Educational

Grant Towers Residence Quad – Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois

Background
The Illinois State University system recently granted funding to Northern Illinois University (NIU) for a multi-year renovation of its three-building Grant Towers residence quad. This project includes upgrades to existing mechanical systems, to improve both energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

The Building
As part of the mechanical system portion of the renovation project, existing vertical fan coil units in the first two residence towers would be replaced with 740 (200 to 600 CFM capacity range) Vertical Floor Series fan coil units from International Environmental (IEC). The three 50+ year-old, 13-floor, triangular-shaped residence towers presented a significant challenge in retrofitting the fan coil units in that they created odd exterior walls for installation.

The Challenge
The project required each unit to have fresh air intake capabilities, which was not something available on a standard fan coil. “Overall energy savings was a high priority for this project, as these were some of the most energy-intensive buildings on campus,” said John Flemming, mechanical engineer and project manager at KJWW Engineering Consultants.

According to Flemming, the existing mechanical systems were using 100-percent outside air to ventilate indoor spaces and exhaust air up to the roof. To make distribution more efficient, he and his team specified a glycol runaround coil that would bring fresh air indoors. This would work in conjunction with the outside air openings designed as part of the custom fan coil cabinets from IEC. “This design enabled us to distribute fresh air to all floors much more efficiently,” Flemming said.

The Project
Installation of the new IEC vertical fan coil units began in the first residence tower in 2011, which was executed on a floor-by-floor basis. Said Jake Vorac, vice president at Mechanical Sales in Davenport, Iowa, “This was a complete tear-out job, which was efficiently managed in stages by tackling and completing one floor of the building at a time.”

Installation of the IEC units in the second tower began in the late summer of 2012, which incorporating some adjustments to the project design based on experiences with the first tower. Namely, the project team decided to commission custom aesthetic panels for the units in the second tower, which would cover gaps resulting from the size differences of the existing and replacement units. These units also featured IEC’s latest Eco-telligent Motor technology, further enhancing unit efficiency.

The Result
“With the renovations, the buildings now feature three dorm room layouts, so we decided to customize fan coil unit designs for each room type,” said Flemming. Further customization of the cabinet designs was provided to accommodate specially developed IEC valve packages required for the unusual installations. The second tower was completed in 2013, and the HVAC systems of both residence buildings have been operating seamlessly since that time. While energy savings data is still forthcoming, the university has already taken note of several ways in which the project has been cost-effective.

Faster installation, cost savings, and aesthetic advantages all resulted from IEC involvement. “I don’t think there’s another manufacturer that could have gotten this right,” added Vorac. “It was a complex job with many specials required to get it done.”

The IEC Advantage
“With the renovations, the buildings now feature three dorm room layouts, so we decided to customize fan coil unit designs for each room type,” said Flemming. Further customization of the cabinet designs was provided to accommodate specially developed IEC valve packages required for the unusual installations. The second tower was completed in 2013, and the HVAC systems of both residence buildings have been operating seamlessly since that time. While energy savings data is still forthcoming, the university has already taken note of several ways in which the project has been cost-effective.

Faster installation, cost savings, and aesthetic advantages all resulted from IEC involvement. “I don’t think there’s another manufacturer that could have gotten this right,” added Vorac. “It was a complex job with many specials required to get it done.” IEC’s customization capabilities were key to keeping the renovation project on track with meeting scheduling and budgetary goals.

“Without the ability to customize the fan coil unit sizing, NIU would have had to go in a completely different direction with the project,” said Vorac. “It would have been a ‘waterfall effect’ of sorts, impacting everything from the architectural renderings to the furniture.”