As the worst of winter approaches, Dennis Flower looks at effective strategies for HVAC

We’ve been quite lucky with the weather so far this winter, but we can be fairly certain that we will get some cold, bad spells before we start to see any sign of spring shooting up.

Preparing for all eventualities is therefore essential in keeping facilities open throughout the winter months and particularly key in maintaining comfort levels for building users.

One of the most emotive topics seen by facilities managers in the running of all types of buildings is that of temperature, particularly when a number of individuals use the same space.

We’ve all seen ‘battles’ for the control of the office thermostat and this can increase in intensity during the winter. It is also likely to be another area affected by climate change, particularly when conditions and temperatures fluctuate so unseasonably.

In order to avoid these issues escalating further, it is essential for every FM to ensure that all HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) plant and equipment is maintained correctly with a sensible PPM (Planned Preventative Maintenance) programme in place.

The right strategy can avoid unpleasant surprises

Dennis Flower PfM Dennis Flower Editor of Premises & Facilities Management

Monitoring

All of this equipment should also be monitored wherever possible to help avoid breakdowns and interruptions in service.

The majority of FMs are aware that the monitoring of systems has become so much easier, particularly for more modern installations.  This is also true where effective strategies have been established with a view to keeping everything operating at the most efficient and effective level.

It is also becoming far more common to see systems monitored remotely from afar, with the best examples allowing necessary adjustments to be made without even needing to send engineers to the plant room to do them.

However, we also all need to be aware that those making these changes have to have the necessary level of expertise to make sure that any changes are made within the boundaries of the on-site protocols.

Higher carbon footprint

Although the installation of new and updated systems in recent years can be seen to allow these to be maintained to a high level of effectiveness, there is another side of the story we need to be aware of.

Industry experts regularly relate how many older systems are continuing to operate after being changed and updated over the years, when perhaps they have gone well past their ‘sell by’ date and an upgrade would be a much more efficient option.

The result is that the heating and cooling systems can often be working against each other at this time of the year, having a highly negative impact on energy efficiency levels and increasing the carbon footprint of the building.

With sustainability high on everyone’s agenda, the effective maintenance of these HVAC systems over the winter months should play a major role in keeping these policies on track.

This not only allows people in these buildings to work at their most comfortable and efficient levels, it can also help avoid unpleasant surprises by reducing the chance of breakdowns at times of increased demand.

Dennis Flower is editor of Premises & Facilities Management