An ice-based system cools this Texas performing arts center

 
November 17, 2016
Keeping your cool onstage is no mean feat, but one that students and performers at the Marshall Family Performing Arts Center needn't worry about, thanks to Manhattan firm Weiss/Manfredi's ice cooling system. The $26.5 million center, part of the Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, opened this past February.

The system involves storing ice and using it in conjunction with an air-cooled chiller; as ice melts throughout the day, cold water is pumped through cooling coils in an air-handling unit.

"The system—even in a place like Texas—makes sense," said Michael Manfredi, partner alongside Marion Weiss at the firm. "At night, when the outside temperature drops, the system can be replenished." Weiss noted that the production of ice at night is more cost effective due to energy prices being lower at that time. "It's a hybrid in some ways," she said.

Thermal regulation for the performing arts center, which includes an expansive triple-height lobby, a 2,600-square-foot studio theater, a 2,500-square-foot rehearsal space, and a 21,000-square-foot proscenium theater, requires careful planning. Each space has its own schedule and has to be calibrated, with adjustments made in advance. "The building is designed with a high level of flexibility," said Manfredi. "Each space can experience surges of 200 to 300 people at a time, and then just 20 at another."

Weiss explained that "in performance spaces such as the proscenium theater, thermal ducts are located at lower levels so that they can be insulated by the earth and emerge around people's feet. Here, air is released very slowly so as to avoid noise pollution during production." The proscenium theater seats 600 people: 450 at orchestra level and 150 in the balcony. Underneath these seats, an under-slab air plenum and diffuser grilles form a displacement ventilation system,which releases cool air as needed. Meanwhile, multicolored upholstery creates the illusion of a full venue, even when crowd numbers are low, ensuring that the performers never break a sweat.

The Architect's Newspaper
By Jason Sayer