The construction of co-working spaces are on the rise in the US. These facilities, where businesses can rent short- or long-term offices, provide a middle-of-the-road option for busy office professionals.
A remote property in Pennsylvania, called River Mountain, recently updated and expanded its facilities to provide attractive, efficient co-working opportunities.
“The facilities here are now divided for different purposes,” says Dustin Ebersole, owner of High Efficiency Solutions, in Lancaster, Penn. They completed installation of all HVAC systems on the property.
“The main lodge, commercial kitchen facility and dining hall will all serve co-working clients. It’s for people who are no longer required to report to the office, but still prefer not to work from home. The property’s four cabins are rented-out for ‘glamping.’ Glamour camping, it’s a thing.”
The property is within two hours of Washington DC, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the three metros that the owners hope to draw clients from.
Eliminating backup heat River Mountain consists of seven buildings, six of which are fully conditioned by systems installed by High Efficiency Solutions.
The original log home, built in 1807, has been renovated for use as a dining hall, with its existing garage converted to a commercial kitchen. An old barn, also remodeled, now serves as a laundry and activity area. A new, modern-looking main lodge, at 2,500 square feet, is tightly constructed, as are four, 1,600 square-foot cabins.
Ebersole was contacted about the project by Quarry View Building Group, also out of Lancaster. The property is outside the normal High Efficiency Solutions service area, but the size of the project, and the fact that wholesaler, APR Supply, has nearby locations meant that Ebersole and his technicians could take on the job.
The original design provided by an engineer called for the use of mini-split heat pumps in all of the buildings except the kitchen, where a conventional packaged heat pump would serve most of the load. The drawings also included installation of electric resistance baseboard heat for backup. When Ebersole first met with the builder and owners, he learned that their main concern was eliminating electric baseboard from the design.
“The original spec called for a mini-split heat pump brand that I don’t install,” explains Ebersole. “That equipment didn’t offer the low outdoor ambient operating temperatures that I can provide with Fujitsu’s XLTH line, with models that can provide efficient heating at outdoor temperatures down to -15°F.”
Another goal for the HVAC system was to provide efficient comfort and keep the system as aesthetically pleasing as possible, especially in common areas.
Design changes Ebersole began a heat load calculation for each of the buildings. Though the job is more than two hours west of his shop, the load considerations are very similar to his usual designs. The heating load is quite a bit higher than the cooling load, and snow accumulation is guaranteed. He submitted his new design, sans electric baseboard and was granted approval to proceed.
By January of 2020, High Efficiency Solutions was installing mini-split systems. The crew worked on and off as construction progressed, lodging nearby while onsite and going home to work on other projects in between.
The modern, architectural lodge features 10 zones, all comprised of multi-zone Fujitsu Halcyon systems. Two bunk rooms are conditioned with ceiling cassettes installed in the drop ceiling. A laundry, shower, medical room and a hallway were handled similarly, with cassettes ranging from 7,000 to 12,000 BTU/H. Two slim duct units are used in a conference room with high ceilings, and a third in a hallway without the ceiling clearance to install a cassette.
The four identical cabins feature the same HVAC system design. A single two-ton multi-zone condensing unit in the back of the cabin is paired with two wall-hung indoor units. An 18,000 BTU/H unit is used near the front of the building in the bunk room, while a 7,000 BTU/H unit in the rear conditions the bathroom and storage spaces.
Slanted exterior walls and roof overhangs provided High Efficiency Solutions the opportunity to mount some of the condensing units out of direct weather exposure. Here, with less concern about snow accumulation, units were mounted on pads and risers at a height of eight inches. In places where overhead protection wasn’t available, the units were mounted with brackets at a height of 18 inches.
Handling challenges High Efficiency Solutions serves a territory where old homes and retrofits are very common. This experience allowed Ebersole and Mike Keener, lead installation tech, to take in stride the challenges presented by old buildings, but two stood out.
“We had to carefully calculate our line set lengths in several of the buildings, being sure to mount condensing units out of sight,” Ebersole says. “Had we needed even a few more feet of length, we’d have installed several Fujitsu J-II single phase VRF systems instead of mini-splits.”
The tight construction of the cabins presented their own set of challenges. Solid urethane foam insulation filled the stud bays and there was no dead space in which to run refrigerant lines. Having visible conduit wasn’t an option either.k
“I didn’t expect this issue, but we worked around it,” Ebersole says. “We carved the foam out where needed, and were even able to maintain access to our flare joints.”
Because there may be long periods of time when the buildings go unoccupied, High Efficiency Solutions installed small, electric wall convectors in any bathroom that has an exterior wall. This way, the heat pumps can be turned way down without risk of freezing domestic water pipes.
Like the spray foam and efficient heat pumps, there are other green elements at the property. Condensing tankless water heaters provide all domestic hot water. Sustainably-sourced wood products are used inside and out, and the shape and orientation of the buildings lends itself to passive-solar benefits.
“We finished our work in August,” Ebersole says. “I walked through with the builder and one of the owners at that point, and everyone was happy with the result. The buildings are comfortable, utility bills will be very reasonable if not cheap, and the place looks fantastic. They’re now ready to receive a host of campers and clientele.”
Photos courtesy of High Efficiency Solutions