The Mall of America Does Not Have a Central Heating System

March 2, 2010 at 12:35 am 22 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

In case you’re not familiar with the Mall of America, it’s a 2.5 million sq. ft. shopping center in Bloomington Minnesota, a suburb of the “Twin Cities” (Minneapolis and Saint Paul). The mall opened in 1992 and contains more than 520 stores, two seven story parking garages with a total of 20,000 parking spaces, a giant aquarium and of course an indoor amusement park.

Photo by Dave Wallick

I was there in 1993 on a big family road trip and it was amazing. A building of this size seems like it should have a massive heating system to stay comfortable during winter months. But, the engineers had a much more creative solution in mind.

The mall entrances do have heaters between the double doors for comfort, but the common areas are heated in three other ways:

  • Solar Radiation (Skylights)
  • Lighting Fixture Heat
  • People

Yes, the skylights let in light which is converted into heat (think of it like a giant green house). The lighting fixtures give off heat, which is typically considered waste energy, but is an important part of heating the building. The people inside generate a lot of heat too. In fact, the guests generate enough heat during peak winter hours that the air conditioning system runs full blast to keep the mall comfortable.

Considering the age of this mall, this is a forward thinking concept — it reduces their need for energy, which saves money and keeps our valuable energy resources available for making lattes and watching The View.

Another little known (and ironic) fact: the Mall of America is owned and operated by Canadians.  The Ghermezian family also owns West Edmonton Mall, which is 30% larger than Mall of America, sporting the world’s largest indoor water park; an ice rink; 800+ stores; an aquarium and the world’s largest indoor amusement park with 24 rides, including the largest indoor roller coaster. A planned expansion to Mall of America will make it larger than West Edmonton Mall.

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Sources: Mall of America, West Edmonton Mall

Photo: Dave Wallick (creative commons)

Entry filed under: Be Efficient, Be Green, Hacks, Travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cole  |  April 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    That is really amazing, especially given the age

    Reply
  • 2. Nate  |  April 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

    This is how Boeing heats up the largest building on earth (by volume). The Boeing manufacturing plant in Everett, WA has no heaters, just those huge lights that keep the place warm in the winter.

    Reply
  • 3. central heating installation  |  September 3, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Really a nice work…..

    Reply
  • 4. DuhEnlightenedOne  |  October 30, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Running the a/c in winter makes no sense because you can just open the doors and passively vent the warm air up through vents and opened skylights.

    Reply
  • 5. Micah  |  November 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    They don’t actually run the “AC” in winter, like you might think. Air conditioning in large spaces is much more complicated than a residential system, and much of this is due to ventilation and humidity control requirements. At Mall of America, they have a complicated automated climate control system that monitors all aspects of the interior AND exterior climate conditions and responds accordingly. If the building gets too hot in winter and the outside conditions are acceptable, the air handling systems will pull in outside air and vent inside air. They will rarely use mechanical cooling unless the outside ambient conditions are unacceptable (for instance, too humid).

    Reply
  • 6. Micah  |  November 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Also, it was alluded to in the article, but most of the individual stores in the mall have separate HVAC systems which include heating.

    Reply
    • 7. lkjfd  |  December 30, 2012 at 12:09 am

      No, they don’t. They have their own thermostats which allow them to control their environment.

      Reply
      • 8. Adrian  |  December 30, 2012 at 3:10 am

        their own thermostats = their own HVAC system. just because the HVAC system isn’t in the store doesn’t mean there isn’t a seperate AC unit for every store with a thermostat.

  • 9. David  |  December 20, 2012 at 2:35 am

    Its really an amazing info..

    Reply
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  • 11. Shane  |  December 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Human Ant Farm

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  • 12. Gary  |  December 30, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Mechanical engineers generally use a heat contribution of 300 BTU per hour (BTUh) for each person the space is expected to accommodate. Very large spaces with large gatherings of people quite possibly generate enough heat to require cooling any time of year.

    There are minimum requirements to introduce outside air. Especially in the food court where the cooking hoods exhaust to the exterior and there’s a requirement for makeup air to replace what’s been exhausted.

    . I’ve been in large regional malls where it was difficult to open the exterior door because the tenants would turn off their makeup air fans so they didn’t have to pay to condition the outside air; either heat in winter or cool in summer. This threw the air balance off causing an inside pressure which was less than the outside making the door hard to pull open.

    Reply
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  • 14. WES JOHNSON  |  December 30, 2012 at 3:11 am

    THIS NOT SOME GENIUS THING THAT THE MALL OF aMERICA THOUGHT UP. THIS IS TYPICAL OF ALL SPACES WITH LARGE LIGHTING LOADS AND MASSES OF PEOPLE. I CAN’T THINK OF A MALL THAT HAS TO HEAT IN THE WINTER TIME. A LOT OF STORES HAVE TO RUN A/C IN THE WINTER TIME TO COUNTER ACT ALL THERE LIGHTS. THIS IS SLOWLY GOING TO BE AN ISSUE THOUGH AS WE MOVE TOWARD THE COOLER LED LIGHTING WITH LITTLE HEAT LOADS…..

    Reply
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  • 16. ribice  |  December 30, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Great way to save money :)

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  • 18. aquarium lighting edmonton  |  April 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    The Boeing production facility in Everett wa, WA has no heating units, just those huge lighting that keep the place warm during the cold months season.

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  • 21. Mall of America's New $100 Million Neighbor | Mashalot  |  June 9, 2013 at 11:18 am

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