Owen Richards Architecs
Eric Vander Mey, PE, LEED AP, Principal Director, Mechanical Engineering - RUSHING Co
Mechanical Soluitions North West
Opened to the public in May 2012, the Chihuly Garden and Glass is a museum and exhibition hall located at the base of the Space Needle in Seattle, Wash. Used for corporate functions and private events, the unique facility is completely enveloped in glass and features a collection of artist Dale Chihuly’s most significant works, including a 1,400-piece, 100-foot-long glass sculpture. The area surrounding the building is a lush garden area that provides a backdrop for four monumental sculptures and other installations.
When engineers at Rushing began designing the heating system for the facility, they knew they wanted to use a solution that limited space and interference with the artwork. In fact, they wanted an invisible solution that visitors would never see.
In addition to working with the radiant floor system, the solution also needed to check several other boxes. Considering Seattle’s variable climate and the fact that the space would accommodate sudden influxes of hundreds of people, it would also need to be powerful and instantaneous. For example, if an event were taking place and the sun came out, the unit would need to immediately adjust so occupants didn’t become uncomfortable or overheat. To withstand the rigors of event preparation and teardown, it would need to be durable—able to accommodate vehicle traffic and outdoor exposure. It would also need to provide a curtain of air to prevent condensation build up on the glass walls.
Along the inside perimeter of the facility, engineers specified 173 feet of Jaga’s Mini-Canal trench radiators to be installed flush with the floor. They selected the continuous grill so there were no visible breaks in the design, creating a seamless, sleek appearance. Further, the grills were close enough together so stiletto heels would not get caught as women walked across its surface. Rated to withstand significant weight, the grills also support the weight of heavy loads, such as trucks used to transport tables and chairs for events.
To heat the building for an event, the facility manager powers the radiant floor to pre-warm the space, which can take up to several hours. The Jaga units provide immediate heat in the interim, also enabling the space to maintain a consistent temperature when there’s a significant temperature fluctuation due to weather or people gathering.
While occupant comfort is a primary benefit of the system, owners can also expect to see energy savings. The Jaga solution will help offset direct energy loss through the windows – as much as 35 percent savings. The Mini Canals generate a curtain of air between the heat generated by the radiant system and the windows, preventing heat loss and condensation buildup.
Flexibility is another appreciated feature of the Mini Canals. A retracting wall was installed at the facility to open up the space during warmer temperatures, which potentially exposed the trench-based units to rainwater.
Built into the floor, the solution fits seamlessly into the facility, creating no intrusion and allowing visitors to focus on Chihuly’s artwork and enjoy the event.