Everything in New Orleans is funky – everything but the air.

Buck Sardi, co-owner of Ponchartrain Air Conditioning, a 10 year old contractor, enjoys a project that presents a challenge, particularly when the project is new and there are lots of parts to the puzzle. Mr. Sardi has seen this type of thing before when he partnered with a company and provided AC repair in Southeast Houston, Texas, but rarely in the Big Easy.

One of Sardi’s most recent challenges was to engineer and install climate control for City Lights, a chic new night spot in the heart of New Orleans’ revitalized warehouse district.

In a sense, City Lights was already a success, thanks to a sister club, Ditka’s City Lights, i downtown Chicago. Given New Orleans’ burgeoning visitor trade and a proven formula, the owners believed the club had excellent potential and were very specific about what they wanted.

A top priority was a pleasing, humidity-balanced environment–a tall order for a club that sits four blocks from a river in a city known for its 90 F, 90 percent RH climate. The second requirement was for air that was free of odors and smoke.

The building that houses City Lights is a stately turn-of-the-century structure with brick walls, wooden trusses, and massive exposed beams. The real key to the building’s charm, however–and one of the major challenges to effective climate control–was the 40 ft high cathedral ceiling.

One of the special effects used at City Lights is a high humidity vapor that bounces a rainbow of laser lights above the dance floor. The vapor is emitted near the ceiling, and the system had to be engineered so that the lighting effects wouldn’t be destroyed by the air conditioner or the air cleaner. Assurances also had to be given that the high water content of the decorative smoke wouldn’t compromise the effectiveness of whatever air cleaner was selected.

Ponchartrain Air Conditioning selected air conditioning equipment that would provide City Lights with 100 tons of cooling capacity. Three units continuously supply 4500 cfm of outside air–7 cfm per person when the club is at capacity. Because Ponchartrain sells a variety of air cleaning equipment from several manufacturers, Sardi had a number of options for this part of the project. Test data and references from other contractors influenced his decision to install passive electrostatic air cleaners.

These units are distinctive in that they are available with several types of inserts for combating different contaminants. In this case, the units were equipped with charcoal inserts that remove a wide variety of atmospheric contaminants, including tobacco smoke and the gases that always emanate from new building materials.

A major benefit is the units’ passive design, which does not consume electricity and does not use a power back or other device that can create service and warranty problems. Also, each air cleaner is permanent, with an indefinite service life. As is the case with all charcoal inserts, absorption of smoke and other contaminants will eventually saturate the insert. When this occurs, a simple replacement of the insert is all that’s required. The only other maintenance ever needed is periodic cleaning with plain water or a common household spray cleaner.