Architects and Interior Designers Warming to Mini Splits

Written By: John Jeppesen

Performance Point has long supported energy conservation and green technologies.
We are always looking for ways to support those initiatives. In fact, we are in the
process of replacing our service vehicles with electric-powered vehicles as existing vans
and escapes age out. We see it as our contribution to clean air.

That said, we featured mini-splits as one technology that can make a difference in our
last blog post. There is a growing trend in that direction, but there’s a sticking point.
Architects and interior don’t like the aesthetics of an air handler on a wall that affects the
“look” of their designs.

The good news is that even those skeptics are coming around and have created ways to
minimize or conceal air handlers in a room.

We talked to Justin Fulford at Fulford HVAC (www.fulfordhvac.com) again. He has
noticed an uptick in architect and interior designer acceptance but there’s still room for
growth. “We’ve talked to architects and interior designers but we also talk to contractors.
If you believe in the product, we’re the ones that bring it to the table as options. Some
people are acceptable to the new technology while others are still on the old
bandwagon and don’t like change and with some houses, there is no other option other
than mini-splits. A lot of people are acceptable to the new technology. I’ve got a
homeowner right now with a house that was built in the mid-sixties and on one floor
there’s no way to run ductwork to it. I proposed mini splits and the builder is old school
minded and is afraid that it might not work, but it will work and he keeps saying: ‘gotta
find a way, gotta find a way to use ductwork.’” Even so, Fulford will continue to propose
this technology to his customers.

Next, we did some digging. We found ideas on how to squeeze air conditioning in
century-old brownstones. This “how-to” provides ideas on ways to incorporate mini splits
in a renovation. Note: you might have to cut and paste this link into your browser.

https://www.brownstoner.com/interiors-renovation/air-conditioning-renovation-ideas-historic-architecture-mini-splits-interior-design/

Jodi Laumer-Giddens is the President of LG Designs, an Atlanta architectural firm, posted a “confession on homeenergysaver.com:

“GUILTY! Once upon a time, I would have scoffed at mechanical engineers and contractors if they’d ask me, as the design architect, for a bigger room to put the HVAC (heating and air conditioning) equipment in.

“Are you crazy? And give up valuable storage space???”

They might have also asked me for dropped soffits and vertical chases to run the ductwork through. To which I would reply:

“What?!?! That’s not consistent with my innovative and beautiful design! The audacity!!!”

OK, so maybe I wasn’t quite THAT oblivious and arrogant, but I was definitely not as aware of the importance of the HVAC systems and integrating them into the design of a home as I am today.

My, how the tables have turned.

I’m still an architect and I’m still designing homes, but I’m also designing, specifying, and integrating the HVAC Systems for those homes. I also design them for homes that other architects or designers have done. Sometimes it’s the architect that hires me, and other times it’s the HVAC contractor or the home’s builder.

No matter who it is, most of the time it’s too late to influence the architecture and interior design to smoothly integrate the equipment and ductwork because the house is already framed up. The HVAC system is typically one of the last things to be installed in a home, just before insulation, drywall, and finishes. Oddly, it’s also one of the last things to be designed, and it’s done on the fly. Too often the architecture and interior design did NOT account for the integration of a mechanical system and its ductwork, so installation becomes a challenge.”

More details follow. You might have to cut and paste this into your browser:

http://homeenergysaver.ning.com/profiles/blogs/why-don-t-architects-and-interior-designers-care-about-hvac-syste

We also found an interior design perspective on mini-splits:

“Ductless mini-splits are the in-thing these days because of their reduced electricity bills and a wider cooling coverage. Maybe, mini-splits were not around when your house was constructed, hence it was not included in your design. But these units are great for reducing electricity bills and cools a wider area.

Build a false beam to surround the unit and you won’t notice the appliance. Combine this with sunken lighting or mount it above the window to make your space look great without sacrificing functionality.

Great spots for mini splits are above the doorway, bookshelves, cabinets, or bed. Housing this in an open shelf integrated into the wall creates a visual interest that harmonizes with your interior design.

Keep the design simple and cheap by matching the color of the wall with the unit. Install a decorative element for a smart and chic accent to enhance the existing decoration.”

https://www.urdesignmag.com/architecture/2019/08/08/why-is-it-important-to-include-your-ac-design-in-your-interior-plan/

So there you have it. Hopefully, this will help architects and interior designers get over the resistance to mini-split systems. They are creative people by nature and all it takes is a bit of creativity to integrate mini-splits into their repertoire.

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