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BOSTON, MA - The management of The Castle at the Park Plaza Hotel retained McDonald & Associates of Boston to renovate the building which consists of a 100 foot wide and 200 foot long function and exhibition room for dances, weddings, receptions, exhibits, and special events accommodating groups up to 2000. Built in 1891 as an armory for the First Corps of Cadets, the building has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.Heating a National Landmark

The renovation plan called for the removal of every possible element added after 1950 within the building.

One of the first places McDonald turned to was the 20,000 sq. ft. insulated drop ceiling. It had been installed over the large room in the 1970's to accommodate two 937,000 Btu/hr forced-air furnaces.

"Our objective was to highlight the ornate decorative detail throughout the space, and reveal important architectural and engineering accomplishments of the roof support structure," said McDonald & Associates co-owner Bruce McDonald.

Off came the ceiling and out popped the surprises.

"We had no idea what was up there," said McDonald. "What we found was an original vaulted ceiling that peaked 66 feet above the floor; a scissor-truss roof support system that, to me, was on par with the Eiffel Tower; three skylights; 200 Tivoli lights; a full-view balcony situated at either end of the room; six dormers; and a beautiful 8-1/2 foot diameter clock that was still in operation."

The first challenge involved finding an alternative heating system that would not obscure the splendor of the building and, at the same time, be aesthetically appealing and cost-efficient.

All parties opted for the placement of six pairs of LTU 175-40 low-intensity tube heaters at 36 ft. above the finished floor, on either side of the building and equally spaced for optimum efficiency. According to McDonald, the total heating system capacity is 2,100,000 Btuh, with the six zones thermostatically controlled.

"The difference the heaters made in the architecture, engineering, and aesthetics is tremendous," said McDonald. "We installed a system that doesn't make as much noise, that distributes heat evenly, and provides a more comfortable heating environment."

To compensate for the increased heat loss once the insulated drop ceiling was removed, McDonald said input capacity of the heating system was increased by 11%. According to Condon, a conventional heating system would have required an increase of 47.7%, or 892,500 Btuh of input capacity.

McDonald said it was the first application in a special-event space design using radiant heaters.

The radiant heaters are a major improvement over the old heating system, and are instrumental in increasing use of the facility and adding to the occupancy of the hall.

"We will attract a more upscale type of event," said Todd Saunders, vice president of The Saunders Hotel Group. "The facility also will be used at greater capacity more frequently. This is the trend we are already seeing."