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FanGrid keeps fans cool in cinema

The air condi­tioner in the cinema at Singapore’s Century Square shop­ping mall was loud and expen­sive to operate, and its fans needed frequent main­te­nance. A retrofit put an end to that, making both the cinema’s customers and its oper­ator happy.


An average of around a million visi­tors come to the six-story Century Square Mall in Singa­pore every month for shop­ping, eating and enter­tain­ment. The shop­ping center opened in 1995 in the Tampines district, one of Singapore’s largest, about only ten minutes from the inter­na­tional airport. The mall’s oper­ator, Asia­Malls Manage­ment Pte Ltd, deter­mined in 2018 that the mall had become outdated and was having diffi­culty competing with its down­town rivals.

Not only modern from the outside: Thanks to retro­fitting, Century Square also impresses with its energy balance. (Photo: Century Square)

In addi­tion, Singa­pore govern­ment had set new effi­ciency guide­lines calling for a reduc­tion in energy consump­tion and greening 80 percent of the country’s building stock by 2030. It was clear to manage­ment that the shop­ping center needed to be modern­ized.

The building manage­ment engaged an energy consul­tancy to explore solu­tions to improve energy effi­ciency in the building. One place where they found the energy consump­tion can be reduced was the Film­garde Cine­plex, a cinema on the fifth floor. It has six audi­to­riums in which up to 1,000 guests can enjoy Asia’s first AuroMax-3D-Sound, a tech­nology featuring three layers of sound for an immer­sive spatial expe­ri­ence.

Unlike its advanced audio tech­nology, the cinema’s air condi­tioning was not-state-of-the-art. Six units of AC belt-driven fans were installed on the building’s rooftop to cool the audi­to­riums. But the oper­ating cost for these fans was high due to the frequent main­te­nance resulted from constant vibra­tion. To solve these prob­lems the energy consul­tancy called on ebm-papst. The two compa­nies had coop­er­ated on several projects previ­ously.

Effi­cient and fail-safe

“The customer wanted to upgrade their AHUs to achieve better energy effi­ciency,” says Mark Ng, Sales Director at ebm-papst SEA Pte. Ltd. “So first we did some calcu­la­tions on paper and ran a few simu­la­tions to make sure we could achieve the target.” Subse­quently ebm-papst did a site study to deter­mine the power consump­tion of the system on several days at different timings.

The solu­tion soon became clear: “We proposed a FanGrid design consisting of four fans per AHU with a total number of 24 fans in six AHUs to replace the old AC belt-driven fans.” says Ng. The job was completed in only three days. With the retrofit, the AHUs at Century Square Mall are now oper­ating on average 0.09 kW/RT which is only one fifth of Singa­pore Stan­dard (SS553) for fan power limi­ta­tion in mechan­ical venti­la­tion systems (0.46Kw/RT).

Another addi­tional benefit of the newly installed FanGrid is the built-in redun­dancy (N+1). “If one of the fans fails, the others can increase their output to compen­sate for it,” says Ng. “That rules out fail­ures of the complete air condi­tioning system in the future. More­over, the fans are main­te­nance-free.” The movie­goers also benefit; thanks to the quieter fans and lower vibra­tion, they can hear even the quietest whis­pers in a film – and the 3D sound really comes into its own.

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