Water-Source Heat Pump System Gives Golden-Age Comfort to Erickson Communities
Silver Springs, Maryland
Director of Engineering: Michael Sichel, P.E.
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer: GHT Limited and Kibart Inc.
Electrical Contractor: Northwest Electric
Mechanical Contractor: Krick Plumbing and Heating Utility
Architect: Marks, Thomas & Associates, Inc.; Wallace Roberts & Todd, L.L.C.
Erickson Retirement Communities is a national network of world-class continued care retirement communities (CCRC’s) that wanted to provide comfort and flexibility for campus residents when choosing the heating and cooling system for their apartments within the “community neighborhoods.” What began in 1983 on an abandoned Seminary in Maryland has grown into ten retirement campuses modeled to create a retirement experience that exceeds expectations.
Erickson began a multi-phase construction project in 1997, breaking ground on a new location every six months. Through 2005, grand openings were scheduled encompassing over 30 million square feet of residential space. The scope of the project required Michael Sichel P.E., Erickson’s Director of Engineering, to consider a heating and cooling system that ensured reliable equipment, flexible design and a long life cycle.
“We wanted a product that was flexible to resident needs, economical in first cost, but also reliable and economical to operate. We knew that water source heat pumps could fit that bill. However, we needed to be assured that we could find a quiet product that took up little space within the apartment and was easy to maintain,” said Sichel. “We also needed to be assured that the manufacturer was large enough to meet our increasing demand for product. ClimateMaster and their Vertical High-Rise Heat Pumps met our criteria to a tee.”
Variety of Heating and Cooling Application Needs
The layout of the housing design is traditionally multi-story garden apartment living space configurations. Most projects also include multiple types of Recreational, Living, and Wellness space (Health Clubs, Indoor Pools, Music Rooms, Class Rooms, Game Rooms, Woodshops, Resident Computer Labs, Craft Rooms, Beauty Salons, Banks, Stores, Medical Centers, as well as different Dining atmospheres [including the commercial kitchens that support them], Pubs, Creative Arts Theatres, and Worship Centers) with various heating and cooling demands. The need to cool some spaces while heating others presented challenges to facility management to provide comfort to residents and at the same time, maintain reasonable operating costs.
Erickson Realizes the Benefits, Energy Savings of WSHP Systems
On properties built before 1997, Erickson had some heat pump systems and some four-pipe fan coil systems. The long-term demand for efficiency and comfort lead Erickson management to compare the four-pipe fan coil and water source heat pump (WSHP) systems. Erickson discovered:
- The water source heat pump cost less compared to the almost double piping and labor costs of the four-pipe fan coil design.
- The water source heat pump presented lower operating costs compared to higher costs affiliated with the four-pipe fan coil’s energy demand utilizing gas-fired chiller-heaters.
- The water source heat pump featured fast and easy maintenance compared to the challenges of repairing central plant chillers and boilers.
- The water source heat pump system with its individual unit controls could heat and cool various living spaces simultaneously.
- The water source heat pump system has less impact on campus operations when there is a need to shut down for system repairs.
When it was all said and done, the water source heat pump system presented the cost-effective solution Erickson wanted while satisfying their desire to provide an environment for an exemplary retirement lifestyle; and the bonus -easy equipment maintenance for facility technicians.
First Retirement Village, Large HVAC Needs
The first Erickson new construction project to be designed with a water source heat pump system was Greenspring Village, nestled within a wooded campus in Springfield, Virginia. The campus upon completion will have over 1,400 independent living apartments and approximately 200 beds in the Renaissance Gardens, an Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facility.
Greenspring Village has three “neighborhoods” of approximately 650,000 square feet. These neighborhoods are made up of close to 500 multi-style studios, efficiencies, and one and two bedroom apartments, which average out to approximately 1,150 square feet each. The apartments are housed in four buildings of about 125,000 to 150,000 square feet each and connected to a “Club House” of nearly 50,000 square feet for each “neighborhood.”
In the lower level of each Club House is a relatively small equipment room to support the approximately 1,000-ton capacity water source heat pump central plant. The total campus build-out borders on 3 million square feet representing over 4,500 tons of heating and cooling capacity or 5,000 water source heat pumps. This same concept is repeated on eight other Erickson campuses now under construction.
HVAC Installation Made Simple
The multi-story complex was engineered using a vertical stack system. The ClimateMaster Vertical High-Rise Stack units proved to be the most cost effective application when compared to other conventional heating and cooling systems.
The ClimateMaster VHS units were shipped with pre-piped supply, condensate, and return risers and valve packages. Unions, ball valves and interconnecting copper piping and hoses come completely factory assembled and quality controlled for rapid field installation.
The units were installed as two sections. First, the cabinet section containing the fan components and the factory installed water loop risers was built into the structure during construction. The risers were factory swedged at the top to accept riser piping from the floor above for quick, simple installation without the use of separate couplings.
Next, the heating and cooling chassis easily slid into the cabinet before system startup. After installation, the only visible components were the discharge grille and the return air/access panel. The unit virtually “disappeared” into the wall.
Heating and Cooling Maintenance Made Easy
When the population of a campus involved over 1,500 residents, the last thing Engineering Supervisor Dante Mercurio wanted was a complete system-wide shutdown for maintenance. The incremental design of the ClimateMaster VHS system allowed for direct service of individual units without inconveniencing other residents. The hinged access panel can be easily opened for checking operating codes and changing filters. The chassis, which incorporates the entire refrigeration circuit (air coil, water coil, and compressor), can be easily removed and replaced with a spare chassis in 30 minutes or less.
“Whenever we have a maintenance problem that can’t easily be fixed by following the diagnostics of the CXM boards in each unit, we simply pull the chassis out of the cabinet and replace it with another and then take it down to our maintenance shop for ease of repair. However, almost all repairs can be easily addressed right in the apartment,” said Mercurio.
Comfort is Golden with Individual Zones
When it came to comfort, the ClimateMaster water source heat pump offered Erickson residents the flexibility of individually zoned heating and cooling. Unlike other systems, the water source heat pump could heat and cool separate zones simultaneously. Residents had complete control of the air temperature in their environment independent of other units, just as they did in their own homes.
Another element of comfort was the inherent ability of the water source heat pump to dehumidify space as well as cool it. Some Erickson properties are located in climate zones where humidity is a consideration in living space comfort. Although the water source heat pump does not dehumidify differently than a conventional air conditioner, the colder evaporator coil temperatures of the system allowed more condensation to take place resulting in increased dehumidification.
The Results = Big Energy Savings
The water source heat pump system not only granted the flexibility and comfort Erickson wanted to provide to campus residents, but offered long-term savings too. The energy efficiency alone of the water source heat pump presented savings ranging from 20 percent to 30 percent on heating and cooling expenditures. Partner those savings with the lower first cost and less maintenance and Erickson could realize a savings up to 25 percent within the first 36 months. Multiple campuses with significant savings translate into a superior rate of return for Erickson.
As Erickson Retirement Communities move forward to develop new campus locations, ClimateMaster’s design and manufacturing team will continue to provide support and the quality heating and cooling products for Erickson residents.