Terra Foundation for American Art

Chicago, IL


The downtown Chicago headquarters of the Terra Foundation for American Art houses administrative facilities and collections storage. The foundation supports art exhibitions, projects, academic research, and publications worldwide. Two vaults at the Erie Street facility were designed to store artwork under exacting environmental conditions. GBA helped Terra improve the vaults’ HVAC systems.

Art Vault HVAC Systems Review and Replacement

GBA provided design and construction administration services to replace the art vaults’ existing HVAC systems with new systems, which allow for stable temperature and humidity and also provide adequate air filtration.

  • The environmental requirements for the vaults consist of a temperature setpoint of 70°F (+/-2°F) and relative humidity of 50% RH (+/- 5%) with no drastic fluctuations.
  • The new HVAC system includes two new air handling units with multi-phase filtration, new precision electric humidifiers, and new reheat coils. The vault supply ductwork was reconfigured to eliminate potential drafts to stored artwork.
  • The system controls and control sequences were upgraded to include laboratory-grade GE OptiSonde Chilled Mirror dew point sensors and Vaisala relative humidity sensors.
  • A reverse osmosis system was added to provide pure water for precise humidification.
  • The new gaseous fire protection system is intended to prevent water damage to the art in case of a fire emergency.
  • Fire alarm, intrusion detection, and building management systems were integrated to provide the appropriate alarm notifications to Terra staff.
  • Grumman|Butkus Associates worked extensively with the project’s commissioning authority to fine-tune the system over a period of six months.

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