Hospital's New $18 Million Wellness Center is an Environmental Stewardship Role Model

Hackensack U. Medical Center's new preventative care facility creates low environmental impact with reduced refrigerant and high efficiency HVAC systems.

Maywood, N.J.--HVAC equipment with high efficiencies and 80-percent less refrigerant fit perfectly into the environmental stewardship goals of the new $18 million Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) Fitness and Wellness Center Powered by the Giants.

The 112,000-square-foot facility, which is the only center of its kind affiliated with a National Football League franchise, the New York Giants, taps the national trend of hospitals opening complementary preventative care fitness and wellness facilities. "Every center we build is more sustainable than its predecessor and the HUMC had an equally green mission," said Stephen Kay, managing partner, Fitness & Wellness Professional Services (FWPS), a Princeton, N.J.-based real estate development/management firm specializing in fitness and wellness center equity partnerships with hospitals.

The project emulates environmental stewardship in other HUMC programs such as the main hospital's in-house Dierdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, a not-for-profit children's advocacy group dedicated to identifying, controlling and preventing environmental toxic exposure. Thus, project architect and engineering firm, Jarmel-Kizel Architects and Engineers Inc., Livingston, N.J., purposely specified reduced refrigerant equipment, low volatile organic compound (VOC) materials and other measures to complement HUMC's ongoing environmental goals. The center could easily qualify for Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design certification even though the it didn't apply for LEED® certification, according to Matthew Jarmel, AIA, principal, Jarmel-Kizel. Jarmel, Vladimir Ayzenberg, MEP department director, and Jeffrey Ingerson, the project's manager, led a Jarmel-Kizel design team that performed all project structural, civil and MEP engineering, and architectural services.

Environmental Stewardship with HVAC

The aquatics center, for example, which is a mandatory component in all of FWPS' nine hospital-affiliated fitness and wellness centers and an activity that helps separate it from conventional health clubs, features a Protocol, NP-Series dehumidifier that uses 80-percent less refrigerant. The 70-ton, 23,000-cfm HVAC system was installed by Encon Mechanical, Ocean, N.J., dehumidifies, cools and heats the 8,000-square-foot aquatic space to a 50-percent relative humidity and 80°F space temperature. Named for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol environmental treaty and manufactured by Seresco Dehumidifiers, Decatur, Ga., the Protocol substitutes glycol for the estimated 690-pounds of R-410 used by a similar-sized conventional dehumidifier.

Like most FWPS facilities, the natatorium features a diverse mix of aquatics all in one space, such as 75 x 32-foot exercise (82°F) and 20 x 40-foot therapy (104°F) pools and a 12-foot-diameter spa (110°F). Controlling water temperatures appropriate for the many activities, in addition to maintaining ideal indoor air quality (IAQ) of space temperature and humidity is critical for targeting FWPS' wide demographic of 35 to 90+ years old.

To dehumidify and cool, the system does use 140-pounds of R-410 in an internal refrigeration circuit requiring no jobsite installation, because it's factory-charged and sealed. For heat rejection the rooftop unit's heat exchangers transfer the refrigeration circuit's heat to glycol for either free supply air reheat or heat rejection to dry coolers. Compared to refrigerants, glycol is 95-percent less expensive and minimally environmentally-damaging in the event of a leak. External PVC glycol piping to dry coolers significantly reduced project labor and material costs versus copper piping, refrigerant and air cooled condensers

The reduced refrigerant strategy increases reliability because refrigerant leak potential is reduced and compressor lifecycles are lengthened by eliminating oil migration issues that are common to heat rejection methods using refrigerant and long copper piping runs to air cooled condensers, according to Ed Sneed, sales engineer at Edison, N.J.-based manufacturer's representative, Stillwell-Hansen Inc., who helped bring the reduced refrigerant idea to the design table. "It's insane to use hundreds of pounds of refrigerants when today's new HVAC technology affords us the opportunity scale them back." said Sneed.

"We see HVAC units with reduced refrigerant as a tremendous advantage in reducing operational costs, because anytime a leak has occurred in any of our older centers' conventional HVAC equipment, it's typically a $5,000 minimum service charge due to the significant materials expense of replenishing the lost refrigerant," said Kay.

The Protocol's proprietary heat rejection design makes it equally efficient as DX systems on summer design days and five to seven-percent more efficient throughout the rest of the year. The innovative design uses an active refrigeration head pressure monitor/control that ensures the lowest possible condensing pressures to boost system performance. Standard maintenance-free direct drive blowers with variable frequency drives (VFD), that also provide additional operational efficiencies.

The dehumidifier also provides free pool water heating from the refrigeration circuit's heat recovery, and energy recovery from exhaust air to preheat outdoor air.

Jarmel-Kizel's other sustainable building practices include:

  • Low VOC paints, coatings, adhesives and furnishings;
  • High SEER value mechanical equipment;
  • LED and high-output fluorescent lighting with motion sensors;
  • Locker room heat recovery;
  • And recycled materials wherever possible.

The mechanical systems also include two Mbh ?? boilers by Lochinvar, Lebanon, Tenn. for heating domestic hot water and backing up pool water heating. The dehumidifier provides the majority of pool water heating, however the pool area has an additional boiler for quick pool water heating during dump/fills, pool cleaning, and sand filter backwashing. Most of the pools' support equipment was provided by Paddock Pool Equipment Co., Rock Hill, S.C.

Not Razing, But Raising

Jarmel-Kizel's reuse and renovation of the free-standing former industrial manufacturing plant saved the project an estimated $5 million versus razing the structure and breaking ground on a new building. While reuse saved landfill space and reduced project building materials, it also created engineering challenges. For example, Jarmel-Kizel ensured a vapor barrier completely enveloped the natatorium without any breaches, which is critical in eliminating potential structurally-damaging moisture migration through the walls and roof. Double pane U=0.35 windows offer insulation protection from condensation accumulation in natatorium wintertime operation.

Jamel-Kizel's redesign and in-house structural engineering of the roof added aesthetics and more usable square footage. Raising the roof from 20 to 35 feet added 15,000 square feet of floor space and provided an aesthetic two-story height for an additional 15,000 square feet. The roof fortification also reserved hundreds of interior square footage for revenue-generating activities by eliminating would-be indoor mechanical room space and instead, providing a solid rooftop mounting area for equipment.

The center's other HVAC design includes packaged rooftop systems ranging from 7.5 to 50 tons for employing both constant volume and variable air volume (VAV) strategies. Voyager Series rooftops and an Intellipak by Trane, Tyler, Texas, supplies medical offices, cafeteria, children's center, athletic rooms and a combination of mixed use spaces.

The Trane system provides building automation control, however the dehumidifier has an autonomous on-board Command Center with an ethernet connection to Seresco's proprietary WebSentry system, which gives real time data of more than 60 operating conditions, such as compressor suction pressure, space temperature, fan speeds and other parameters. WebSentry also sends out email alarms to Stillwell-Hansen, Kay, and factory technicians, who can access operating info from any web browser or smartphone. Sneed has already saved the center a service call by making dehumidifier fan adjustments during the first week's start-up via his smartphone. "This system will always operate at its full efficiency capacity because any malfunction can be adjusted via the Internet or requisitioned immediately for service, instead of unknowingly operating inefficiently for six months or more until it's detected during the next semi-annual service check-up," said Sneed.

Keeping mechanical equipment finely tuned and efficient is just another example of HUMC and FWPS' overall commitment to lessening the environmental impact and carbon footprint of its facilities, such as the HUMC Fitness & Wellness Center Powered by the Giants.