,000 to $1 million cost estimates provided by competitors. Further, we believe the VRF zoning heating capacity this winter will greatly reduce— if not force into extinction—the old baseboard heating energy hogs, giving us a reserve fund to run the air conditioning next summer.”