HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems are essential for maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor environment in commercial buildings.
Here are the 10 things commercial real estate (CRE) property teams need to ensure are part of their HVAC health and safety plan:
- Preventive maintenance
- Filter changes
- Ductwork inspection
- Energy efficiency
- Indoor air quality
- Tenant comfort
- Team training
- Retrofit or upgrades
- Building automation
- Emergency preparedness
1. Preventive maintenance
Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance is essential to maintain the efficiency and longevity of an HVAC system. This includes tasks such as cleaning filters, inspecting belts, checking refrigerant levels, lubricating motors, and examining electrical connections.
The biggest bottleneck with preventive maintenance, however, is that property teams don’t always have full visibility into their HVAC systems across buildings or a portfolio. Or, when property teams are still manually logging maintenance activities, information often gets lost.
When property teams have full visibility into their preventive maintenance plans and tasks, lifespan of equipment can grow ten-fold. It’s all about improving preventive operations to reduce capital expenditures and maximize asset value.
2. Filter changes
Perhaps this tip is going way back to the basics, but it’s important and deserves its own spot on this list for a reason. Dirty filters can significantly affect the performance of an HVAC system, leading to higher energy consumption and decreased indoor air quality.
Over time, filters accumulate dust, dirt, and debris that obstruct the airflow and forces the HVAC system to work harder to keep the desired temperature. This increased strain on the equipment leads to higher energy consumption, reduced equipment life, and can even cause system failure. Dirty filters can also negatively affect indoor air quality.
It’s critical to replace filters regularly based on the manufacturer’s recommendations or more often if needed due to specific site conditions. Changing filters is a simple way to take control of your HVAC health and safety plan.
3. Ductwork inspection
Ductwork inspection is another essential part of a successful HVAC health and safety plan. Over time, ducts can develop leaks, accumulate debris, or become damaged – all of which will compromise HVAC performance and can eat away at the building’s bottom line. For example, leaks in ductwork result in significant energy loss, as heated or cooled air escapes. That means higher energy bills and unnecessary strain on equipment.
Meanwhile, built-up dirt and debris in the ducts will impede airflow and contribute to poor indoor air quality and pose potential health risks to tenants. Making sure ductwork inspection is included in your HVAC health and safety plan is key to keeping tenants happy and healthy.
4. Energy efficiency
Optimizing your costly, energy-hungry HVAC system is one key way to increase energy efficiency and curb your emissions.
Periodically evaluate your HVAC system’s energy efficiency and consider upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment when it’s time to replace components or the entire system. This can help reduce operational costs and minimize the environmental impact.
There is also technology available that taps into artificial intelligence to help you optimize HVAC performance and reduce energy consumption. This type of software has the ability to plug into the existing building management system and cut annual energy costs by at least 20%.
5. Indoor air quality
Health and wellness are also stronger priorities now, in the aftermath of the pandemic. That means your HVAC has to maintain ASHRAE standards for indoor air quality and ventilation.
You can ensure proper ventilation and support good indoor air quality by monitoring carbon dioxide levels, humidity, and temperature. This is important not only for occupant comfort but also for compliance with local regulations and guidelines. It’s best to implement technology that can help, as manually monitoring indoor air quality is daunting. Nonetheless, monitoring and adjusting to improve indoor air quality is paramount for tenant comfort.
6. Tenant comfort
According to a recent industry survey, 70% of commercial building tenant requests are for comfort issues, such as temperature complaints and after-hours climate control.
Cool mornings and warm afternoons can result in outdoor temps that span 20 to 30 degrees. This results in frequent “comfort swings,” when tenants adjust the thermostat to offset the warm or cool outside temps. Some regions experience high humidity, causing your HVAC to run more often to keep building occupants comfortable.
Tools that leverage machine learning will empower you to automatically optimize your HVAC system. Not only can you cut down on temperature-related complaints from tenants, but you’ll also save money on energy costs due to less consumption.
7. Team training
Ensure building staff are properly trained in the operation and maintenance of the HVAC system. This can help prevent issues due to improper handling or neglect. A major concern for property teams, especially during times of high turnover, is how to properly equip engineers. It can be tough to onboard new team members quickly. Knowledge transfer about the HVAC system remains at risk.
One way to tackle this issue is to digitize your HVAC inventory. When all information is in one place and accessible by team members at any time, you can educate staff with central access to equipment manuals, how-to videos, and other resources. Such tools also allow teams to standardize maintenance processes and schedules and spot problems early to avoid costly problems down the line.
8. Retrofit or upgrades
Retrofitting or upgrading an HVAC system can lead to substantial benefits. As HVAC technologies advance, newer systems and components often offer improved efficiency, performance, and control capabilities compared to older equipment. Upgrading or retrofitting the HVAC system can optimize energy use, lower operational costs, and enhance indoor air quality and comfort.
For instance, an upgrade may involve replacing an older, less efficient chiller with a high-efficiency model. Or retrofitting might include adding variable frequency drives to existing motors to allow for better control and energy savings. Upgrades often incorporate smarter control systems that supply better data, enabling more precise management of building climate and further energy savings. While the initial investment can be significant, the long-term savings and improved system reliability often make retrofitting or upgrading a financially and operationally sound decision.
9. Building automation
Building automation systems (BAS) represent a transformative advancement in the management and operation of commercial real estate properties. These systems allow for centralized control over various building systems, including HVAC, lighting, security, and more.
With respect to HVAC systems, a BAS can monitor and adjust temperature, humidity, and airflow in real time, optimizing comfort and energy efficiency across different zones of the building. Advanced analytics provided by these systems can highlight patterns of usage, inefficiencies, and potential maintenance issues before they become critical.
Additionally, many building automation systems can integrate with IoT devices, providing even greater control and customization options. By automating routine tasks and providing insightful data, building automation systems not only enhance building performance and efficiency, but also contribute to significant operational cost savings over time.
10. Emergency preparedness
Emergency preparedness is a critical aspect of building operations that can significantly mitigate the impact of unexpected HVAC system failures or malfunctions. It involves having a robust plan in place to quickly and effectively respond to HVAC emergencies, minimizing downtime and ensuring the safety and comfort of building occupants.
The emergency plan should include a list of qualified service providers, parts suppliers, and clear procedures to follow in case of a system failure. In addition, emergency plans should account for regular system checks to find potential problems early and address them proactively. Backup or alternative heating, cooling, and ventilation solutions may also be included in this plan to provide continuity in service during repairs.
Through effective emergency preparedness, building owners and operators can better manage unforeseen incidents, reducing disruption and potential damage while ensuring the quickest possible return to normal building operations.
Supercharge your HVAC health and safety plan
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