Century-old Hospital Chooses VRF Zoning System for Patient Comfort, Energy Efficiency

Sept. 24, 2014

The Plateau Valley Hospital, Collbran, Colorado, is part of a century-old effort to meet the needs of local women. The hospital recently installed a VRF zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating as part of major facility renovations.

Collbran, Colorado, is the largest community in a lush cattle ranching valley. This historic town, settled in 1882, is named for one of the original homesteaders currently has a population of more than 600. The Collbran Congregational Church purchased grounds and a building in 1903 to meet the maternity needs of women in the valley. The Plateau Valley Hospital District (PVHD) was formed in 1972 in the Mesa County District Court. Almost forty years passed when the PVHD board decided it had outgrown the 8,000-square-foot homestead that had housed the PVHD hospital all that time, and started budgeting for a new facility.

A New Medical Clinic Is Born

Architect Frank Wagner is a longtime resident of Plateau Valley. His firm Wagner/Galloway Architects LLC (Wagner/Galloway) from nearby Palisade, Colorado, was selected by the PVHD board to plan the new facility.

Wagner/Galloway designed a dramatic 6,400-square-foot, curvilinear clinic building for around-the-clock care, with an emergency room, five examination rooms, lobby, nurse’s station and offices. “Curves can create a calming effect,” Wagner explained, “so we created a radius intensive design that we felt fitting for a health care facility.”

Wagner/Galloway then requested Bighorn Consulting Engineers, Inc. (Bighorn), Grand Junction, Colorado, as the mechanical engineers for the project. Bighorn was tasked with finding a heating and cooling system designed for individual temperature control in each room. The system had to be quiet and comfortable as well as super efficient to minimize energy costs. The system also needed to meet budget, space and energy-usage constraints.

Shawn Brill, founding partner of Bighorn, said that selecting a VRF zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating as Plateau Valley’s HVAC system was a “no brainer.” Bighorn had installed such systems in several local buildings, including the Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado administration facility in Montrose, Colorado.

VRF Zoning Technology Integral to Health Care Facility Design

Wagner told Brill he was interested in an HVAC system that was designed for individual temperature control in each room. The system also had to be quiet and comfortable as well as super efficient to minimize energy costs. “It was actually the basis of the clinic design,” Brill said, “the space constraints were very tight, and there would be little room for a more traditional air system.”

“Arrow in Our Quiver” of Energy Solutions

Brill, as a consulting engineer, said he has to balance the owner’s expectations with budget, space and energy-usage constraints. “VRF systems are another arrow in our quiver of energy solutions for building systems.”

Brill also explained why he specified Mitsubishi Electric’s R2-Series Outdoor (condenser) units – the only two-pipe heat-recovery system that simultaneously cools and heats. “I admire this technology because of its excellent energy performance, flexible zoning capability and ability to load share. Our western Colorado climate is cold in the winter and hot in the summer – sometimes cold and hot on the same day! The heat recovery function of the R2-Series is the integral reason for using VRF in our climate.”

The Mitsubishi Electric VRF zoning system was installed by Service Manager Terry Sweetin, Keenan’s Plumbing & Heating, Inc., Montrose, Colorado. Sweetin was impressed by the VRF zoning system’s zoned controllers. “They are sophisticated but at the same time very user-friendly,” he said. “The hospital district administrator can walk into the clinic’s mechanical room at any time, look at a screen for each indoor unit and change the temperature settings with no trouble at all.”

VRF Zoning Ideal for Health, Wellness Facilities

Jessi Clark is the administrator for the Plateau Valley Hospital District. She helped orchestrate the entire building process and is enormously pleased — as is her board — with the final results. “I love the performance of this VRF system,” Clark said. “I have an indoor unit in my office directly over my desk. It is so quiet I don’t even know it is operating. This HVAC system provides a healthy, quiet environment for my patients and is ideal for health care facilities.”

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