DPP African American Museum

City of Philadelphia Department of Public Property, African American Museum HVAC Upgrades

The African American Museum at 701 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA was constructed in 1976. The previous HVAC systems were representative of that era and the equipment had largely exceeded its expected service life. Arora was retained to provide engineering services for HVAC upgrades at the museum.

In the late summer of 2015 it was decided that the Museum would serve as the location for a major function during the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The building’s HVAC systems, especially the 1976 vintage steam fired direct expansion rooftop air handling units, were in a general state of unserviceability. Arora Engineers, Inc. (Arora) was brought on board in July 2015 to immediately begin the design process to allow procurement of construction to be completed in time for the Convention, factoring in the long lead time of any newly purchased equipment. Arora provided Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing, and Construction Administration Services for the HVAC upgrades to the African American Museum.


Assessment of Existing Conditions

  • On-site assessment of existing HVAC systems and controls to determine the needs of the building.
  • Results of the observations and recommended actions were submitted as an assessment report, including opinions of probable construction costs.

Design Phase

  • Creating engineering bid drawings describing the HVAC renovations and control systems, as well as any electrical and/or plumbing systems modification required by the renovations.
  • New controls systems were designed in conformance with the City of Philadelphia Building HVAC Controls Guidelines for New and Existing Buildings.
  • Provided Construction Phase support to achieve a successful, on-time completion.

Arora performed an existing conditions assessment to prioritize the needed upgrades with associated costs to inform the decision-making process by the City as to what work needed to be done before the Convention. During the initial site investigations, Arora determined that the current purchased district steam was hopelessly uneconomical and performed a life cycle cost analysis indicating the substantial savings to be gleaned by divorcing the building from the utility district steam supply.

The building was designed with a new high efficiency gas fired condensing boiler system to serve the existing interior space heating equipment. A new gas service was provided from a nearby high-pressure utility gas main located in front of the adjacent Federal Reserve Bank, discovered by Arora after an on-site meeting. The rooftop units were replaced with gas fired units, with the new gas piping routed in the location of the former steam mains. Creative design work was required as the 1976 vintage rooftop units were from a manufacturer that was long out of business and of a configuration that is not made by any current manufacturers. The design needed to account for the very different unit layouts and duct connections to mate with the existing building ductwork.

The project was completed on time for successful use during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It was also the subject of a local TV news report, which reported an increase in patronage, as well as visitor and staff commentary on how comfortable the building was compared to its previous conditions.

  • DPP African American Museum

City of Philadelphia, Department of Public Property


Philadelphia, PA