In 1967, a 15-story building—13 floors of office space and two floors of garage—was constructed in downtown Towson, Md. Initially, a number of prominent investment firms called the building home. Later, it housed an assortment of state and county offices until being closed and declared a sick building because of alleged ventilation issues in 2002.

For 10 years, the building stood vacant. Then, in 2012, Caves Valley Partners (CVP), a Towson-based real-estate-development firm, acquired the building and began planning an extreme makeover. The renovation included an all-new glass-curtain-wall façade and the replacement of the mechanical and electrical systems. Today, the 170,000-sq-ft tower is fully leased and home to the Towson University Institute for Well-Being and MileOne Automotive.

The general contractor for the project was Chesapeake Contracting Group of Reisterstown, Md., the architect Brasher Design of Columbia, Md., and the HVAC engineer Mechanical Engineering and Construction Corp. (MEC2) of Catonsville, Md.

“Towson City Center was the most challenging renovation project in my 30-year career,” Brasher Design President D. Ronald Brasher, AIA, said. “Nothing was as it should have been or as one would expect it to be, and nothing was square, as disclosed when the glazing contractor called as he was installing the 12-story curtain-wall system and informed us that the building was out of plumb horizontally and vertically, with as much as 2 in. in some areas.”

Steve Wagner, director of engineering, and Richard E. Beattie, principal, of MEC2 said the scope of work included gutting the entire tower, with only the structural steel, slabs, and elevator core kept. When selecting a new HVAC system, Wagner said, one of the design team’s many challenges was low deck height. Instead of the typical 14 ft, the space between floors measured only 10 ft 6 in., which meant less than 9 ft of clearance. A HVAC solution requiring significant ductwork was out of the question.

Low deck height was not the only consideration.

“From Day One, we all worked with our sights set on achieving LEED certification,” Wagner said. “This meant selecting the best HVAC system for the tower that would deal with the difficult low decks and also help us succeed in meeting the critical environment and indoor-air-quality standards demanded by the U.S. Green Building Council.”

Ultimately, the team selected a variable-refrigerant-flow (VRF) zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating.