42nd Annual Meeting — Collection Care + HVAC Session, May 31, 2014, “Sustaining Collections: Putting Theory into Practice” with James Reilly, Lois Price, John Castle, Tom Sherwood, Don K. Rowe

I was tweeting up a storm during this session (#AICSF).  Why the fervor? There is nothing like hearing the conversion of smart professionals towards the gospel of collaboration, preservation management and the preservation environment.  A two-year intensive review of the air handling systems at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Delaware) generated insights into the management of the preservation environment that provided refreshing new data on how to approach mechanical renovation projects.  During the panel, each stakeholder told a part of a story that provided many “Ah Ha” moments. Here’s a sample of the tweets:
On the issue of getting all the stakeholders in the room:
I keep saying this: collaboration between facilities and conservation colleagues is a key for establishing set points.
Collections management and facilities management must be in handshake [pic of hands shaking].
On the implementation of nightly shut downs and seasonable shifts to manage the preservation environment and reduce the use of water and energy:
It’s not so simple to do shut downs and seasonably adjust set points.
Achilles heel of doing shut downs may be antiquated systems including [antiquated] monitoring.  Really, you cannot just shut off the furnace!
On the struggle to adequately understand the way that air handling systems may have evolved over time due to changes in personnel, changes in technology, and changes in the built environment:
Sounds like facilities engineers could take a page out of @conservators documentation strategies and requirements.  #asbuiltsnotdrawn
[A fireplace that had served as an air return decades ago was blocked during renovations wreaking havoc on the HVAC control]: Secret air return: non-working fireplace… blocked.
[Retired engineer returns to review the system and finds out that all of the built-in compensation for Gerry-rigged HVAC has been resolved]: “We always run two boilers!” “Let me tell you what: now we’re only running one.”
On the monitoring tools that are essential for understanding how your systems are running:
eClimate Notebook from IPI is such a great tool. Proud to plug it!
Winterthur reports a decrease in its energy costs, which include the reduction in the use of fresh water, and intends to repurpose energy costs into programming.  Now that’s sustainable!

42nd Annual Meeting – Collections Care + HVAC Session, May 31, "The Road to Sustainable Environmental Management of Storage Conditions at the National Archives by Kostas Ntanos"

The National Archives is the official government archives of the UK and Wales. The Archives has two buildings: Q1, a building built in 1978 with three main repositories in three floors, and Q2, a newer building built in 1996 with twelve repositories over four floors.
Ntanos started by looking into records from 1973-75 to see the decision-making of how the Q1 building was designed. During this time from 1973-75, the staff discussed the requirements of environmental control and determined that temperature was more important than relative humidity and felt that if you kept temperature at mid-range, the RH would be controlled, too! Seven to eight years of mold growth prompted investigation into this building. Intensive climate-mapping was done using data loggers to determine the differences in the environment, and they saw a big difference between the center of the room (50-55%) and the ends of the room (70%).
Ntanos also used environmental assessment permanence maps to demonstrate how the environment changes through the year (he gave a poster at this AIC meeting on the mapping of material types). Once they had collected 1-2 years of information, they started making changes.
They used Energy Plus Software and put in as much information as possible about the environment and the building. They also used HAMT (Humidity and Moisture Transfer) and saw a difference with and without HAMT because of the large collection of hygroscopic material. The aim of the model was to examine options in maintaining a sustainable preservation environment for the collection. They were able to reduce energy consumption in line with sustainability targets, build resilience in light of climate change predictions, and inform ongoing capital investment. Powering down the HVAC over the weekend saved up 22% without affecting the preservation environment.

39th Annual Meeting – Workshop-Saving Energy in HVAC for Conservation Environments, Presenter – William P. Lull, Garrison/Lull Inc.

I’ve attended technical presentations by William Lull before and came away having learned something I didn’t know about a familiar topic, so I was interested to see how this course would unfold. Mr. Lull opened the session by asking the attendees, a group with a wide degree of knowledge and experience, sitting around the conference table what they expected to get out of the session. Personally, I hoped to get a refresher on HVAC technology particularly any way the equipment could be used more efficiently while creating a preservation environment. Museum environmental standards have become a hot issue in the last year with several articles devoted to the topic. It has long been understood that maintaining the historical conservation set points takes intensive HVAC capabilities and in the current global economy is increasingly expensive. I think that makes the course poignant regardless of where the growing debate on museum environmental set points finally pins them.

A quick flip through the provided slide printout let me know that I would probably have my expectations met. It was full of technical diagrams, flow charts, and even a few equations (only a bit of algebra folks, nothing to freak out over). Mr. Lull started out emphasizing that the focus of the course would be about maximizing the efficiency of existing HVAC equipment not about building a system from scratch as a retrofit. I felt that this was a very smart and well conceived approach, particularly given the reality that few conservators working in existing institutions would have the opportunity to change to entirely new systems. Mr. Lull focused on one simple term to characterize why HVAC systems operate and use energy, they are responding to a LOAD (internal, envelope, or outside air) and the primary LOAD on the system is the expectation WE have for the environmental conditions of a space and the buildings capacity to retain those environmental conditions. I appreciated that Mr. Lull repeatedly drove the point home that a system’s energy use is directly related to LOAD demand which is directly related to OUR expectations. I should also point out that Mr. Lull changed his mind on actually making the class do calculations in favor of a more general and practical overview, a wise decision I think.

After a brief side discussion about the variability of energy production methods; steam vs. hydro vs. wind and the problems of energy storage we turned to how that energy is used. In order to have everyone on even footing Mr. Lull introduced the components of a modern HVAC system, what components used energy, what type of energy, and why they needed energy. He then launched into a more in-depth overview of the energy consuming components of HVAC. These components include; boilers, chillers, pumps, and fans. This review of the basics made his discussion of the work conducted to increase the energy efficiency of the system at the Harvard Depository easy to follow. Energy efficiency hinges on better use of certain components of the HVAC system and how Newtonian physics, an action and reaction systemic response of the system, governs the adjustable variables and their end effects.

The crux of increasing energy efficiency is actually better management of the systems response to human occupancy of a space and reducing all other unnecessary loads. Mr. Lull highlighted the often conflicting demands of museum HVAC for exothermic control from human occupancy and humidity control for object stability. One major aspect of dealing with human occupancy is CO2 mitigation in occupied space. The need for outside air that must be conditioned is directly related to diluting the CO2 generated by human respiration. The conditioning of outside air ends up being really expensive since it requires the use of the system energy hog, chillers. Chillers get rid of heat and humidity gobbling up lots of energy in the process.

The up side of HVAC energy use, the savings, is that it is possible to use existing equipment more efficiently. Mr. Lull indicated two areas of focus that allow for significant gains; using VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) with fans and pumps and a time investment to program as many climactic variables and set points as possible into the HVAC control system. The use of VFDs allows for energy reduction by slowing fan and pump rotation without a loss of performance over time. Providing the HVAC control system a greater number of scenarios and set points allow it to respond in a more nuanced manner to both changes of inside and outside air rather then simply a full capacity response to all demands.

In short, the course was well worth the time and cost. The topic’s presentation was informative and relevant for conservators that find themselves in institutions where knowing how the HVAC system operates and the proper terminology will aid in clear communication with HVAC engineers equaling a higher success rate in creating a sustainable preservation environment. As a matter of fact you might want to send your HVAC engineer to the course. The only aspect I might change for a future workshop would be to give the topic more time with an extra half day or day to pick apart case studies.

The supplemental course folder provided; a complete PowerPoint slide list, enlarged diagrams, & resource sheet with helpful equations.