The Yellowstone Club ski resort in Big Sky, Mont., (elevation 7,218 ft.) is home to some of the wealthiest families in the world. Access to the exclusive members-only enclave is restricted to residents and members only, but a select team from Norpac Sheet Metal, Inc. in Billings (elevation 3,123 ft.) passes through the security checkpoints each workday. These professionals are installing HVAC systems in the resort’s newest residential complex, Eglise Village at the Turn.
Team members do not discuss Yellowstone Club residents, who reportedly include Justin Timberlake and Bill Gates. “We signed confidentiality statements and every employee goes through a background check,” explains Brooke Logan, Norpac project manager. “For security, all deliveries are pre-scheduled two weeks in advance on a matrix that must be approved by the Yellowstone Club. If you don’t plan ahead on this project, you just won’t make it.”
High security isn’t the only issue; the location poses unique challenges. “It snowed in August,” Logan says. “At that elevation, it snows more than six months a year. The goal right now is to get the structure up and enclosed so we can maintain temporary heat before severe weather comes.”
Aside from extreme weather, the landscape leaves little room for construction. “The biggest struggle is going over the narrow bridge between our laydown yard and the site,” says Stewart Brown, Norpac’s vice president of estimating. “We leave our cars in the laydown yard and drive a quarter of a mile to our single parking spot onsite. If we need parts, we drive back to the laydown area across the single lane bridge and hope the bridge isn’t blocked.”
The laydown area is too small for storage, so the team takes equipment up each day. “Everything is shipped nearly 200 miles from our fabrication facility in Billings,” says Kris O’Bleness, Norpac’s vice president of operations. “If the roads are closed or icy, it might take four and a half hours to make the trip. It might sound ridiculous that we travel 200 miles one way to a job site, but in Montana we go where the jobs are.”
To provide comfort at the high altitude, Norpac is installing a combination of 32 Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) units, fan coil units, humidifiers, and exhaust systems in the parking garage under the multi-level residential lofts. DOAS units recover more heat than conventional systems, bringing the residences into compliance with the International Energy Conservation Code.
“We bring in outside air through a heat exchanger before it provides ventilation for the building,” says Brown. “On the other side, the exhaust goes through the heat exchange again and is routed out through a separate exhaust louver. This energy recovery tempers the outside air before we do mechanical heating and avoids burning any more gas than is absolutely necessary.”
DOAS units have a higher initial cost than conventional systems because they have specific ducts for ventilation. “You have a supply and an exhaust, and also an outside air with an exhaust tied to the outside air,” says Brown. “I don’t know that it doubles the amount of ductwork, but it requires significantly more than a conventional air handler with outside air, supply air, and an exhaust fan.” Norpac is installing 101,000 pounds of metal for the 133,321 square foot building.
The extra complexity is worth the investment because it improves thermal comfort while saving energy. “It may be freezing cold outside, but DOAS keeps our clients toasty warm,” Logan says.
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