NEXT GENERATION FACILITIES MANAGEMENT BY Ashak Nathwani
Indoor thermal climate, air quality, acoustical character and lighting, both natural and artificial, are the principal determinants of occupant overall satisfaction, performance and health within the built environment. Failure to satisfy most basic Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) standards stretches resistance to innovative and sustainable buildings in an inherently conservative property market, forcing owners, including governments at all levels, into costly and often energy-intensive retrofits just to bring buildings to minimum levels of occupant acceptability. However recent emphasis on wellness and wellbeing is indeed changing the built environment scene. Respecting the building occupants requirements is becoming one of the basic tenets of the ‘greener’ building movement, and hence it is not surprising that IEQ and energy related items have been receiving prominence in the current crop of building sustainability indices around the world (e.g. LEED in USA, BREAM in UK, the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star suite of rating tools and the National Australian Building Environmental Rating Scheme (NABERS). All such sustainability rating tools include a significant number of performance points for Energy and IEQ-related vectors, such as thermal comfort, air quality, individual occupant control, adaptive approach, low-polluting materials and the like, that underscore how the resource and IEQ efficiency initiatives become integral to creating sustainable environments for occupant satisfaction and productivity.
Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) is playing a pivotal role. It has become an important
part of modern life. Humans now spend a vast amount of time in artificial environments conditioned
by HVAC systems. It is more prevalent in all types of applications and in many cases even necessary
taking into account the climate change ramifications.
Some of the historical and subsequent reasons for incorporation of HVAC include:
(a) Provision of comfort to enhance occupant productivity through maintenance of acceptable indoor conditions (for a particular activity and clothing) such as:
- Temperature (normal and radiant)
(b) Cleaner Air Quality – through use of appropriate air filtration and air purification in mechanically assisted systems
(c) Code Compliance - in terms of supply of minimum quantity of fresh air in enclosed spaces and exhaust of foul air from spaces that do not have direct access to outdoor area.
(d) Building & Occupant Protection including:
i. Smoke Management – during specific emergency circumstances
ii. Condensation Prevention – mainly for structures and related items.
(e) Process and / or Equipment Cooling
i. Food Industry – where appropriate conditions are essential for the respective consumable and related products
ii. Data Centres – to cater for the high heat loads generated by computers and associated IT equipment
iii. Industrial – to cool the products or environments eg Pharmaceutical, etc
HVAC is also a major contributor to the generation of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Hence each of the above need to be evaluated further as it could lead to root cause(s) of why Australia is one of the highest emitter of GHG per capita. In responding to the challenges of reducing GHG emissions, international, national and local attention has focused on the way buildings are operated. Reduction of the carbon footprint, as measured by GHG emissions, has thus become the primary focus for all involved in the operations of all buildings. To achieve high performing buildings and competitive energy ratings, design and operational strategies are often pushing the comfort parameters into ranges previously not ventured into. And it’s not only occupant comfort being stretched; occupant productivity is also coming under scrutiny in ‘green’ buildings. This indeed is the feedback, both anecdotally as well as through various surveys including Post Occupancy Evaluations. It is no surprise that addressing occupant complaints, related to air conditioning and thermal discomfort, rank so high in every Facility Manager’s daily activity. Many a times the Facility Manager is torn between satisfying the objectives of the Building Owner (reducing carbon footprint) versus meeting the requirements of the Tenants (maintaining indoor thermal comfort). Therefore a balance needs to be reached between adoption of energy efficiency measures and maintenance of required IEQ.
HVAC Systems, over time, have embraced technological innovations whereby each element of an HVAC system attempts to achieve optimum energy efficiency so that the overall energy benefits can be maximised. These include low energy fans, pumps, chillers, boilers and equally importantly the building automation and control systems. Whilst these assist in the reduction of the carbon footprint, it is important to note that selection of the overall type of the HVAC system, such as variable air volume, chilled beams and under floor air distribution, makes a major contribution to the building’s energy consumption profile.
Technological sophistication involving Building Management and Control System (BMCS) and the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT), forecast to replace BMCS, are now requiring the Facility Managers to embrace the next generation of Facility Management techniques. For new developments or major retrofits, passive means of reducing the air conditioning load has become an essential step at the early design phase – especially with the utilisation of advanced simulation software and Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM is now fast progressing to become a vital management instrument for the astute Facility Manager. From BIM 4D and 5D techniques to virtual reality, technology used extensively in the initial planning, design and construction phases of a project is becoming available for the FM fraternity. However when a new building is handed over to the facilities management team, there is a pronounced knowledge gap. It is essential that this knowledge gap between designers and operators is minimized. Facility managers require skill and knowledge now, more so than ever before, to get the best out of all the technology found within a building. In association with the knowledge, the status of facilities managers also needs to be elevated by encouraging those with primary qualifications to carry out further studies so that they can attain a position to extract real value from a building over its 40 to 50-year lifecycle. There is a great need for strategic facility management thinkers and innovators and the higher learning institutions, like universities, collages and FM associations, have a responsibility to address this need.