Dobson Ice Arena
ACEC Colorado 1998 Engineering Excellance Award
HEAT RECLAIM SYSTEM
Dangerous road conditions! What do you do?
By request of the Town of Vail, and as part of plaza improvements around the
Dobson Ice Arena, dangerous conditions created by snow and ice on an adjacent
main thoroughfare needed to be addressed. This busy street and walkway is a
vital link between the two core resort villages of Lionshead and Vail. The villages
play host to over two million skier visits per year and operate the second largest
bus system in Colorado. This street and walkway also provide access to the Dobson
Ice Arena, Vail Public Library, and the Vail Valley Medical Center. An efficient
and effective snowmelt system was required to alleviate the ice and snow packed
conditions for both bus and pedestrian safety.
Take an academic snowmelt system concept . . .
Town of Vail approached Beaudin Ganze Consulting Engineers, Inc. (BGCE)
to implement an air-side, snowmelt system concept proposed by a university
professor. This concept was to utilize waste energy from the ice arena’s
evaporative condenser fan, add supplemental heat via a gas-fired burner/blower
unit, and distribute hot air under the roadway through an underground
Strict Owner Guidelines Defined the Challenge:
- Maintain the operation of Dobson Ice Arena through construction
- Meet tight construction schedule
- Keep construction costs within budget constraints
- Design an energy-efficient system
- Minimize maintenance cost
- Minimize impact to existing ice rink refrigeration heat reclaim systems
BGCE analyzed the proposed concept, but deemed it unrealistic, since it
could not be built within the tight time and budgetary constraints, required
additional heat and energy input, and required adding a large air handling
unit to the site, thereby increasing maintenance costs.
. . . and turn it into an innovative, one-of-a-kind snowmelt
and heat reclaim system . . .
Design Techniques Dictated that BGCE utilize the time-honored snowmelting
concept of directly reclaiming waste heat from the ice-skating rink refrigeration
system by hydronically pumping it into a snowmelt piping system. This
past, industry standard method could not meet the Owner’s guidelines.
The system would require shutting down the ice rink to cut into the chlorofluorocarbon
(CFC) charged skating rink refrigeration piping to install a snowmelt
condenser heat exchanger and controls to operate the system through the
An Innovative, Earth-friendly, and Cost-Effective System was created to meet
the Owner’s needs. BGCE re-engineered the time-honored snowmelting concept
to avoid shutting down the ice rink refrigeration system, and to avoid the
costs and potential risks associated with cutting into the refrigeration system
filled with ozone-depleting CFC’s.
BGCE devised a strategic piping connection to the existing domestic hot water
pre-heat reclaim system. This unique piping configuration maintains the first
priority status of the pre-heat system while supplying heat via two fractional
horsepower (HP) pumps and a heat exchanger to a snowmelt piping system in
the adjacent road.
BGCE’s innovative control strategy runs the two fractional ¾
HP snowmelt pumps continuously to reject excess heat to the cold ground year
round in lieu of running the 7-1/2 HP evaporative condenser fan. This results
in minimal maintenance costs and an approximately 80% year-round reduction
in the condenser system’s energy requirements.
. . . that performs above and beyond all expectations . . .
The Town of Vail, The Community, and The Engineering Profession, All Benefit
from this novel design. With the new snowmelt system in place, buses and pedestrians
are able to navigate the walkway and roadway safely and freely.
The unprecedented control and piping strategy can benefit all existing and
future ice-skating rinks around the world that utilize, or will utilize, waste
heat from an ice-skating rink refrigeration system for snowmelt. The strategic
piping concept is ideal for adding snowmelt to an existing heat reclaim system
while keeping the ice rink up and running during construction, minimizing
construction time, and preventing potential release of harmful CFC’s
to the atmosphere.
The construction costs for this unique design were approximately one half
of the $100,000 construction budget estimated for the proposed concept. In
addition, there are virtually no maintenance costs, and an approximately 20%
year-round energy savings, (on a per square foot basis), is realized by employing
the innovative control strategy of rejecting excess heat to the ground year-round.
. . . to provide a safe, environmentally-friendly, cost-effective
solution that benefits the Town of Vail, the over two million tourists
that visit annually, and the engineering community.
“By understanding our needs and the unique nature of mountain design
and construction practices, BGCE designed a sophisticatedly simple, cost-effective
system that greatly benefits the safety of the community and far exceeds
Larry Grafel, Director
Public Works Department and Transportation Department
Town of Vail