The Kimball Arts Center, a 48,000 square-foot building in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, is getting a “wellness” renovation. Purchased by a developer in 2019, the brick and timber multi-use building was set to undergo renovations to bring it up to code when COVID-19 struck last winter. The new developers, thinking preemptively, quickly revised the renovation plan to include measures that would better enhance the indoor air quality (IAQ) and overall health of the building. They hired the local IAQ specialist firm, Priority Energy, to direct the project.

The Assessment
To begin, Priority Energy’s team did a complete exterior and interior envelop assessment of the 50-year-old building and tested the seven different roof top HVAC units (RTUs) and corresponding duct systems. A multi-use building such as this, which will house a brew pub, cafe, retail shops, artist studios and loft offices, would require mechanical systems designed and set-up to specifically serve each unique space.  

The Findings and IAQ Improvements
Priority Energy has been a leader in identifying easy strategies to lower the risks associated with COVID-19 and other airborne pathogens like the common flu and colds.  For Kimball, Priority Energy found opportunities to improve ventilation and filtration in the building’s HVAC systems. Bringing fresh, outside air into a closed space and filtering inside air is essential to preventing the spread of coronavirus and reducing levels of harmful particulates (see our articles on the topic). Priority Energy designed and specified HVAC units that met the following requirements:

  • Provide ASHRAE recommended levels of ventilation for normal occupancy (based on usage), in conjunction with Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) in the event of higher occupancy.
  • Increased filtration to meet a minimum of MERV 13 per ASHRAE recommendations.
  • Provide efficiency levels to meet utility-sponsored rebates to offset the purchase of new units and minimize capital expenditures.

During the assessment, the energy auditors also found plenty of opportunities to easily improve insulation and air sealing.  Knowing the developers wanted to retain the original integrity of the building as much as possible, the team was able to pinpoint the main trouble spots to maintain the building's original aesthetics and minimize improvement costs.

Rebate Savings over $40,000
A number of rebates are available to commercial building owners who wish to upgrade their HVAC systems and improve energy efficiency. Priority Energy was able to help the developers utilize the rebates to cover most of their equipment replacement costs. Total savings for this project is expected to be over $40,000. Priority Energy is an approved residential and commercial contractor with the Chicago area utiliy companies' energy effciency rebate programs.