Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor arrive at the UK premiere of 'The Island' at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London, England, Aug. 7, 2005. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right? 'The Island' Edition

March 24, 2015
An engineer who moonlights as a film critic reviews "The Island" as part of HPAC Engineering’s “HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right?” series.

Editor’s note: Hollywood long has been known for—ahem—taking liberties with the truth (just ask any composite character). In HPAC Engineering’s ongoing series “HVAC in Popular Movies: Did Hollywood Get It Right?," Ron Wilkinson, a professional engineer who moonlights as a film critic, takes a look at movies and television series whose makers may or may not have let HVAC fundamentals get in the way of a good story.

Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor arrive at the UK premiere of "The Island" at the Odeon Leicester Square cinema in London, England, Aug. 7, 2005. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

The Island (2005)

In this science-fiction thriller, the year is 2019, and Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor), Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and others live a seemingly utopian existence in a tightly controlled facility. They believe the outside world has become too contaminated to sustain human life, the exception being “The Island,” where citizens are chosen to live through a weekly lottery. Lincoln becomes suspicious about what he has been told about the outside world when he discovers a live moth in a ventilation shaft.

This author has seen some pretty poor outside-air filters, but one with a MERV rating permitting moths is definitely not up to spec.

Eventually, Lincoln and Jordan discover the truth from facility technician James McCord (Steve Buscemi):

To escape the facility, the two plucky leads jump into the slime duct (every building should have one) and drop immediately into the brain-conditioning room. Next door is the outside-air plenum with requisite huge ventilation fan moving at a snail’s pace.

At the end of the film, Lincoln and Jordan are running for their lives, and there is only one way to escape the massive security force on their heels: The vent-fan VFD breaker is opened (disconnected), which causes the fan's speed to increase to infinity. When the fan disintegrates, the resulting shrapnel destroys the entire evil complex.

Warning: This video contains violence.

About the Author

RON WILKINSON PE LEED AP CPMP | Principal

The founding principal of Seattle-based Wilkinson Commissioning Management, Ron Wilkinson, PE, LEED AP, CPMP, is the author of the first commissioning training program for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for New Construction and Major Renovations Green Building Rating System and the founding recording secretary for ASHRAE Guideline Project Committee 0.2/1.2, The Commissioning Process for Existing Building Systems and Assemblies/The Commissioning Process for Existing HVAC&R Systems. An ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer and an American Institute of Architects Continuing Education Lecturer, he has spoken on commissioning practices internationally. He is a longtime member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board.