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Former Tin Can Factory Becomes New York Style Lofts

Latest News > Case Studies

In Cincinnati a Former Tin Can Factory Becomes New York-Style Lofts and Residents Enjoy Indoor Air Comfort Provided by a Heat Pump-LoadMatch® Delivery System

Development prospects for Cincinnati's eclectic Northside neighborhood, which is close to Cincinnati State, the University of Cincinnati, and U.C's medical complex, have been given a big boost by the opening of the former American Can factory as a new mixed use complex, attracting young tenants and relocated empty nesters alike to its spacious apartment settings. The former American Can building, which at one time had been the site of the largest aluminum can manufacturer in the U.S., had been abandoned since the 1990s. It took Ohio developer Bloomfield/Schon + Partners over six years to redevelop the property in light of the serious difficulties posed by environmental contamination at the site and the economic downturn. Today the American Can Lofts' 110 apartment units are at full occupancy, and residents enjoy efficient indoor comfort provided by an HVAC delivery system comprised of ClimateMaster heat pumps in combination with Taco LoadMatch® circulators in a single pipe system.

The 180,000 sq. ft. brick building complex, dating from the early 1900s, is comprised of an East and West wing with cavernous interior spaces on five floors. The American Can factory made the machinery for tin can production and saw its heyday for the first sixty years of the 20th Century; in subsequent decades, after the relocation of American Can, the building space was occupied by other metal fabricators up until 2000, when it fell silent.

Installed ClimateMaster heat pump in the building.

In 2005 Bloomfield/Schon + Partners, with the city and neighborhood's encouragement, purchased the building with the objective of redeveloping it as a New York style rental lofts property. Despite the financial crisis, which severely limited access to capital, the firm remained committed to the project and gradually assembled a complex mix of public and private financing, including stimulus money provided through the American Recovery Act, to get the project under way. Work began in earnest on the American Can building in 2008 with the removal of asbestos, lead paint and PCBs from the interior of the building.

Taco 4900 Series Air Separator in the mechanical room.

The firm's partners — being architects — acted as their own architectural consultant and hired Cincinnati-based Turnbull-Wahlert as its GC. Developer Bloomfield/Schon had worked previously with Turnbull-Wahlert on a similar project, the 98,000 sq. ft. mixed use Cayuga Green building in Ithaca, NY. That project, too, features heat pumps and Taco's single pipe LoadMatch system.

Bloomfield & Schon + Partners specialize in urban redevelopment. Their first project was the conversion of the former Cincinnati Ford Automotive Factory, built in 1914 to assemble Model-T cars, into an 115,000 sq. ft. office building. One of their top priorities is to redevelop "unique, sustainable urban opportunities" with enhanced energy efficiency for their tenants.

For the former Ford building, the firm had specified use of water source heat pumps, which are less expensive to use on a first-cost basis and can be installed directly inside individual building spaces, be they office areas or apartments, minimizing maintenance challenges. Water to air heat pumps rejects heating and cooling to the same water loop, and heating and cooling loads are offset during mild weather seasons. Plus, they have co-efficiency performance ratings 30 percent higher than packaged rooftop systems.

Stiens and Fischer with Adam Bloomfield (center) in the mechanical room.

Turnbull-Wahlert hired Cincinnati Air Conditioning to handle the HVAC installation. Cincinnati Air's Bob Stiens is very familiar with the Taco LoadMatch system, having first encountered it in the conversion of a Northern Kentucky warehouse into the Dolwick Business Center, which was also a heat pump job. He has installed LoadMatch in other projects since then and affirms that the LoadMatch system is very cost-effective in terms of materials needed, the installation savings it affords, and its energy efficiency in operation. The single pipe system utilizes small, low kW circulators in a self-balancing system that assures the required flow to all heating and cooling units at all times while requiring less pipe and fittings, fewer control valves, and no balancing valves, thereby reducing first-costs. Lower pump head and operation of pumps to match the load reduces operating and maintenance costs.

Stiens recommended the system to Ray Fischer, the design engineer on the American Can Lofts project, telling him that LoadMatch would be a good fit. Bloomfield/Schon are also knowledgeable of the LoadMatch system from their use of it in the Cayuga Greens project, so selecting it in tandem with ClimateMaster heat pumps was a harmonious solution. Because of the way the construction schedule developed Fischer had to work fast — he had five weeks to design and size the system instead of a typical timeframe of 2-3 months, so use of Taco's Hydronic System Solution® (HSS) software design tool proved to be of great assistance to him.

Heat pump with ducting in an apartment unit.

HSS allows design engineers to size plant and equipment, calculate loads and flows automatically, and make design changes quickly and easily while reducing the chance of errors and time spent on recalculations. "The HSS tool saved me a lot of time," says Ray, who sized all equipment using HSS after being introduced to it by Taco's local rep agency, Weber-Huff. Because there are over 30 apartment configurations in the American Can Lofts, a building with two ceiling heights (all above 10 ft.), plus lots of exposed brick, exposed ceilings and window glass, proper sizing of the heat pumps was critical to the eventual comfort experience of tenants. Some apartments with two exposures and lots of glass also required auxiliary duct heaters for added heat in winter.

ClimateMaster assembled its Tranquility® Series heat pump units with on-board LoadMatch circulators at its factory in Oklahoma City, pre-wiring and pre-controlling all of the 122 units to be installed throughout the building - in the circulation corridors on each floor and within individual apartment units. That made Cincinnati Air and Bob Stiens' job that much easier, as did the single wall penetration that LoadMatch's single pipe configuration afforded his crew. As Bob explains, "Piping was a challenge in this project because there are actually two joined buildings, with one built earlier than the other (1907 and 1921 respectively) and at different levels. With the LoadMatch system we were able to find a way to route across the older building and into the newer building on a similar level and feed all of the apartments."

"ClimateMaster is one of a select few manufacturers that can provide the option to mount the circulators onboard each heat pump prior to job site installation," says John Noyen, President of Weber-Huff, Inc. "Doing so eliminates the mounting, wiring and controlling of the individual pumps by the contractor, so its saves a lot of time and labor costs. It makes for a nice marriage between ClimateMaster and Taco."
Taco Vertical Inline pump in the mechanical room.

Powering the HVAC system for the building comes from equipment installed in a rooftop penthouse mechanical room. This space was a small, former elevator machine room in the former factory, and the tight space required close coordination to fit all of the necessary equipment. In it are twin Thermal Solutions gas-fired condensing boilers at 1.5 million BTUs each, supported by four Taco KV and KS Vertical In-line pumps, a Taco Plate & Frame Heat Exchanger and a 4900 Series Air Separator. Just outside on the roof is a BAC supplied cooling tower. Despite the close quarters in the room Bob Stiens reports it was a "turn-key install."

Opened last November, the American Can lofts building is a key element driving the Northside neighborhood's revitalization. Individual apartments feature concrete floors, bedroom and loft carpeting, granite countertops in the kitchens, and tiled bathrooms — plus lots of window space. The building's amenities include private conference rooms for residents who work from home, spaces for musicians and artists, an exercise and yoga room, and even a bocce court. Within the building hundreds of wooden and metal molds once used as patterns for machine parts in the tin can manufacturing process now serve as artwork and sculptures.

View inside a loft apartment.

The project has been a "great success, for us and the community," says Adam Bloomfield, who manages the building. Cincinnati's City Manager has called the realization of the project, against long odds just a few years ago, "living proof that when you have the will and determination you can get anything done."

It's been a mild winter, hardly testing the heating system's capacities, but Adam Bloomfield has every confidence in the performance and efficiency of the heat pump/LoadMatch system. "This is the second project we've used LoadMatch on," he relates, "and we've been quite pleased with its efficiency, cost savings and benefits." Ray Fischer agrees: "This is the first time I've used LoadMatch and the HSS design tool. I was very impressed. Everything went well and worked out fine. As for LoadMatch, I'd use it again."

Information provided by Bloomfield/Schon + Partners and Taco, Inc.