We need to talk about the operational resilience of buildings from day one. Commissioning is simply not given the prominence it should be and this not only affects day-to-day operations, it also shortens equipment life. Things that are most important for the running of a building throughout its life are often given least time in the design and build stage.
Resilience is a term we’ve often heard over the past few years. It might have been linked to national issues such as healthcare, the economy, or business and personal resilience. But it’s also a term that applies to building design and delivery.
When we talk about the operational resilience of a building, we’re thinking about its ability to withstand external shocks (physical resilience) and to provide long-term value to its owners and occupants (financial resilience).
Some buildings are in danger of becoming ‘stranded assets’ if they cannot achieve an EPC rating of B
We’re fortunate in the UK that we don’t have to worry about literal shocks such as earthquakes, but our buildings face a growing number of challenges, for example, the increased risk of flooding.
You only have to watch videos of the effects of June’s downpours in London to see that it’s a problem, even where buildings aren’t close to bodies of water.
But external impacts need not be short-and-sharp, like flash floods or power outages. They can be more long-term and slow-acting. Climate change is the prime example here, with UK weather patterns shifting to increase the likelihood of heatwaves and water shortages.
New buildings must be designed with these problems in mind, and our existing stock updated to withstand these changes.
A building’s physical resilience is not only about design and fabric but also its systems, particularly HVAC.
In our longer, hotter summers, cooling and ventilation systems must work harder to maintain comfortable indoor environments, including good indoor air quality (IAQ).
This means they must be designed for extended operating periods – and maintained with this in mind.
Tenants are driving the agenda
In addition to physical resilience, we must consider economic resilience, particularly in the office sector, where buildings are commercial assets.
Here, the ability to meet growing legislation around energy use and carbon emissions is vital.
For example, we already see some buildings in danger of becoming ‘stranded assets’ if they cannot achieve an EPC rating of B (the minimum standard proposed for 2030).
See the Mitsubishi Electric Guide to Stranded Assets: A Roadmap to Net Zero for new and existing buildings.
And tenants are driving this agenda, too, with the growing adoption of voluntary schemes such as NABERS, which focuses on operational energy use.
Your heating and cooling can help
Again, HVAC systems are central to achieving energy-efficient and sustainable buildings. As some of the most significant energy users in a building, these systems must be designed, installed and commissioned correctly. This applies equally to new-builds and refurbishment projects.
Correct commissioning of air conditioning and ventilation systems will establish the systems to deliver cooling and good IAQ at optimum energy efficiency. Furthermore, commissioning (or re-commissioning in the case of existing buildings) can help identify potential system issues before they become larger problems.
As we know, it’s easy to squeeze time on a project so that set-up and commissioning of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems is cut short (or even omitted).
But in the long-term, this only means more costs (maintenance visits) for the landlord and inconvenience for tenants when the air conditioning breaks down.
With so much now resting on the energy performance of buildings, systems that waste energy and reduce equipment life can’t be shrugged off.
Putting HVAC systems at the back of the queue for consideration on a project is a missed opportunity to ensure resilience.
At Mitsubishi Electric, our team of engineers helps clients to build in efficiency and effectiveness right from the design stage through installation and operation.
Focusing on operational resilience from day one, we aim to help customers reduce operational costs through better energy performance while gaining the benefits of improved occupant comfort and stronger resilience to external stresses and shocks.
Dave Archer is National M&E Manager