Cleveland Museum Renovated by Sheet Metal Specialists

June 12, 2008
The Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the world’s most distinguished and comprehensive art museums, contains more than 43,000 works of classical and modern art.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the world’s most distinguished and comprehensive art museums, contains more than 43,000 works of classical and modern art.

Sixteen smoke evacuation systems were installed in the attic of the 1916 museum building, taking care not to damage the original skylights overhead.

When renovations were required for the museum’s original building— known as the 1916 building — and the 37 year-old Breuer building, and two new adjoining wings, museum directors turned to a proven and innovative Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) member, Duct Fabricators Inc., Cleveland, OH.

The museum’s duct installation needs included air handling units to serve variable air volume (VAV) and zoned systems. Materials used ranged from galvanized/stainless steel, black iron —24 gage to 10 gage — and fiberglass.

The mechanical contractor of record was Cleveland-based Reliance Mechanical.

The project was completed in three concurrent stages over 2-1/2 years. The Breuer building was renovated first. The 1916 building followed, and the new wings were the final stage.

Duct Fabricators, Inc. president John Sickle, Jr. says the 1916 building posed some significant hurdles.

“Working within the confines of the existing structure was a primary challenge,” Sickle says. “Ductwork was strategically placed between 90-year-old columns. Smoke evacuation systems were carefully lodged directly below original 1916 skylights.”

Finger lines go to the slot diffuser that feeds the gallery rooms in the new wing.

Other challenges involved working around the museum’s hours of operation. To help simplify traffic, and, of course, protect the pieces, work areas were cleared of all artifacts. Curators removed everything that they wanted to protect, except for a large immovable pipe organ. To protect the valuable instrument, the general contractor sealed it inside a large wooden structure, than a humidification unit and associated ductwork was added to maintain correct moisture levels for the pipe organ inside the wooden structure.

Equipment and ductwork had to meet specialized isolation and sound dampening requirements. Very little night work was required, and Sickle says he was pleased that the museum understood Duct Fabricators needs for an ideal work environment.

“One of the greatest concerns, other than human comfort was to establish humidification and dust levels at near-perfect levels,” Sickle explains. “We followed a very strict commissioning program, which was witnessed by museum officials.”

As project subcontractors, Duct Fabricators, Inc. has been in business for over forty-five years and has successfully completed many large HVAC sheet metal projects in the northern Ohio region, including the Society Tower, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center, and Quicken Loans Arena (formerly Gund Arena). Duct Fabricators also provides turnkey comfort systems suitable for health care, manufacturing, and commercial/retail facilities. In addition to Duct Fabricators’ Cleveland location, HVAC and metal fabrication capabilities are met across Northeast Ohio with help from sister companies Ohio Fabricators, Akron, OH, and Breining Mechanical Systems of Massillon.

John Sickle, Jr. also serves as the 2008-2009 president of SMACNA’s Cleveland Chapter. Duct Fabricators, Inc. can be reached at 216/391-2400, or by visiting

Thanks to SMACNA for providing this article. Used by permission. Photos courtesy Duct Fabricators, Inc.