VRF system brings efficiency to historic building

VRF system brings efficiency to historic building

Built in 1879, the Mackie Building in downtown Milwaukee has a rich history, from serving as the city’s Chamber of Commerce to being The Grain Exchange when the city was the world’s largest primary wheat market for trading. 

The five-story building was designed in Italianate architectural style, with soaring ceilings, hand-painted frescos and gold leaf adornments throughout the interior spaces. In 2010 the Mackie Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 2011, Josh Jeffers, a distinguished property developer, purchased the 55,000-square-foot building with the vision of creating a mixed-use complex with restaurants, businesses and residential spaces. When Jeffers put that vision into motion with a multimillion-dollar overhaul, the goal for the Mackie Building was to maintain the historic design aesthetics while upgrading the HVAC system to effectively serve diverse tenants.

The project team required a heating and cooling system that respected the building’s architectural character and met the different needs of the tenants, all of whom expected modern comfort and convenience.

The team wanted a system that delivered performance, enhanced energy savings and proved aesthetically pleasing while maintaining historic qualities of the landmark. The new HVAC design also needed to be flexible, due to the structure’s unique roof and that there is no usable square footage on the ground floor. 


Jeffers and the architect turned to Vyron Corp. to design an ultra-efficient solution with individually controlled heating and cooling in the facility’s residential and commercial spaces.

Vyron specified the LG Multi V IV VRF heat recovery system known for its efficiency, performance and flexibility.

The biggest benefit of the system offered the Mackie Building was its design flexibility, officials said. To address the lack of space on the roof and ground floor, a new installation approach was mapped out that involved placing the 80 tons of outdoor units in unused space within the building’s clock tower – something that would have been impossible with a conventional system design. Louvers with dampers also were installed on the side of the clock tower to maintain optimal operating temperature for the system year-round. 

Mixed-ducted and duct-free units were used throughout the interior. On the first floor that housed a historic tavern, LG’s wall-mounted Art Cool Mirror units were used, as there weren’t mechanical closets or storage space for an air handler. The sleek mirror finish complemented the overall aesthetic.

The design flexibility combined with the high performance and energy efficiency of the LG VRF addressed the buildings diverse group of tenants in a cost-effective manner without sacrificing comfort.


As a result, the LG VRF allowed for a flexible design with minimal ductwork to deliver a non-invasive HVAC system.  

“From an adaptive reuse perspective, we really needed every inch to make the numbers work, so we couldn’t have mechanical closets taking up valuable square footage,” Jeffers said. “The LG system is very conducive to being retro-fitted into an old building. We were able to zone each floor and individual units as needed without having to sacrifice leasable space or comfort.”

In addition to delivering on the space requirements, the LG VRF solution complemented the architectural features.  

For nearly the same cost as a traditional system, the Mackie Building now has a highly reliable, energy efficient HVAC solution that delivers comfort and conveniences for its tenants.

“The LG VRF system gave us the capabilities to meet all of the demands as were navigating the complicated installation process,” said Roberta Hill, operations manager at Vyron. “The system also shone in providing future tenant flexibility, minimal routine maintenance, low operating cost and significant energy savings.”


Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Construction Firms, Energy Saving Products, Engineering Firms, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, HVAC - Heating, Cooling, and Ventilation, Renovation / Restoration / Remodeling, Ventilation

Companies: LG HVAC

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