The latest blog in our series, looking at HVAC optimization for various types of facilities, brings us to theater and entertainment venues. Once again, we learn that each vertical industry has unique drivers guiding its heating and ventilation requirements.
The show must go on, and optimizing HVAC in theaters and entertainment centers is one of the reasons it does. As we’ll see in this blog, HVAC plays an essential role in keeping these facilities comfortable and safe for their audiences and, it turns out, in optimal shape for performers. In this industry, it’s not just thermal comfort but even acoustics (HVAC equipment can be large and noisy so care needs to be given to its location!) that come into the HVAC equation.
The primary heating and ventilation challenges faced by the theater and entertainment venue operator are:
Following the general drivers above, several specific points are worth discussing. First, the COVID-19 pandemic underlined the importance for theaters and entertainment venues to maximize ventilation, as good ventilation mitigates the risk of transmission of COVID and many other airborne pathogens. Given that public awareness of such issues has been heightened in the wake of the Coronavirus, optimal HVAC may be seen as a selling point from a safety and not just a comfort perspective for such venues.
Beyond this, facilities managers must give attention to defining what “optimal” means, given the layout of their facility. Which areas are more crowded than others? For how long is each area used? Do different areas have significantly different HVAC demands? Once this is understood, HVAC performance can be optimized to meet each additional space requirement.
As we can see, optimization of entertainment venues is not straightforward: Public areas such as auditoriums and bars are generally well-ventilated; However, over-occupancy can impact adequate ventilation. Meanwhile, in many foyers the presence of open doors provides a unique HVAC strategy challenge. Given all of the unique needs of different areas in theater and entertainment centers there is a lot to consider!
Finally, stratification is another critical issue that should be considered, particularly from a health and safety perspective.
The nature of theaters and entertainment venues, with populated audience balconies hanging above the stalls and lighting gantries, etc., provide natural collection points for airborne pathogens. In these areas, greater ventilation is likely to be a requirement, so some areas of a facility will have different needs than even their immediate neighbor’s requirements. Bearing this in mind, “one fan speed fits all” is a poor recipe for operation, let alone optimization. CO2 monitoring can be a useful way of ensuring optimal ventilation rates are being realized, though this measure tends to be less accurate when occupancy levels are low.
In theater and entertainment centers, providing a safe, comfortable environment is essential for both customers and operators, all while controlling costs. Delivering such a reality means taking control of HVAC and energy consumption. The venue operator must:
These are complex and significant challenges, and in this blog, we’ve only touched on some key considerations and options for addressing them. The proper steps in each case require expert advice and analysis; we cannot over-stress that.
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