An engineer who moonlights as a film critic reviews "The Island" as part of HPAC Engineering’s “HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right?” series.
Editor’s note: Hollywood long has been known for—ahem—taking liberties with the truth (just ask any composite character). In HPAC Engineering’s ongoing series “HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right?," Ron Wilkinson, a professional engineer who moonlights as a film critic, takes a look at movies and television series whose makers may or may not have let HVAC fundamentals get in the way of a good story.
The Island (2005)
In this science-fiction thriller, the year is 2019, and Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and others live a seemingly utopian existence in a tightly controlled facility. They believe the outside world has become too contaminated to sustain human life, the exception being “The Island,” where citizens are chosen to live through a weekly lottery. Lincoln becomes suspicious about what he has been told about the outside world when he discovers a live moth in a ventilation shaft.
This author has seen some pretty poor outside-air filters, but one with a MERV rating permitting moths is definitely not up to spec.
Eventually, Lincoln and Jordan discover the truth from facility technician James McCord (Steve Buscemi):
To escape the facility, the two plucky leads jump into the slime duct (every building should have one) and drop immediately into the brain-conditioning room. Next door is the outside-air plenum with requisite huge ventilation fan moving at a snail’s pace.
At the end of the film, Lincoln and Jordan are running for their lives, and there is only one way to escape the massive security force on their heels: The vent-fan VFD breaker is opened (disconnected), which causes the fan's speed to increase to infinity. When the fan disintegrates, the resulting shrapnel destroys the entire evil complex.
Warning: This video contains violence.