Just below the main floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress, the cellar level is home to the Architect of the Capitol's Air Conditioning (AC) Shop for Library Buildings and Grounds.
A spectrum of parts and tools — from very small pieces to a 150 horsepower motor that weighs approximately 2,000 pounds — can be found inside the shop. They are used for maintaining the Library of Congress' heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Randy Shontz, HVAC Equipment Worker, uses a wrench to fabricate a pipe.
Work areas within the buildings include mechanical spaces, kitchens and offices. "We do a little bit of everything," said Richard Wolfe, Supervisor. "In addition to HVAC, our shop also does abatement work, insulation repairs, and electrical and plumbing repairs."
"Dealing with old equipment and tight crawl space areas can sometimes be a challenge," said Jonathan Wilson, Work Leader. Access to the equipment itself, like heating and cooling valves, humidifiers, vacuum systems and exhaust fans, can be found in unique places. For example, the mechanical space for the Coolidge Auditorium is at the top of a tall spiral staircase.
HVAC employees climb this spiral staircase to access the mechanical space for the Coolidge Auditorium.
In addition to maintenance and repair, the Library's AC Shop is involved in upgrade projects to replace outdated equipment and keep up with modern technology. "We use direct digital controls and specialized equipment, like X-ray fluorescence analyzers to check paint for any potentially harmful materials," said John Lamberton, Assistant Supervisor.
One tool that this shop's team always has at the ready is the thermometer. "It helps us measure the room conditions when we arrive to a service call and allows us to make adjustments to bring the room back to the proper temperature range," said Wolfe.
While the most frequent calls from building occupants are related to climate, being successful in this line of work is about more than overcoming hot and cold conditions. "Knowledge of the trade is important," said Wolfe. "So is being motivated and willing to learn." Something the shop has mastered to the highest degree.
From a retired construction project manager, prior as Pipefitter, Plumber, I appreciate the talent needed to continue maintain the systems today. Times have changed the equipment and maybe the function but the experience from the field mechanic to keep everything running is a very difficult job. The 80 years in the HVAC industry has made me realize the importance of on-site and education has made our trade the #1 in construction.