In 1974, the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts was slated for demolition. The Music Hall may have opened in opulent splendor with a Gershwin musical in 1928, but in its fifth decade the building was deserted. But Detroit stepped up. The community saved this stunning building from the wrecking ball, and since then the Music Hall has been tenderly restored to its original Spanish Renaissance and Art Deco design. Today, with its excellent acoustics and stellar sight lines, the hall has become one of the best places in Detroit to experience the performing arts—from compelling local acts to national jazz and theater talent.
But what has helped the Music Hall thrive not just as a historic landmark but as a modern building? In part, retrocommissioning. With three distinct performance spaces and a 1,700+ seat theater, the Music Hall requires significant energy—human and otherwise—to maintain. The Hall recently underwent retrocommissioning because of its ongoing commitment to maintaining the historic building at the highest level.
But what is retrocommissioning anyway? Surprisingly, it’s not remodeling. Instead, a retrocommissioning study finds small changes that pack a big punch. Retrocommissioning identifies how use patterns within a building have changed and evaluates the best way to restore maximum efficiency to lighting and HVAC systems.
Over time, people use buildings in creative ways that exceed their original design. Certainly this is true for the Music Hall; built as a live theater, it was transformed to house the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and become the world’s second Cinemara theater. During these changes, someone adjusts the thermostat to get more comfortable. People shift from one space to another, equipment is added or removed, heating and cooling coils get dirty, and hardware ages. Retrocommissioning can identify and address all of these problems by, for example, updating inefficient lighting, rebalancing air flows, or modifying temperature control sequences.
Retrocommissioning aligns the whole building’s energy use with the most efficient, purposeful design. Not only do such changes make staff and patrons more comfortable (who likes a frost-bitten office or sweltering performance space?), but they conserve precious resources. The Music Hall is on track to save $10,000 a year in energy costs just by switching to LED lights, and their HVAC upgrades will save more than twice that much. This means the Hall can devote more resources cultivating the pipeline of local musical talent that goes on to entertain the world.
If you think retrocommissioning could help your company work more efficiently and save money, we recommend working with an experienced lighting company like EDSS. We’ve been analyzing lighting and energy usage since we started in 2007, and we have the expertise to restore purposeful energy design to your building.