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Cooling Tower Replacement Saves 40% on Energy and 50% on Water for NoMad Co-Op

Emily Myers in Green Ideas


Cooling Tower

A cooling tower replacement project at 22 W. 26th St., a co-op in NoMad, is set to generate 40% in energy savings for the building by ensuring the equipment is running at peak performance. Thanks to new high-efficiency controls, the self-modulating cooling tower can scale cooling based on demand. And that’s just part of a range of recent upgrades aimed at improving the 12-story, 20-unit building’s D energy efficiency grade. 

Even though energy consumption was front of mind for the board, the pressing issue with the existing cooling tower was its age. “It was in terrible disrepair, with lots of rust, and on its very last legs,” says board president Isabel Taube. In selecting a replacement, the board chose a three-cell cooling tower. 

A cell is a stand-alone fan component necessary for cooling that can work by itself or scale up by working in conjunction with other cells according to demand. “The new cooling tower can reduce its operation so it can save money for the building and also reduce the amount of water being used,” says Conor Goold, project manager at Howard L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers, who oversaw the installation at the prewar building.  

Moving from a cooling tower that ran at 100% capacity in summer to one with efficiency controls is expected to reduce the tower’s operating costs by around 30%. The building also expects to see up to 50% savings in water use because the self-modulating cells scale operation based on demand. 

Although the cooling tower replacement was overdue, the timing for the project worked well. AKAM resident manager, Ivana Pavlica, who manages the building, says it allowed the co-op to invest in a state-of-the art, energy-saving model. “If we had done it two or three years ago we would not have benefitted as much from the new technology,” she says. 

The cooling tower replacement is also paired with upgrades to the pumps in the cellars and the addition of variable frequency drives (VFDs). These improvements introduce the ability to control pump speeds based on demand and save on energy costs. The upgrades also allow the super to more easily switch from seasonal heating to cooling without the manual closing of valves. The $460,000 project is being financed through a $1.3 million assessment, which will also pay for extensive facade work and a new fire alarm system for the building. 

The installation wasn’t without its challenges. Not only was the tower in bad shape, but the decades-old steel beams supporting the structure — known as dunnage — also needed replacing. An inspection then found asbestos in the paint applied to the steel, which required an abatement before the beams could be removed. 

Due to the co-op’s location near Madison Square Park, the project was further delayed by a construction embargo for the winter holidays. “It is a big tourist area,” Taube says. These embargoes are imposed by the Department of Transport at certain times of the year and prevent new permits being approved. This pushed the project into the new year with the equipment now ready to go. “It will be put to the test this summer,” Taube says.

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