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Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin


©2015 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 57, no. 4, April 2015

By William C. Weinaug Jr., P.E., Member ASHRAE

About the Author
William C. Weinaug Jr., P.E., is an executive vice president at exp in Maitland, Fla. He is a member of ASHRAE's Central Florida chapter.

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is an immersive dark ride and penguin exhibit. The 30,000 ft2 (2787 m2) project was a renovation and addition to the existing Penguin Encounter building at SeaWorld Orlando.

Guests enter the facility through a pre-show theater, pass into a rock and ice themed queue, and exit the queue through a small “ice den” to load onto a unique trackless ride system. The vehicles move through various scenes, including a large theater space, ending at an unload platform inside the frozen penguin exhibit. The adventure concludes in an underwater viewing area.

The design team was tasked with several engineering challenges to make the exhibit ideal for the animals and enjoyable for the guests:

  • Maintain animal health through temperature, air quality, filtration, and pressure relationships;
  • Moisture control;
  • Odor control; and
  • Energy efficiency.

Animal Health

Animal comfort and health were the main key performance indicators for the design of the HVAC systems with indoor air quality being the most critical. Penguins are susceptible to aspergillus and other molds and fungi that are common in our environment but not theirs. The design uses high level filtration, airflow patterns, and space pressure relationship to keep the bird’s environment healthy.

There are only a few exhibits in the world that allow the face-to-face interaction that was incorporated into this exhibit. Guests are first washed by clean air as they enter the facility. Specific fresh air exchange rates are maintained for the animal areas. All fresh air delivered to the exhibit (either directly or through any possible infiltration) is HEPA filtered. HEPA level filtration along with a non-homogeneous electrical field system are provided in rooftop air handling units that recirculate the air in the space. In addition, there are specific space pressurization measures that control where air is allowed to enter the animal spaces.



Moisture Control

The HVAC cooling coils required to maintain the spaces below freezing temperatures, used a 15 °F cooling fluid. Constructing a proper envelope around these spaces minimized the infiltration of potential moisture into these cold spaces.

Due to the large temperature and humidity level differences across the envelope, the vapor drive is significant. Creating a tight sealed barrier around the low-temperature exhibit was imperative. 

Guest entry and exit points had to be controlled. Sally port vestibules with special door controls were incorporated into the design to allow guests to easily and comfortably enter the exhibit while revolving doors at the exit protect the underwater viewing area.

Fresh air supply is pre-conditioned by an active desiccant system. This very dry fresh air helps to lower the humidity levels in the exhibit space. 

Envelope. Early in design, a good envelope was identified as an important requirement to minimize the sensible and latent loads and to curtail potential issues with condensate. Detailing to minimize even the smallest potential leak through this envelope is critical.


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