Project Profile: Church Street Station Studios

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This holiday season, 80 people who have experienced homelessness or who qualify for low-income housing will be able to call the Church Street Station Studios in Norfolk, Virginia  “home.” Last year, Virginia Supportive Housing broke ground on the 53,000-square-foot, 80-unit building with the vision of providing safe, low-cost housing that met EarthCraft certification building standards. Residents will pay rent based on their income level and utilities will be covered by the building owner. After much consideration, the HVAC contractor, Green Air Inc., Ashland, Virginia, worked with APG to select Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating’s (Mitsubishi Electric) Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) technology for this project.

Having worked in the green HVAC field for over 10 years, Matt Roady, president of construction, Green Air, knew Mitsubishi Electric VRF would be perfect for this project. “You don’t have to worry about duct work for each individual unit, which helps in this type of construction; one unit can cool and one can heat at the same time with the VRF system. Which is above and beyond a standard mini split system,” he noted. This is particularly helpful in this situation so each resident has comfort control over their own studio, but building management can keep temperature within energy-efficient ranges.

For the VRF system, the Green Air team installed seven outdoor units, eight branch connector boxes and 102 evaporators that are a mix of ducted and four-way cassettes in the common areas and offices as well as wall-mounted indoor units for each studio to condition the entire building. “[There’s] a benefit on both ends,” noted Roady, when discussing the advantages of VRF for the building owner and contractor. “Cost savings and it’s an easier install.” Roady explained that with a traditional HVAC system, ductwork can be intrusive to the space. When running linesets for Mitsubishi Electric’s VRF, you do not need to run each individual lineset all the way to the roof. “When you go VRF, you just have to make your way back to the branch box and then run one main line to the roof from there – it’s a more efficient system.”

He also explained that VRF technology is the way of the future, especially for multi-family projects. “If the owner is paying for the bills, you’ll see them trying to go this direction, with the most energy-efficient system they can, that has less maintenance.”

Between energy efficiency, low maintenance, an easy install and support from APG, Mitsubishi Electric’s VRF system fit the bill for this project. By the end of the year, residents of Church Street Station Studios will be settling in to their new, comfortable homes.

Two-Pipe VRF: Energy Efficiency in Changing Seasons

Winter is definitely on its way and with cooler temperatures comes more time spent inside. The change in season is a reminder that facility managers are often looking to meet the comfort needs of their occupants, without breaking the bank on heating and cooling expenses.

Here’s a look at why we at the Advanced Products Group (APG), a division of Aireco Supply, Inc., suggest switching your HVAC system to a two-pipe variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system like CITY MULTI® VRF from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric).
Why VRF?
VRF technology recognizes that buildings have multiple comfort zones with varied temperature needs. With VRF, you can cool and heat different rooms simultaneously. This means an office that holds several computers can receive proper cooling, while a lobby in the same facility receives heating. This flexibility is paramount both to comfort and energy efficiency.

Why Two-Pipe?
Most VRF companies offer a three-pipe system, which can be costlier and require additional maintenance. The R2-Series from Mitsubishi Electric offers two-pipe technology, an all-around better choice for installation, energy savings and durability.

For example, with a CITY MULTI R2-Series VRF with a four-indoor unit system, there are 20 refrigerant joints, compared to a three-pipe system with 50 connections. Having fewer pipe connection sites makes for an easier install, and less potential leakage.

In addition, R2 systems do not require regular oil recovery cycles. With less refrigerant volumes and velocities during mode change over, oil recovery is minimized. This improves overall energy efficiency and accuracy.

As far as maintenance, two-pipe is definitely the stand out. Two-pipe VRF has significantly fewer electrical termination points than three-pipe systems. Having fewer electrical connection sites reduces the complexity of the wiring process — preventing any potential connectivity issues. Ultimately, fewer components in the system means less chance of the system failing in the future.
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VRF for Energy Efficiency
Having a green HVAC system is not only better for the environment; it’s better for the budget. The initial costs of a VRF installation can be more expensive than traditional HVAC systems, but the monthly energy savings cannot be beat. VRF focuses on redirecting energy in the branch connector box. This allows heat to be diverted from one warm room to another room that requires it, reducing operational costs. In addition, each unit can be set to a specific temperature range. This can be particularly helpful during the winter months as it allows building owners to manage comfort while having control over the energy being used (i.e. their utility expenses).

If you’re interested in learning more about two-pipe VRF technology, be sure to view our post, “The Two-Pipe Takeover.”