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The Rocks Discovery Museum Case Study

Case Study: Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Installation at The Rocks Discovery Museum, Sydney.

Project Overview

The Rocks Discovery MuseumThe Rocks Discovery Museum, housed in a restored 1850s sandstone warehouse, tells the story of The Rocks from pre-European days to the present.

Home to a unique collection of images and archaeological artefacts found in The Rocks, the exhibits are highly interactive; using touch screens, audio and visual elements to bring the history of the area alive.

Visitors can learn about the area's traditional landowners, the establishment of the English colony and the time when sailors, whalers and traders made the area their home; through to the 1970s union-led protests which preserved this unique part of Sydney for future generations to explore and enjoy.

Project Description

The Rocks Discovery Museum was receiving complaints from staff and visitors regarding the warm temperature within the building during summer. They also noticed that the number of visitors coming through was dropping and they were staying less time due to the heat. In order to address these issues, it was decided that they should install an air conditioning system.

The museum is a heritage listed building so extra care had to be taken in the installation to ensure the appearance of the building did not change dramatically and that the building was not damaged.

Plan to Minimise Heritage Impact

An Engineering Consultant was appointed to draw up a layout which had piping and electrical services running across the ceiling. The plan also specified for two outdoor units to be installed in the gardens outside the museum. Timenho Services Engineers and Contractors was hired to do the installation.

Prior to commencement of the installation, the Project Superintendent raised concerns about the heritage impact of running the pipes as originally specified.

A meeting was called between the Heritage Architects, the Project Superintendent from Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and the Project Manager from Timenho to investigate a solution to reduce the visual and physical impact to the building.

City Multi outdoor unit concealed within louvred enclosure.By using one outdoor unit instead of two there would be less visual impact. Additionally, a louvered enclosure sympathetic to the appearance of the sandstone building would be built to house the unit.

Instead of drilling into the sandstone, it was decided that cables and refrigeration piping would run through the mortar between the sandstone or using existing penetrations. All overhead pipes originally running across the floor would be placed underneath floorboards and the refrigeration piping and electrical cables were to be installed within the existing risers.

As with any heritage building, colours and materials needed to be matched exactly, so the exposed piping was to be painted with the colour specified by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Heritage Architect to match the rest of the building.

City Multi ceiling cassette air conditioning in The Rocks Discovery CentreMitsubishi Electric CITY MULTI Y-Series Proven Performer

After looking at the building Timenho decided that the best unit for the heritage building was a Mitsubishi Electric air conditioner. After the final details were agreed upon, Timenho consulted with Mitsubishi Electric and they recommended CITY MULTI Y-Series Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) units which included one outdoor unit and 12 indoor units.

The use of VRF technology allowed one condensing unit to be used for the project. This reduced the total amount of piping required to be run for the project, compared to using multiple split systems. Two pipes from the condensing unit easily branched off to each indoor unit.

One of the benefits of outdoor unitís compact design is that it could be easily hidden within the limited size of the louvered enclosure. The indoor units were also unobtrusive and small enough (only 220 mm in depth) so that they could be placed against walls and under stairs.

The selection of CITY MULTI VRF system was also based on the fact that Timenho had installed three similar systems for the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority in last 18 months, one of them was for the Art Gallery at The Rocks which is another heritage listed building. All of the installations were working well and the client was very happy with it. Also the units would fit in with the display cabinets and the interior design.

Short Installation Time

The installation of the CITY MULTI system went ahead without issue and took about three weeks to complete. Thanks to the project management and design methods, they were able to fit it in over the Christmas holiday break for the Museum and did not need to close down outside the Christmas break for the installation.

The cabling and piping design worked and the visual and physical impacts of the CITY MULTI units were minimal. Timenho needed to remove and reinstate some of the floor boards to install the refrigeration pipe, controls and electrical cable.

Win Win situation for both Visitors and Staff.

City Multi indoor units at The Rocks Discovery CentreThe CITY MULTI system performs well and the layout and units are sympathetic with the look of the Heritage Building. The number of visitors began to rise again and the museum manager reported that visitors were staying for longer periods of time than they would have done previously in warm weather. Visually the building hasnít been affected and there was an absolute minimum of physical impact on the building. The installation has also meant that there was no industrial action taken by staff and that the building is now completely OH&S compliant. There has also been a noticeable improvement in air quality.




CITY MULTI Equipment Installed:

  • (1) PUHY-P600YGM-A Y-Series Outdoor
  • (3) PFFY-P63VLEM-A Floor Standing Indoor Unit
  • (2) PFFY-P50VLEM-A Floor Standing Indoor Unit
  • (2) PFFY-P40VLEM-A Floor Standing Indoor Unit
  • (2) PFFY-P32VLEM-A Floor Standing Indoor Unit
  • (3) PLFY-P63VAM-E 4-Way Flow Ceiling Cassette
  • (1) G-50A Central Controller
  • (1) PAC-SC50KUA Power Supply Unit
  • (1) Web Browser IQ 
  • (3) PAC-YT40ANRA ON/OFF Remote Controller

Project Name: The Rocks Discovery Museum
Location: The Rocks, Sydney, New South Wales
Completion Date: January 2006

The Team
Client: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
HVAC Contractor: Timenho Services Engineers and Contractors