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To preserve Michelangelo’s 500-year-old frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Carrier engineers developed a masterpiece of their own.
A Tale of Two Masterpieces
In the fall of 2014, Carrier installed an innovative heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) solution at the Sistine Chapel, specially developed to help preserve Michelangelo’s masterpieces against deterioration caused by an increasing number of visitors.
The new system uses two Carrier® AquaForce® 30XWV water-cooled chillers with Greenspeed® intelligence, each with 580 kilowatts of capacity. It leverages specially designed software and components, as well as patented, energy-saving technologies to maintain optimal climate conditions for the protection of the paintings within the chapel. An intelligent system of controls, linked with an advanced video application from UTC Climate, Controls & Security, enables the HVAC system to anticipate visitor levels and adjust its performance intuitively. To ensure the smooth operation of the new system, the Vatican has chosen to enter into a five-year maintenance contract with Carrier Distribution Italy SpA.
“Our aim now is not restoration, but conservation. This is why we have chosen Carrier, because a masterpiece like the Sistine Chapel needs a comparable masterpiece of technology,” said Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums.
The company’s expert global team of AdvanTE³C engineers developed the solution, working in close collaboration with the Vatican’s technical teams and using leading-edge computer modeling and simulation techniques. The engineering team overcame several challenges to meet the chapel’s unique requirements. The system carefully manages the flow, humidity, quality and temperature of the air; maintains sound at “church-quiet” levels; is virtually invisible to visitors; and uses pre-existing duct openings in a protected, historic landmark setting. It was also designed to be adaptable to future needs.
Supporting the Vatican with our advanced technologies to preserve the extraordinary heritage of the Sistine Chapel was a remarkable opportunity and we are exceptionally proud of the outcome.
In 1993, Carrier designed and installed the Sistine Chapel's first air conditioning system to accommodate a maximum load of 700 simultaneous visitors. Today, with daily visitor traffic of approximately 20,000 people, the new system is designed to accommodate up to 2,000 visitors at one time in nearly any weather condition.
In addition, the Governatorate of the Vatican City State and United Technologies Corp. have entered into an agreement to ensure the protection and safety of the Vatican Museums’ artwork, spaces and visitors through the deployment of building technologies from UTC companies. According to the terms of the agreement, the parties will work together on integrated solutions spanning HVAC, elevators and escalators, fire detection and alarm, fire suppression and safety, electronic security, access control, video surveillance services and related software solutions, from brands such as Carrier, Otis, Lenel, Kidde, Chubb and Marioff.
“Today’s excellent outcome reflects the success of the development process. Collaborating for nearly three years with Carrier, my teams and myself were able to establish a fruitful working relationship, and together overcome all obstacles to develop this technical masterpiece,” said the Rev. Rafael García de la Serrana Villalobos, director, Vatican Technical Services.
The Vatican Museums was able to keep the chapel open to visitors throughout the system dismantling and installation process, which occurred over the peak summer season, through use of a temporary HVAC system provided by Carrier Rental Systems.
“From start to finish, this project has highlighted the important role high technology can play in preserving our most important pieces of history for future generations,” said Michel Grabon, director, Carrier AdvanTE³C Europe. “When we started to design the system, Professor Paolucci told us to think in terms of five, six, seven centuries, and to think of it as work for humanity. Our solution accomplishes this in a way that strategically allows for future updates to help meet the Vatican’s evolving needs. We’ll continue to innovate to help preserve the brilliance of Michelangelo’s frescoes.”