Buildings, bureaucrats, and brutes

CONTROL columnist Béla Lipták, PE, describes a design project for a pretty efficient building: one that heats itself and does not need to pay energy, even when the outside temperature is near freezing.

By Béla Lipták

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The chimney effect (i.e., the tendency of the air to rise in traditional high-rise buildings) also is caused by the reduction in pressure in the building as the elevation increases. We eliminated this effect by maintaining uniform pressure on all floors of the building.

Chimney effect is eliminated by keeping all pressure controller references (setpoints) the same on all floors.

We used the same pressure controls to compensate for the "air pumping" effects of elevators. Naturally, one can maintain the inside pressure constant only if the windows are strong enough to withstand the outward pressure on them, caused by the constant inside pressure while the pressure outside is dropping with rising elevation.

History Interferes
On November 29, 1979, while working on the design of the IBM headquarters building, a letter of mine appeared in the New York Times. In this open letter, I asked the Communist puppet government of Hungary to return the remains of the martyred prime minister Imre Nagy (who was executed after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution) to his family. As a result, I was contacted by the anti-Communist underground and traveled to Hungary. While being harassed by the secret police, we started our search for the (at that time still secret) grave.

In the meantime, on November 12, 1980, a topping out ceremony was held at the IBM building, but by that time I also was deeply involved in my "other" project. On one of my trips to Hungary, as I took my reserved seat on an express train to Nyiregyhaza (a town in northern Hungary), I noticed three familiar faces in my compartment: they belonged to three well-fed young men wearing undersized business suits.

As soon as the train left Budapest, they tried to provoke a fight by calling my mother a "whore" and me a "dirty Jew" and a "faggot." To avoid a fight, I left the compartment and went to the dining car. As I was sipping my coffee at a stand-up table, the three men came in and one walked directly into me so hard that I lost my balance. After they left the dining car, my coffee tasted strange.

Later, I felt so dizzy and weak that I had to lie down on the bare ground in a public place. When I finally got back to my mother's apartment in Budapest, I could not fall asleep. In order to get some rest, I checked into a hospital. While in the hospital--and without permission from me or my family--I was administered electric shocks on four different occasions. As a consequence of that "treatment," I lost much of my memory. To this day, I don't know if this was done because of medical incompetence or due to other reasons, but I do know what it did to my IBM project.

The Windows Are Popping
After that "treatment," my memory was a mess: on one occasion, when two young IBM engineers came to my office to pick up a flow controller, I didn't even recognize them. Ray Moss noticed that there was something wrong with me. On one occasion, he said, "How can a smart guy like you say something so stupid as that?"

Tom Coward also noticed my change and made no secret of his displeasure. Yet, I could not bring myself to tell them the truth, and therefore decided to just fade away from the project. I asked an old friend and colleague, Augie Brodgesell, to supervise the installation and the startup of the building controls at 590 Madison Ave., and thereby ended my involvement with that project.

Around 1985, a couple of events occurred that related to both my IBM and my Hungarian projects. First, I learned that a construction firm in Boston copied our anti-chimney-effect control system, without realizing that it requires reinforced windows. Needless to say, I giggled a bit when I heard on the evening news that windows were "popping out" from a new building in Boston. The other event, which occurred on October 9, 1985, was that my op-ed article was published in the Wall Street Journal. In that piece, I reported that we finally located the secret grave of Imre Nagy. The rest is history . . . .

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