The reconstrucon of the La Fenice Theatre in Venice following a devastang fire in 1996 was a challenging, yet fascinang project. Engineers had to take an innovave approach to adapt a modern HVAC system to the peculiaries of the historic building, coordinang with the design, construcon and project management teams to achieve a high quality result

he biggest challenge of this project was to recreate a building that looked physically just like the theatre was before it burnt down, while in terms of technology, turning it into a state-of-the-art venue. It goes without saying then that the plant aspect was decisive in the various choices throughout the duration of the rebuild. Essentially, the executive project implemented by the suppliers was managed and coordinated step-by- step by the Office of the Works of the La Fenice Theatre, which was responsible for coordinating and validating the overall reconstruction.

T Theatre HVAC system

Just like every other theatre, the La Fenice’s requirements are complex, both in terms of attendance, as well as in the building structure and usage versatility. The theatre has over 1,000 seats on four rows of boxes, completed by a gallery. It employs around 200 operators, which include machinists, mechanics, electricians, tailors and office staff. Depending on the type of show, even the occupancy of the stage can vary significantly, including besides the 70 elements of the orchestra also the choir and other performers. The new HVAC system had to tackle all these challenges, ensuring perfect comfort conditions. In particular the temperature setting for winter in the hall and boxes is 20°C, with peaks of 22°C. The set-point of the

‘ The HVAC

system was designed to condion the enre theatre complex, maintaining excellent comfort condions throughout the year

uInside the beaufully rebuilt La Fenice Theatre in Venice

temperatures of the orchestra pit and the stage is 24°C and 23°C respectively. It had to ensure the option to adapt to occupancy and to specifically tackle high loads areas, such has the boxes closest to the stage, where additional thermal loads can be caused by the lights. Moreover, there is a constant cooling load, due to electrical transformation cabins and scenery equipment. The La Fenice Theatre’s air- conditioning system is a mixed all-air and four pipe hydronic system, designed with flexibility in mind that can meet contemporary thermal loads all the year round.

The HVAC system was designed to condition the entire theatre complex, maintaining excellent comfort conditions throughout the year and to guarantee high flexibility for the various needs of the theatre. The system is based on the following specifications: uA central cooling plant based on two air cooled chillers for total cooling capacity of 1680kW located


Reconstruction of the La Fenice Theatre in Venice includes innovative HVAC system

in the roof of the north wing complex. The chillers operate all year round and are equipped with heat recovery system that allows it to recover heat for domestic hot water either for post heating or as first stage before gas boilers. uA central heating plant made up of three high efficiency boilers with a total capacity of 2670 kWt, able to meet the total thermal and domestic hot water production needs located in the basement. u16 AHU with free cooling function, located mainly on the ceiling above the main hall and in other areas to serve specific areas such as foyer and adjoining rooms. uA control room located in the north wing from where all components can be managed synergistically to ensure ideal comfort with optimum performances is achieved throughout the all year.

Architectural and acoustic challenges

The production of chilled water is entrusted to two Mitsubishi Electric- Climaveneta custom-made water chillers with air condensation supplied in a super silent version for a total capacity of 1680kWf. Each chiller is equipped with six screw compressors, divided into three independent circuits, with R407c refrigerant and internal plate heat exchangers, complete with partial heat recovery, able to manage in total up to 24 partialisation steps. The condensing ventilation section is composed of 18 axial fans controlled with inverter for each unit. The dimensions of the units are 8500 x 2260 x 2500mm, while the sound level is 66dB (A).

The heat recovery in the summer is able to satisfy the post-heating of the AHUs and the partial production of domestic hot water, pre-heating hot water before the heat input of the heat generators. These chillers are placed on the roof over the central heating plant in the north wing. The sub-panel for pumping cold and hot thermal fluids to the various utilities was placed adjacent to the central cooling plant.

A key challenge concerning the cooling system was choosing and positioning the two 840kW cooling capacity chiller units on the outside of the north wing. In addition to architectural constraints, the main focus was on the acoustic impact of the system.

In a city like Venice, where the external level of measurable night- time noise is on average about 25dB(A), and for the intended use of the theatre complex, early in the

design phase units were chosen with specific focus on the acoustic aspect, while maintaining good performance in terms of energy efficiency. A further challenge was represented by the peculiarities of Central Venice in terms of logistics. In order to be shipped, units of this size would require large boats that could not go through Venice channels or below the bridges. Collaboration between the construction team and Climaveneta allowed the manufacturer to design the units with an innovative modular assembly system, which made it possible to ship the units as separate modules, and then assembly them again on site. The modularity of the groups, divided substantially into three sections each with independent circuits, was also used to verify the functional technical characteristics.

Futureproof design

The results, confirmed both in the testing room and in the field, have demonstrated the validity of those declared by the manufacturer. Great care was given to future-proof the design and ease of maintenance of the new system. Stainless steel materials have been used for the pipelines and quick, sealed, and easy to install and maintain junction elements have also been installed. The use of Victaulic couplings on the lines at the entrance of the appropriate inspection hatches, allows, in case of need, to disconnect the affected line, remove it, and replace it with a similar section of intact pipe, restoring the connection and the continuity of the line itself. The whole air-conditioning system is supervised and precisely controlled to maintain temperatures and humidity of all the rooms. The main

theatrical area, stalls, boxes, orchestra pit and the stage, are air- conditioned with air-handling units working with partial recirculation of the ambient air and with the possibility of exploiting free-cooling. Being able to achieve a partial recirculation of the ambient air in the hall and in the stage areas, makes it possible to get to full speed faster, before the theatre is filled by the public. An added bonus of being able to use free cooling provides extra energy savings in the overall operating costs of the chiller units. The largest number of air handling units are located in the ceiling above the house, where the air intake extractor connected to the AHUs of the stalls, boxes, and orchestra pit which covers all the extract air is also installed (about 38000m³/h). Particular steps were taken to soundproof the theatre from the machinery using, in addition to the classic silencers in line in the ducts, special acoustic insulation technologies, such as anti-vibration devices to support the machines.


The results obtained and confirmed, both in the testing phase and in the period of operation of the theatre, have shown the validity of what has been designed, and of what was declared by the manufacturers of the various machines. The effort in coordinating the various disciplines by the management of the works and all the companies involved, has resulted in an innovative solution that allows the theatre staff, visitors, performers and patrons to enjoy the beautiful historic surroundings and theatrical performances in comfortable climatic conditions all year round.


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