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Enersolv Meets Challenge to Refurbish One of Canada’s Oldest Hotels

Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria

One of Enersolv’s most exciting projects revolves around the introduction of air conditioning to the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. More than 400 rooms will be upgraded to provide air conditioning and heating, offering year-round comfort for guests.

One of Canada’s oldest hotels

The original Empress building dates back to 1908 and is one of the oldest and most famous buildings in Victoria. Additional wings were added between 1909 and and 1914 and again in 1928, with extensive renovations taking place in the mid ’60s and again in the late ’80s. Enersolv’s work will be the first renovation to heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems since 1988.

From 1908 to 1988 the Empress guest rooms were heated directly by steam radiators. From 1988 to 2015 a mix of fan convectors and radiators provided heating to the rooms, fueled by gas-fired steam boilers.

Air conditioning upgrade with little disruption

The design intent was to incorporate air conditioning with as little disruption to the existing building as possible. To fulfill this, approximately 80% of the existing heating pipe distribution was surveyed, cleaned and utilized to serve “hybrid” console heat pumps. The new pumps use a vapor compression refrigeration cycle to provide cooling and a conventional hydronic coil to provide heating. The system was designed to maximize heat recovery during the long shoulder seasons Victoria is accustomed to. A new cooling tower was installed on the podium roof to reject excess heat when no recovery is available.

Gravity condensate drains

One of the more challenging aspects of the project was the removal of the condensate water generated during the cooling process. Options for condensate removal included pumped or gravity drains. Although the installation of condensate pumps would have proven least disruptive, the failure rate and replacement costs are high, for this reason the decision was made to go with gravity condensate drains. The installation of drains required detailed planning and coordination with the finishing trades.

Improving on history

The Empress Hotel is considered a valuable piece of Victoria, which first prompted a $4 million refurbishment. A larger scale $45 million renovation was carried out in 1989 and since 2007, the hotel has been classified as a National Historic Site of Canada. The current renovations are an investment by Nat Bosa, a Vancouver-based developer who bought the hotel in 2014. Enersolv is proud to be part of the next chapter of the Empress, as it seeks to maintain its reputation as one of Canada’s oldest hotels.