There is a high level of pressure when working in broadcasting, with tight deadlines and a strong focus on quality performance. A comfortable, productive working environment for your staff and your clients is important in ensuring high performance. In the past, air conditioning for broadcast operations has often been seen as a problem, rather than the positive and essential aid it should be. The perception has been that silent air conditioning systems are a dream, and that any high-quality system needs to be built into the building from the start, and as such is not available for retrofitting.
Recent installations of silent, compact, easy-to-install air conditioning systems being retrofitted into existing studios have shown that the dream is now a reality.
Most of us usually give little thought to air conditioning unless there’s something wrong. It may be too hot, too cold, too draughty and, most often, too noisy when working. This leads to uncomfortable working conditions, and facilities with cooling and heating issues can become less popular with their customers, leading to reduced revenues. Staff struggling to concentrate on their work because of uncomfortable working environments will not perform effectively, which can result in a decrease in customer satisfaction. These are high prices to pay for what is now a relatively simple problem to solve.
In the past, the choice not to cool a newly adapted operational area may have been made because air conditioning was seen as too expensive, or too difficult, to fit into the limited space available or not feasible because of noise levels. However, the technology is now available to solve these tricky issues.
The traditional system
For decades, little has changed in the structure of traditional air conditioning systems. (See Figure 1.) An air handling unit (AHU) is used to condition the air and blow cool air into, and warm air back, from the desired room(s), via ducts running throughout the building. So why does this old approach cause difficulties? The reasons are many:
- The AHU unfortunately creates noise, and usually this is too loud to be tolerated by people working in the room that is being cooled.
- The ducts carrying air in and out need to include attenuators to reduce the noise from the AHU.
- The ducts need to be built with a large cross-section to carry sufficient air at low speed to reduce the noise of the moving air.
- The ducts themselves can provide a path for other unwanted external noise to leak into the quiet room that is being cooled.
- In working spaces where the controlled acoustics are critical, the ducts themselves can allow sound to leak between spaces that need to be isolated.
- As the AHU is normally housed near the outside of a building to discharge the heat, the large ducts must be punched through the fabric of the building, usually requiring specialist building services.
- When the operational and technical requirements change, systems of this type are difficult to modify.
Decades of experience allow air conditioning designers to engineer some of these problems out of the system. However, experience shows that it is better not to have the problems in the first place.