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Campo Felice Senior Living Community

VRF For Senior Housing

On the site of the landmark Ambassador Hotel in downtown Fort Myers, Campo Felice senior living community had a prime location, and aspirational goal: “Evoke a joy for living well every day.” Developers set out to fully renovate the 24-story riverfront high-rise, converting it into 323 independent living apartment homes with one and two bedrooms and multiple floor plans. Resort inspired amenities would include concierge service, a movie theater, restaurants and state-of-the-art health and wellness facilities – all with the goal of providing residents a level of comfort that Campo Felice owner Rob Harris describes as equivalent to “a five-star hotel for seniors.”

That five-star comfort extends right to their heating and cooling systems.

Harris and his partners wanted HVAC heating, ventilation, air conditioning technology that would create an extremely comfortable environment with individual control, to simultaneously meet the varied temperature needs of the senior population. The system also had to be incredibly reliable to ensure it would perform on the high heat index days so common in Florida. Energy efficiency was another priority.


When redeveloping and repurposing a 24-story former hotel in Fort Myers, its owners wanted to create a comfortable living environment in every way for the senior residents, right down to the building’s heating and cooling. That meant installing a highly efficient, highly flexible HVAC system for the 345,822 square-foot complex. The system had to provide individual temperature control from one apartment to the next while accounting for varied floor plans and high ceilings of a renovated historic building. Their chosen HVAC also needed to perform in the hot Florida climate.


To maximize efficiency without sacrificing comfort, the owners decided against traditional heating and cooling, instead installing an ECOi Variable Refrigerant Flow System. A fast growing technology in the Northern American HVAC market, Panasonic’s ECOi VRF line is designed for energy savings, easy installation and high efficiency, providing the flexibility to create comfortable living in diverse spaces.


ECOi VRF is 30-40% more efficient than traditional HVAC systems, according to Panasonic estimates, allowing for dramatic reduction in energy use and therefore reduced costs, and reduced carbon emissions. The zoned nature of ECOi VRF enables it to provide just the right amount of heating or cooling to individual rooms, maximizing residents’ comfort. “What makes Panasonic different is that they care about what's going to happen with the project. They care about the success of the owner and in particular the end user,” said Heather Hsi, PE.

Comfort meets efficiency

Senior communities like Campo Felice have special challenges. Some seniors need their living space to be really warm, depending on health conditions, and others prefer a cool room temperature. “In an assisted living facility, you have people who need different things at the same time. Having a heat recovery option gives you the flexibility of simultaneous heating and cooling,” notes mechanical contractor Tom Talbott. There are also variances that happen from one space to the next in a large building. Rooms range from one bedroom to two with varying floor plans, plus many multi-use spaces. Comfort needs to be keep up with each space.

The owners of Campo Felice decided against traditional heating and cooling, instead opting to install an ECOi Variable Refrigerant Flow System from Panasonic. A fast-growing technology in the Northern American HVAC market, the ECOi VRF line is designed for energy savings, easy installation and high efficiency. Panasonic estimates the ECOi VRF line is 30-40% more efficient than traditional HVAC systems, and that efficiency means reduced operating costs.

Design flexibility

With nearly 500 tons of installed capacity the Campo Felice deployment is one of the largest VRF installations for a senior living facility in the state of Florida, according to Panasonic calculations.

It required flexible yet efficient HVAC management of 345,822 square feet. Developers stripped the building of all obsolete mechanical systems, drywall, glass, plumbing and air conditioning, taking it back to a shell.

Still architects needed to work within the existing structure and design for challenges like the roof and high ceilings. “Panasonic offered a slimline model with less than eight inches of height that allowed us to keep the overall volume of the room. You don’t really notice that the air handler is there,” said Mike Sheeley, lead architect for the renovation.

Campo Felice VRF

The right temp. The right place.

Each individual unit has a 7-day programmable thermostat that communicates with the central handling unit and not only controls that resident’s own heating and cooling but also the time of day and operation scheduling. Many tenants visit Campo Felice on vacation, only staying three or four months a year. These residents can set the temperature for a vacant space when they leave, and save a tremendous amount of energy.

The central controller, located on the main floor of the building, monitors key settings such as the temperature, the setpoint, how each unit is responding to the temperature command. It is also designed to promptly alert maintenance engineering staff of any system problems even ones the tenant doesn’t know about. The ECOi VRF system is completely web enabled, allowing the building management to have complete control wherever they are.

The panel consists of individual power supplies and also individual isolated fans designed to induce airflow up through the units. This helps prevent the electronics from overheating, mitigating the chance of failure on the hottest Florida days.

Owner Rob Harris applauds the HVAC system’s ease of install, its clean aesthetic, as well as its performance, energy efficiency and price. Choosing Panasonic ECOi VRF, the Campo Felice owners are providing residents five-star comfort, without sacrificing efficiency.  

These people who are going to live here deserve to have a very comfortable environment and control over the environment. That's what Panasonic is providing with this type of solution.
Heather Hsi PE