SVL Projects - Commercial Office

Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative - Daikin VRV

Chippewa Valley Electrical Cooperative (CVEC) began building their new headquarters office in the fall of 2014. CVEC has a proud history of promoting energy saving solutions to its 7,500 residential and commercial customers. So, when it came time to select an HVAC system for its new facility, CVEC felt it had to lead by example.


River Valley Architects

Building Owner

Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative

Mechanical Contractor


Project Information

Building Type: Office
Floors: 1
Square Feet: 8,885 sq ft Heat/Cool Office
13,585 sq ft Heat Equipment Bay Warehouse
Manufacturer’s Representative: Matt Davids, Project Manager, SVL, Shoreview, MN
Building Owner: Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, Cornell, WI
Architect: Linda L. Powers, River Valley Architects
Consulting Engineer: Todd Armstrong, Mechanical Engineer, Apex Engineering, Eau Claire, WI
Daikin Sales Representative: Jim Moore, Commercial Account Manager, Daikin North America LLC


As the saying goes, “Practice What You Preach,” was in order for Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC) who promotes energy saving solutions to residential and commercial customers. CVEC required an HVAC system they could showcase in their new office, that was highly efficient, easy to maintain, quiet, comfortable and centrally controlled.


Daikin’s VRV-W water source heat recovery system and centralized Navigation control system created the showcase HVAC system that CVEC desired. A geothermal condensing loop, connected to a VRV-W water source heat recovery system, maximized the system efficiency. The compact, quiet system was easily installed in an interior mechanical room for easy monitoring and maintenance.

Project Details

Chippewa Valley Electrical Cooperative (CVEC) began building their new headquarters office in the fall of 2014. CVEC has a proud history of promoting energy saving solutions to its 7,500 residential and commercial customers. So, when it came time to select an HVAC system for its new facility, CVEC felt it had to lead by example. The HVAC system needed to be highly efficient, easy to maintain, quiet, comfortable and interlocked with a make-up air system using centralized controls.

A variety of systems were reviewed for the project. These included traditional water source heat pumps (WSHP), water cooled VRV, and four-pipe fan coils. After thorough analysis, a Daikin water cooled VRV-W heat recovery system with i-Touch Manager with BACnet® interface was selected.

A Daikin VRV-W heat recovery system provides a highly efficient heating and cooling solution for the variety of fan coils located throughout the building’s office space. Compared to the previous office space with baseboard electric heating, the new office, with multiple fan coils, provides more zoning control and subsequent comfort. VRV-W condensers are connected directly to a closed-loop geothermal field providing additional efficiency opportunities and the ability for the VRV system to provide heat in extreme Wisconsin winters.

A small, single computer equipment server room required 24-hour cooling and individual temperature control. Wall space for computer racks was too valuable to hang a wall unit, and using a ducted unit for only one room didn’t make sense. A single 4-Way Blow Ceiling-Suspended Cassette was installed centrally within the computer room, but not over top any computer equipment. This was a perfect application to simply attach the lowprofile cassette unit to the concrete ceiling.

A non-VRV system conditions other portions of the facility. The geothermal water loop also supplies heat to water-to-water heat pumps. The heat pumps provide hot water for in-floor radiant heat in an equipment bay and four feet inside the perimeter of the building.

The Daikin VRV system fits the budget of traditional WSHP equipment, while offering high efficiency and the ability to consolidate the condensing units in one mechanical room. Additional performance gains, as compared to the old, previous office space with electric base board heating was captured through the VRV system’s ability to modulate condenser water flow according to the building’s heating and cooling demand. Water flow was modulated using customized programming implemented through a Daikin i-Touch Manager (iTM) centralized control and add-on control modules.

The iTM and add-on control modules were also able to control non-VRV related equipment including bathroom exhaust fans and energy recovery ventilators for the office area and makeup air control for the equipment bay area.

Daikin recently reached out to Chippewa Valley and the mechanical engineer responsible for the design after a full year of occupancy. “I’m convinced water cooled VRV systems are a viable alternative to traditional systems,” said Todd Armstrong of Apex Engineering. “They cost about the same to install as WSHP systems and also offer additional efficiency and maintenance benefits. Owners like the idea of being able to consolidate the compressors in one location as well. We’ve already installed three of these systems and have another in the pipeline. I was also impressed by how seamless and easy it was to integrate the equipment controls. It would have probably taken a third-party controls sub-contractor hundreds of hours to program and integrate the  system. It only took Schwab Vollhaber Lubratt, along with Daikin technicians, two days to start-up the entire system.”

CVEC has been very impressed with their VRV-W water cooled system. “The power bill for the entire year, using the VRV system, was equal to one month’s heating bill with the old system,” said Russ Falkenberg, Director of IT and Member Services, CVEC.

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                      Jim Lubratt

                      President & Chief Executive Officer

                      Jim Lubratt has been president of SVL since 2006. He first joined the company as a sales engineer in 1992 and was made a partner in 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Southern Methodist University and first entered the HVAC industry as a marketing engineer for a heat pump manufacturer in Texas.

                      In addition to his role at SVL, Jim is vice president of AQC Industries, LLC, a manufacturer of specialized underground ductwork systems. He is also an investor and board member for Hydromx, Inc., a manufacturer of heat transfer nanofluids, and Crotega, Inc., creators of personal and building security solutions.

                      Jim and his wife, Tracy, met in college and married in 1993. They have three children, two of whom have graduated college in Texas, while their youngest is attending Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

                      Outside of work, Jim places a priority on his faith, family, friends, and fitness. He enjoys helping people-supporting charities, time with his wife and kids, road-biking with friends and efforts to stay physically fit.

                      A message from Jim on the achievements of SVL

                      SVL started in February 1967 by Charlie Schwab and Craig Vollhaber. Schwab-Vollhaber, Inc. (as it was named at the time) steadily grew and, in 1985, welcomed Paul Lubratt as another partner, becoming Schwab-Vollhaber-Lubratt, Inc. SVL’s founders had the determination to build the most talented, customer-focused HVAC representative in the Midwest. Our original drive and passion still shape the company and culture to this day. The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of every individual. From humble beginnings, SVL founders paved the way to industry success with hard work and determination. “Today, SVL is strongly organized with great people to lead our industry forward as we are challenged with fast-paced changes to reduce our environmental impact,” says Jim. Now, 55+ years later, SVL is under the leadership of two new principals who share the same vision and drive that has propelled SVL throughout the years. Built on a foundation of integrity, Jim Lubratt, and Charlie Vollhaber strive to ensure opportunities for personal growth, improved work environment, and shared life enrichment. The achievements of our organization are the results of the combined efforts of every individual.

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                      Charlie Vollhaber

                      Executive Vice President & Officer

                      Charlie Vollhaber is a third-generation employee at SVL, as a grandson of company co-founder Craig Vollhaber and son of former CEO Todd Vollhaber. Charlie holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Minnesota. He became an outside salesman for SVL in 2013, was made a partner in 2019, and then executive vice president and officer in 2022.

                      He grew up playing sports, including football, basketball, golf, and track, and enjoys the competitive nature of the HVAC industry. “I like that no two days are ever the same as there are always questions to answer and problems to solve,” he says. “Most of all, I enjoy working with great people and coordinating together on challenging projects to achieve positive results together.”

                      Outside of work, Charlie enjoys spending time with his wife, Lesley, and their three boys. He’s also fond of golfing, traveling, and attending concerts and sporting events. One of his favorite quotes is from the book of Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count other more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Because HVAC and construction is such a team effort, he says, “this mindset helps to create positive results in a vast majority of situations.”

                      A message from Charlie on the culture of SVL

                      “At SVL, we strive to cultivate a unique culture that revolves around finding and empowering exceptional individuals. We believe in equipping our team members with the right tools and resources to succeed.

                      As we’ve grown the business, we have deliberately maintained a small firm culture, fostering an environment where collaboration thrives. We encourage open dialogue and promote a sense of comfort among our employees, allowing anyone to ask questions and seek guidance from anyone else, regardless of their level within the organization.

                      We foster a workshop-like atmosphere where everyone’s contribution is valued. Presenting your work to another individual or a group of teammates provides a platform for collaboration, where ideas are shared, dissected, and improved collectively. We firmly believe in the power of mentoring and provide various avenues for both formal and informal guidance. Whether it’s through structured training programs or casual conversations, we encourage team members to discuss a wide range of topics, from work-related successes or issues to everyday personal life topics.

                      In summary, our culture is built on the foundation of attracting exceptional individuals, empowering them with the necessary tools, and fostering a collaborative environment where mentorship and growth thrive. We are committed to creating an atmosphere where every team member feels supported, valued, and encouraged to reach their fullest potential.”

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                      Al Gramse

                      Vice President of SVL Service Corporation

                      Al Gramse has been in the HVAC industry for over 30 years. He began as a service technician.  Then over his career worked in technical support, building automation, then service manager prior to his current role.

                      How did Al end up in the HVAC industry?  “After high school, I took a couple years to figure out what I wanted to do.   Where I was working at the time, a grumpy old coworker, who I didn’t get along with, walked up to me and said ‘What are you doing here?  Go back to school.’”  I said, “For what?”  He said “There’s a tech school down the street.  Go down there and pick something that interests you”. Then he walked away.  That weird interaction, with someone I didn’t get along with, sent me down a 30-year path in the HVAC industry.   Never underestimate the potential of a little encouragement.   Even if it is from a strange source.

                      Al has been with SVL for 15 years and is the head of our SVL Service division. “The people here are some of the best in the industry,” Al says. “A bunch of team-oriented, knowledgeable, go-getters.” His personal mantra is “figure it out,” “Do a little fact-finding on your own. Use your own brain before you use someone else’s. But know when to ask for help.” he prescribes. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish on your own if you dig in a little bit.”

                      Outside of work, Al has lots of outdoor hobbies, including hunting, fishing, and motorcycling, though his favorite pastime is simply hanging out with family.

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                      Jennifer Roach

                      Director of Marketing, Events & Administration

                      More than just a creative director, Jen brings 30 years of marketing and leadership magic to SVL. Her journey began in the trenches of graphic design, quickly evolving into crafting eye-catching campaigns for iconic brands like Target, Gabberts, Gander Mountain and Camping World. As a seasoned director and agency veteran, she honed her skills with recreational vehicle giant Parts Unlimited before leading creative teams at HOM Furniture and, ultimately, landing at SVL during a crucial growth phase.

                      Jen thrives on "servant-leadership," empowering her team and fostering a culture of trust and mutual respect. "It unlocks their potential, fuels creativity, and leads to work we're all proud of," she says. "I want my team to care, collaborate, and push boundaries together."

                      When not shaping impactful campaigns, Jen enjoys weekend adventures with her husband, Scott, and son, Crew. Their lives are a tapestry of shared passions, from bike rides and baking experiments to cheering on Simley High School wrestlers. And with her recently built forever home in Cottage Grove, her free time now includes a new, thrilling chapter: weekend renovation warrior!

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                      Mike Ruff

                      Vice President of Information Technology

                      Mike Ruff, the Vice President of Information Technology at SVL Inc., is a seasoned professional with an impressive 24-year tenure in the IT industry. His journey in the field is marked by extensive experience and expertise in various domains, including serving as a Cloud Architect focusing on Azure Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and both B2B and B2C solutions. Mike’s skills extend to being a Security Architect, where he has honed his knowledge in safeguarding digital assets, and he is also proficient in the Microsoft 365 stack, virtualization, routing, switching, and wireless technologies.

                      Beyond his professional roles, Mike is deeply passionate about technology in all its forms, which is evident in his career and personal hobbies. His love for technology is not just limited to his work but also spills over into his leisure activities. In the summertime, Mike enjoys the thrill of riding his motorcycle, embracing the freedom and adventure it brings. When winter arrives, he switches gears to snowboarding, seeking the excitement and challenge of the snowy slopes. These hobbies reflect Mike’s dynamic personality and continuous pursuit of technically engaging and physically exhilarating activities.

                      Mike Ruff's blend of professional expertise and personal passions make him a unique and valuable asset to SVL Inc., embodying a perfect synergy of technical acumen and a zest for life's adventurous aspects.

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