The Do’s and Don’ts of HVAC Retrofitting A Historic Commercial Building

The Do’s and Don’ts of HVAC Retrofitting A Historic Commercial Building

Facility Manager Stressed - CMI MechanicalIf you’ve ever worked as a facility manager for a historic commercial property, you know how difficult it can be to manage. While older commercial properties are beautiful and unique, their HVAC systems are often outdated or in need or repair. Depending on the season, it’s common to hear employees complain of boiling or freezing temperatures inside of their historic commercial office.

Deciding to retrofit a historic commercial HVAC system isn’t a straightforward process. Historic commercial renovations require much more sensitivity and creativity than other commercial projects. The commercial HVAC company you choose will need to have the experience necessary to provide quality comfort solutions while preserving the integrity of the original space.

As HVAC experts with experience working on historic buildings, we’ve learned how to navigate these unique properties. Here are the top four do’s and don’ts of HVAC retrofitting a historic commercial building.

Don’t: Change the Historic Architecture

Historic Commercial Building - CMI MechanicalWhen retrofitting a property’s HVAC system, it’s sometimes necessary to adjust the architecture of the building in order to achieve the desired result. This can include dropping ceilings, covering windows, or altering a room to make space for the HVAC equipment.

A qualified HVAC technician will know the importance of maintaining the original architecture in a historic commercial property. With a little creativity, it’s possible to retrofit a historic building’s HVAC system without altering the elements that make it special.

Do: Hide Condensing Units and Vents When Possible

Dirty Air Duct - CMI MechanicalHistoric commercial buildings can be a work of art. When an HVAC technician is retrofitting a historic building, it’s important to preserve the aesthetic of the property. A visible air conditioner condensing unit or vent pipe can be an unwelcome eyesore in a commercial space.

Because historic commercial buildings are unique, they require creative HVAC solutions. This might mean, for example, keeping the existing ornate grille covers and radiators for aesthetic purposes but adding more modern HVAC equipment for comfort.

Don’t: Forget to Schedule Regular Preventative Maintenance

HVAC Coil Cleaning by CMI MechanicalRegular HVAC maintenance is crucial for any commercial property, but it is especially vital for historic commercial buildings. 

If an HVAC system malfunctions in a historic commercial building, the consequences will be much higher than they would be for a typical property. A simple water leak can cause extensive damage to molding, woodwork, stonework, or décor in a historic space.

Regular HVAC maintenance is the easiest way to catch any small HVAC issues or problems in a historic building before they become a big headache.

Do: Consider Modern HVAC Options

A historic commercial property doesn’t require a historic HVAC solution. When retrofitting a historic building’s HVAC system, consider the modern HVAC solutions your technician has to offer.

There are all sorts of modern HVAC solutions that can help meet your commercial building’s needs, from UV light technology to air purifiers to ductless HVAC systems. Your historic commercial building is not limited to outdated equipment. It can have all the comforts of a modern-day commercial property.

HVAC technicians that don’t understand how to retrofit historic commercial properties can cause unnecessary damage to your facility. When it’s time to retrofit your building’s HVAC system, make sure to hire HVAC experts that understand the unique requirements of historic buildings. Your older commercial property is a special part of history, and it deserves special care in return.

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The experiences I have had with the CMI team out of Denver has been nothing but positive.  If conversations for HVAC or national Boiler services were to open up, I will most definitely reach out to you.

Maile Keliikuli

Facilities Manager, REI Co-Op