Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gilsey House: Keeping it Cool

Probably the biggest design challenge at the Gilsey House project has been the best way to heat and cool the apartment. This is not unusual: unlike the rest of the country, even luxury properties in New York rarely employ the simple forced-air heating and cooling systems that are the industry standard elsewhere. Just think about that huge condenser humming outside of every three-bedroom house in the suburbs, then imagine multiplying that times the dozens to hundreds of units in the typical mid-rise Manhattan apartment building and you'll understand why.

The ideal situation for this project would be to have some sort of central air-conditioning system that is zoned and easily controlled, resulting in a consistent temperature throughout the apartment. Such systems exist, but require both physical space in side the unit (at a premium here) and a significant amount of access to the exterior for the exhausting of heat. At Gilsey House, we neither have access to the roof for condenser units, nor think eliminating half of a precious window to accommodate the necessary large louvers would be appealing to the client.

Another solution is to install three HVAC units through the masonry exterior walls under windows along the east side of the apartment. These would cool each bedroom individually and the Living Room/Kitchen area, with the Gallery and Study relying on overflow from the three units. This would also allow us to avoid tampering with the historic cast-iron facade on 29th Street, which would be a non-starter with the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Getting the cut-outs for even these units will require permission from Landmarks, but it is permission that is more commonly granted, especially since we are disturbing a plain brick wall that is not part of the ornate facades for which the building is famous.

Finally, we will be rehabilitating the existing steam heat system (radiators) because this is heat that the owners are already paying for through their maintenance charges. Even in its dilapidated state, with drafts at every window and holes in the floor and walls, the radiators keep the apartment toasty on the coldest day.

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