Offices are being redesigned to cope with blended working so building owners need flexibility from their HVAC

The office will never be the same again. COVID-19 forced a working-from-home experiment on businesses that has shown many workers can be just as productive when based away from the office.

And a lot of employees have expressed a preference for continued home working, for at least some of the week

Hybrid working is the option that many businesses are taking, with employees coming into an office location two or three days each week.

The future of the office is changing, and so are the demands being placed on building services.

Erling Binns Erling Binns Business Development Manager

A drop-in meeting place

The property market is already responding to these trends. Businesses are reducing their reliance on single city-centre location and looking to offer teams more local office space on a ‘drop-in’ basis, or as a venue for meetings with colleagues and clients.

As a result, building owners are re-thinking their property offerings.

The watchword now is ‘flexibility’. The ability to offer welcoming, comfortable spaces where people can drop in to work away from the home office is combined with a requirement for larger meeting spaces for collaborative work. 

What’s more, clients are looking for high quality workspaces that create an environment that will make their staff want to be there.  

Flexible heating and cooling

Building services such as heating, cooling and hot water provision also need to move with the times to offer flexible solutions for building managers.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we have been working with clients to help them make the most of systems that allow for flexible services design.

One example is, the Hybrid VRF (HVRF) system which is particularly well suited to flexible office space. A central hybrid branch controller delivers cooling to indoor units using water as the medium in the occupied space.

The flexibility of HVRF makes it ideal for office fit-outs, as it offers the ability to make layout changes easily – so shifting from open plan to smaller offices is much easier.

And as the system is decentralised, it is easy to take a phased approach to installation – so the air conditioning system can grow with the building’s requirements.

Chilled out solutions

For projects where chiller technology is specified, there are a range of options, including the modern, inverter-driven e-series Modular Chiller.

The e-series allows for up to six individual units to connect and provide a highly flexible system capacity from 90kW to 1080kW.

This is an ideal solution for buildings that are gradually increasing occupancy as modular chillers can be added in the future.

Air purification

And let’s not forget indoor air quality.

Everyone is much more aware of the health impacts of air quality, and not just because of airborne viruses.

Mitsubishi Electric’s latest filtration technology is the Plasma Quad Connect which can be bolted on to new and existing air conditioning units across the RAC (Room Air Conditioning), PAC (packaged Air Conditioning) and VRF systems.

This includes the M Series, Mr Slim and City Multi ranges. Plasma Quad Connect works like an electrical curtain to catch and neutralise even microscopic particles in the air, to significantly improve indoor air quality.

Take full control

Health and wellbeing are going to be vital for the future office, so control systems that reduce touch-points around a building can be very helpful.

We offer several built-in sensor options such as the PAR-UO2. There is also the 3D i-See Sensor Grille which is a 360o sensor that detects human body temperature, providing monitoring of room occupancy and position detection.

These controllers can turn the air conditioning in a space on and off without the need for occupants to touch switches at all.

Automated system control also helps to overcome the challenge of less predictable occupancy levels.

As staff numbers vary more widely and less predictably during the working week, pre-setting controls to optimise energy efficiency is more difficult.

Systems that can respond directly to demand (and switch off when not required) therefore go a long way to keeping energy use in check, while supporting occupant comfort.

The future of the office is changing, and so are the demands being placed on building services.

This is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity to show building owners and managers the latest technologies that can help them make sure that their office space is an asset that lasts well into the future – and provides excellent services for their tenants.

Erling Binns, Business Development Manager