Facilities management comprises ‘hard services’ and ‘soft services,’ with the former relating to functionally important (such as mechanical and electrical) systems and the latter to less structural services such as cleaning and grounds maintenance. Inspired by National HVAC Technology Day (22 June), we’re spreading the importance of HVAC systems as part of hard facilities management services.
HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. From family homes to large office buildings, these systems “provide the means for environmental comfort” by providing heating, cooling, and airflow to all buildings.
The heating element of an HVAC system typically refers to a furnace or boiler, and its “pipe system for the fluid carrying the heat or ductwork” when working with forced air systems using air ducts and/or vents. Heating is just one important factor in keeping a working environment comfortable and suitable for use, especially in the cold and wet UK weather.
Ventilation can either be natural or mechanical. Ventilating a building naturally refers to “when the natural air outside moves through your windows, doors, and vents of its own accord” without the need for “specialised equipment, construction, or add-ons.” Mechanical ventilation, then, is when this equipment is present. Modern buildings are becoming more tightly sealed and thus need both natural and mechanical ventilation. Air enters the building through a “specially designed air inlet unit” and then redistributed throughout the building, often being used to “remove dust/dirt, allergens, and various other particles” along the way.
Finally, AC or Air Conditioning refers to cooling systems that work by moving the heat from inside the building to the outside, then blowing cool air back into the building. Air conditioning machines cool the air by “blowing it over a set of cool pipes, called an evaporator coil,” similar to a refrigerator. There is specific UK government guidance to follow for people managing air conditioning systems and meeting the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations.
As HVAC systems “are responsible for the regulation of heat, airflow, ventilation, and air conditioning of an entire building,” they’re essential to the comfort and safety of visitors and employees. Regarding legal compliance, the law states that “employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.” All building owners and facility managers should opt for reliable and safe HVAC systems in their buildings.
HVAC systems play a vital role in the safe return to office buildings once the COVID-19 work from home order lifts. Adequate ventilation “reduces how much virus is in the air,” lowering the risk from airborne virus transmission (when optimised alongside other COVID-19 guidelines such as sanitisation, masks, and social distancing).
It’s important to make buildings COVID-secure for when employees return to office work. Alongside providing guidance to facility managers on air conditioning units and vehicle ventilation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends following these steps for HVAC systems in your building:
There are already advancements being made in the world of HVAC technology. Cielo claims that “fully automated, super-efficient, self-learning and sustainable HVAC systems are the future.” Recent advancements in HVAC technology/capabilities include smart technology and automation, sustainable geothermal systems, ductless systems, solar-powered HVAC systems, and more. We’re moving towards a greener, more sustainable world, and facility managers need to keep up with the changing scape of cost and energy-efficient HVAC systems.
Most businesses require scheduled maintenance in one form or another. From regular HVAC inspections to fire and security alarm checks, planned maintenance tasks are key in keeping facilities running smoothly and efficiently with minimal down periods or costly repairs.
In facility management, scheduled maintenance – or Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) – refers to the “proactive approach to maintenance in which maintenance work is scheduled to take place regularly and consequently documented once it has taken place.” PPM is routinely performed either monthly, quarterly, seasonally, yearly, or set to a custom timeframe; it all depends on the types of maintenance in question.
There are statutory (set by the government) and regulatory (set by regulatory bodies) laws and legislation relating to PPM of which businesses must be compliant. Planned, proactive FM services help to ensure that your business is following maintenance compliance laws, legislation, and guidelines, as well as protect the health and safety of employees and visitors on the premises.
Facility managers need to keep track of all planned maintenance and ensure legal compliance. It is wise to set aside maintenance windows at the beginning of the year, letting others in the business know of maintenance periods well in advance to avoid too much downtime. To do this, you’ll need to have a good idea of which maintenance tasks need to take place and when.
You will need to schedule maintenance and routine tasks for each of the following areas:
Keeping up with so many maintenance renewal dates and appointments can be difficult, especially if you’re hiring several different companies at once. Using one external company that includes a combination of FM services, such as Facility Services Group, will help you manage your PPM, dealing with maintenance and providing multiskilled engineers on your behalf in line with your renewal dates.
The arguments for and against PPM all come down to proactive maintenance versus reactive maintenance. Businesses that rely on reactive maintenance rather than proactive, planned maintenance fix problems as they occur. Reactive repairs will cost you more in the long term compared to routine system check-ups, especially if there are severe or urgent problems.
Proactive PPM, although an additional financial commitment, is cost-effective overall due to catching small issues before they become big problems. PPM helps you stay legally compliant as well as reduces the risk of business closures due to unforeseen emergencies. Regular maintenance can also help reduce your facility’s energy bills by keeping your HVAC and power systems running efficiently.
Alongside PPM, urgent reactive maintenance may still be required sometimes for emergencies beyond your control, such as flooding. Having to close your business for a significant amount of time can cause disruption and financial loss, so it’s best to have a 24/7 emergency maintenance/repair service on hand just in case.
Arvato CRM Solutions UK’s site in Swansea has been in partnership with FSG for just over a year and we are delighted with the professional service we have received. Communication and the ability to work with us through often challenging circumstances has been second to none and FSG has fostered an excellent working relationship with our employees. Tasks are completed promptly and efficiently, and FSG staff have a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on to ensure jobs are completed to a very high standard.
Our physical security requirements are stringent and FSG understands the importance of maintaining that level of security and complying with this when working within our environment.
Emma Bloomfield | Facilities Manager | Arvato CRM Solutions, UK
Quantum engaged FSG to undertake Landlord’s works at our commercial property in Swansea. We’ve found them to be professional, flexible and, most importantly, able to hit our demanding deadlines!
Michael Butcher | Commercial Financial Director | Quantum Group