Shift in Construction Technology for a ‘post-Covid, pre-vaccine’ era

by Amy Butler, JB Associates

In 2017, McKinsey Global Institute slated construction for evolving at a ‘glacial pace’ due to its ranking as the least-digitised industry in Europe. While plenty of technological advances were pitted as ‘on the horizon’, many companies were reluctant to take the necessary steps to push forward with digitisation. Critics warned that a lack of innovation would lead to companies folding, although it took a global pandemic before this prophecy materialised and those without suitable digital infrastructure in place were shaken.

The pandemic is now considered a catalyst for industry improvement, propelling construction out of its ‘glacial’ evolution and deep into the digitised era. A recent study undertaken by Procore found that two thirds of the surveyed construction companies had rolled out new technology during the lockdown, with 94% of these seeing an improvement to productivity and teamwork. However, what exactly are these technologies and where do we go from here?

Smart Buildings

While we are all now experts in the world of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, the challenge lies in returning safely to offices and various other workspaces. With many UK companies pushing for their teams to be back in work physically, how do we ensure that commercial buildings remain safe? Smart Building technology is reshaping the workplace and ensuring safety as well as energy optimisation. Buildings with integrated BMS systems and IoT sensors were already an option before the pandemic. Now, they are a wise choice for business owners.

Essential for a post-Pandemic and pre-Vaccine era, IoT systems can control air quality and ventilation. High-performance air filters and moisture controls will now be key due to Covid-19’s airborne nature. OKTO Technologies (Smart Buildings specialists) have even launched an Artificial Intelligence-led air filtration solution that is reportedly so advanced it can eliminate 99.98% of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) from the air in 10 minutes.

Similarly, density control counters and heat detection cameras can be incorporated into BMS systems to ensure that viruses are less likely to spread or enter into a facility. Airports have been trialling infrared cameras to measure body temperatures for a fever and several companies offer leases or installations for these cameras. While they are not a definitive medical diagnosis, they add a level of reassurance. This may be the aim of much of this technology; a form of due diligence in protecting staff.

BIM & VR

Technological advances are also prominent on site. Construction News reported that contractors employed for the Nightingale Hospital projects found huge value in Autodesk programs. A vital tool for tracking constant streams of updates in rapid working conditions, construction management software proved its worth in recognisably challenging projects across the UK.

As social distancing measures remain in place, it is imperative that technology is prioritised; virtual communication is still far safer than face-to-face. Software like BIM is also providing insights and tools to manage projects during a more challenging time. Even more impressively, companies are merging BIM models with the cloud, GPS and Virtual Reality software. This development means a ‘digital twin’ of a facility can be created and it opens a world of opportunities for Project Management and Design efficiency.

Remote working could even be a trend that stays long past pandemic precautions. Drones have been used previously to reduce safety hazards for technicians and now may be utilised in future remote inspections. Similarly, researchers at the University of Strathclyde have been given £35,000 in funding to create a remote inspection system. The 3D immersive building environment program aims to reduce risks by eradicating the need for Quantity Surveyors or Health and Safety Inspectors to be physically present on site.

Whether enabling remote working, improving the health and safety of commercial buildings or aiding on-site processes, technology has become a necessary tool for construction in the last 6 months. The companies that had embraced digitisation long before 2020 were undoubtedly the ones able to continue thriving in the tough lockdown period. The next step is for many companies is to streamline their management processes or workplace systems to ensure technology works for them as efficiently as possible. Breaking out of its inertia, construction’s ‘glacial evolution’ is firmly in the past and technological advances are here to stay.

This post was authored by Amy Butler of JB Associates – building consultancy specialists. The views expressed are those of the author.

BSRIA Members wishing to make a guest contribution to the BSRIA Blog should please contact marketing@bsria.co.uk

Maintenance of drainage systems to prevent flooding and water pollution

By David Bleicher
BSRIA Publications Manager

Every building has a drainage system. In fact, most have two – a foul drainage system that takes waste from toilets, showers etc. and a storm/surface water drainage system that takes rainwater from roofs and paved areas. Older buildings may have a combined system, and in some locations the infrastructure buried under the street is a combined sewer – a legacy from the pioneering days of city sewerage systems.

As with maintenance of any building services systems, the first step is to know what you’ve got. Every site should have a drainage plan, showing which drains are located where, what direction they flow in and what they connect to. If there isn’t one, it’s not hard to create one – even though the pipes are buried, there’s plenty of evidence above ground in the form of manholes.

When there is a drainage plan, it’s worth checking how correct and up-to-date it is. Sometimes, the exercise of doing this brings up evidence of mis-connections, such as a new loo discharging into a storm manhole. It’s also worth marking drain covers with the service (F for foul or S for storm) and a direction arrow.

Drainage manhole over showing 'S' arrow to indicate storm drainage and direction of flow.

In foul drainage systems, the biggest headaches are caused by things going down the drain which shouldn’t – like wet wipes, sanitary products and hand towels. So the best form of preventative maintenance is to keep building occupants informed, with polite notices and clearly-marked bins in strategic places. Then there is the fats, oils and greases (FOG) that go down the plughole in catering establishments. If these find their way into the drains and sewers, they’re pretty much guaranteed to solidify and cause blockages – sometimes known as ‘fatbergs’. That’s why there should always be an interceptor in place, also known as a grease trap. This needs maintenance – the generic frequency for cleaning out a grease trap, stated in SFG20 (a common approach to planned preventative maintenance), is monthly. But this will be highly dependent on how the facility is used.

If blockages go unchecked, they may also go unnoticed. That is until sewage starts backing up into the building, or overflowing into storm sewers, which eventually discharge into lakes and rivers. These are delicate ecosystems, and the introduction of detergents and faecal matter can be very harmful to aquatic life and of course humans.

Rain, can pick up contaminants from both the air and the land, so once it has reached a storm/surface water drainage system, it has picked up dirt, oil and chemicals from air pollution, roofs and paved areas. Traditional systems have no means of dealing with this, and also must be sized for occasional extreme storm events, so the pipes are very large and mostly used at a fraction of their capacity. Sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, attenuate the flow of rainwater to watercourses and emulate the way natural ecosystems treat this water. But they need maintenance. For example, any tree routes that could block a soakaway should be trimmed annually, and green roofs may require weeding on a weekly basis during the growing season.

For more information on the maintenance of drainage systems, please explore the BSRIA Information Service

COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on US businesses and real estate

Zoltan Karpathy
Operations Manager, BSRIA Worldwide Market Intelligence

Nobody can predict with a high degree of certainty how long the current COVID-19 pandemic will last and what will be the full impact on the economy. We are witnessing US states, including Florida, opening up and having to tighten measures again as the virus flares up.

To contain the pandemic regulations started to push businesses towards investments to increase health safety and prevent spreading the COVID-19 virus. While necessary to fight the pandemic and speed up the recovery, businesses sometimes suffer temporary loss of productivity when the measures are implemented.

Another hike of investment as the direct consequence of the economic shock triggered by the pandemic is often related to the need of diversifying suppliers; and purchases from a variety of suppliers are often done with less favourable prices. Increasing inventory levels of critical raw materials/components/products are also becoming an issue.

Verticals served by the HVAC&R sector have been hit at various levels of degree by the COVID-19 pandemic. Venues, such as live entertainment, sports, restaurants and travel-related establishments are likely to struggle due to concerns over contracting the virus, even when they become fully open. It is expected that consumer will shift away from these types of spending to alternatives such as durable goods, which in turn can have a positive effect on housing in the future.

Nevertheless, on the residential side, housing starts plummeted by 43% in the three months from February to April, even though several US states allowed construction sites to operate. Sales of existing homes also declined, with April’s transaction level at three-quarters of the February level. Residential construction is expected to slow down in the medium term, as consumers are unable or unwilling to purchase new houses, even though mortgage rates are very low.

Economists are drawing up various scenarios and assess likelihoods of these potential outcomes. According to Deloitte the most probable scenario is that the US economic recovery will not take place at least until the middle of 2021; growth can return to the pre-COVID level by the end of 2023, but the economy will not be able to achieve full employment again until 2025.

In the context of such uncertainty, manufacturers active in the HVAC&R and Building Controls sector are facing a wide range of unknown factors:

  • customers building up stock for an eventual second COVID-19 wave;
  • concerns over debt payments;
  • increasing payment periods;
  • increasing raw material prices;
  • pressure to maintain the price of their final products/solutions.

In terms of the product mix, HVAC companies started to receive more enquires for certain types of filters, more emphasis on increasing volume of fresh air and generally an increasing focus on Indoor Air Quality.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that the current situation is also encouraging building owners and businesses to offer a safe working environment, in which employees trust and feel comfortable. Therefore, increasing investment levels can be expected to make commercial buildings ‘smarter’ and more efficient to use, with the uptake of solutions such as contactless access control, occupancy analytics, employee tracking services, proximity sensing and analytics (using indoor location mapping solutions) and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sensing and monitoring, alongside air purification and disinfection solutions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on the real estate market, challenging the building owners and operators at unprecedented levels. According to JLL, the effects in the short term, will be the accelerated large-scale uptake of home working, leading to problems for traditional offices, but also co-working centres and flexible offices, putting a strain on the sustainability of certain flexible space business models. Social distancing considerably increase the space allocated for individuals which means that many flexible offices will record very low space utilisation rates and could even remain nearly empty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the role of the traditional office and it reinforced the need for the office to act as a communal space which encourages innovation and collaboration, while nurturing company culture. A future solution seems to be an increased focus on technology enabled workplaces which can be used for collaborative meetings and hosting clients.

To assess the full impact of COVID-19 on the US HVAC&R sector, BSRIA will publish an update of its market studies at the end of September 2020.

To find out more about BSRIA HVACR & Controls market studies contact us at:

• America sales enquiries: BSRIA USA: sales@bsria.com ¦ +1 312 753 6803, http://www.bsria.com/us/
• China sales enquiries: BSRIA China: bsria@bsria.com.cn ¦ +86 10 6465 7707, http://www.bsria.com.cn
• All other sales enquiries: BSRIA UK: wmi@bsria.co.uk ¦ +44 (0) 1344 465 540, http://www.bsria.com/uk/

District Heating and Cooling and Heat Interface Units are still closely tied markets

Socrates Christidis
BSRIA Research Manager – Heating and Renewables

District Heating and Cooling networks have witnessed significant growth in many European countries in the last five years and this is set to continue in the coming decade. Significant European policy initiatives, such as the Green Deal, country government promotions, alongside increased public and private investment are supporting new business models such as utilities selling heat as a service and not as a commodity, which will drive the market forward.

BSRIA research indicates that the share of heat pumps and Energy-from-Waste in district heating and cooling systems is increasing. This trend is in line with the development of the concept of 5th generation heat networks. These are demand driven and low-temperature networks, using locally available low-grade waste heat (A/C, datacentres, underground stations, etc.), low temperature renewable energy in bodies of water and solar energy instead of a central energy centre. In principle, such systems favour the use of substations at building level, but no heat interface units at the dwelling level, as these are likely to be replaced by heat pumps.

Currently industrial boilers and CHPs remain the main source of heating in District Heating networks. For instance, 85% of planned heat networks in the UK, will have a CHP as the primary source of heating and 50% will have a gas boiler as a backup. The remaining 15% will use geothermal, ground source or water source heat pumps.

Thus, in the short-term Heat Interface Units (HIUs) will remain the link between the apartment and the network.

Going forward, reducing demand for heating and increasing need for hot water and cooling imply that the market will see the uptake of:

  • All-in-one units (heating or cooling and hot water)
  • Cooling units
  • Hybrid units, with integrated electric water heating
Graph showing European HIUs market growth

The main threats for HIUs market progress are the currently lack of consistent quality of installation and COVID-19.

Heat interface units have a major impact on the overall performance of a heat network and successful operation and performance both depend on correct system design and specification, followed by competent installation and maintenance. This has been problematic, with systems inadequately designed and quite often oversized. We see some signs of improvements as the industry becomes more sensitised towards good quality district heating. Documentation is improving as well as codes of practice, testing of HIUs, and further testing on site; however, under tight budgets the emphasis is often for the lowest cost, specification compliant technology. Testing the unit in a lab and then onsite is optional but critical to ensure performance.

Closing of construction sites was the main impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, including lack of cash flow, as the invoicing is done when products are delivered onsite. The industry has also witnessed a lack of new orders from April to June, with some signs of recovery observed just after. Overall, the European sales in the first 6 months of 2020 were between 15% and 30% down, depending on country, when compared to the 6 first months of 2019.

Going forwards, new construction presents a slightly positive picture. During COVID-19 there has been delays but not cancellations in planning permissions; delays as sites operate under social distancing guidelines and some delays for new investment to come through. However, governments and authorities are still eager to go ahead with programs and incentives, with renewed emphasis on the environmental agenda.

Looking at estimations for completions of flats before and after the outbreak, the recovery is likely to accelerate in 2022, and the market is unlikely to recover before. The end of financial support schemes by governments (VAT deferral, loan schemes or furlough) is likely to have a negative impact on many businesses, including contractors. Indications are, that new build and residential sales will be hit harder than commercial ones. Southern Europe is also likely to struggle more, although recession is expected across most of European countries.

Taking all this into account, BSRIA sees the numbers of heat interface units growing steadily but at a single digit compound annual growth rate of just over 4% on a Pan-European basis. The market will become more diverse and will look for more flexible options to cater for high-end, electricity-only heating, mixed-used and communal areas.

To find out more about BSRIA’s District Energy and Heat Interface unit market studies contact us at:

2019 China Heating Market Dynamics

China has by far the largest heating market in the world in terms of units manufactured and sold. In 2019, a little over 40,000,000 units, including, boilers, water heaters and heat pumps, were sold in China. The country also has the world’s largest network of pipes supplying gas for heating systems. China has been developing its gas network very actively over the last years and consequently the country’s total building area covered by gas pipework has more than doubled in the past 15 years. Growing accessibility of gas across the country, coupled with government’s efforts to tackle air pollution and green house gas emissions underlines the potential for continuous growth of heating in the country. To give it some perspective, the sales of gas domestic boilers have grown 10-fold in the last 11 years.

 

boilers6

Source:  BSRIA

 

Today, the heating market is shaped by three areas of sales impact, each having its own dynamic:

  1. Government policy represented mainly by “Coal to gas” and “Coal to electricity” projects

Coupled with expansion of the gas network, stronger governance, better product quality and more competitive gas prices this policy is continuing to strongly impact sales of gas fuelled products, in line with the Chinese government’s 5-year plan (2016-2020 – 3th 5-year plan.

The policy has also a strong impact on the progression of the heat pump market, mainly for water heating, although growth of heat pumps for both, heating and hot water provision has also grown in the recent years.

Compared with the vigorous “coal-to-gas” and “coal-to-electricity” projects in the domestic market, commercial boilers have higher requirements for large-scale, stable and constant fuel supply and corresponding infrastructure construction, which makes the transition from coal to cleaner energy more difficult. Nevertheless, a moderate growth was also seen in the commercial gas boiler and commercial heat pump markets.

  1. Regular project market (new build)

New build is currently driving sales of heating products thanks to the existing pre-decoration policy, which is currently supported by local government to deliver fully fitted buildings, with operational heating systems installed.

The importance of the new build market is significant in China as it delivered sales of some 1.5 million gas boilers and over 900 thousand heat pumps to the new residential dwellings.

  1. Retail market (replacement and high-end new build)

Retail distribution chain has a strong impact on sales of all heating products as it is the most common place of provision of products for clients. Those replacing old, inefficient appliances or willing to install the appliances of their own choice in the newly acquired dwellings source them in retail shops. This market is very sensitive to economic situation and changes quickly depending on the consumer confidence level. It represents a large opportunity as there are millions of heating systems in China, which are older than 10 years – the time after which replacement is normally considered. Similarly, in many new houses owners opt to have better quality heat systems than those installed by the contractor as part of the pre-decoration policy.

With regards to district heating, the market has accelerated in recent years as policies to deal with air quality have been promoted and investments have been made. There are currently more than 400 projects underway and nearly 100 enterprises engaged. The industry generally believes that the development of smart district heating projects opens attractive strategic opportunities.

However, China is in a period of low economic growth and dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19 implications. Both will have an impact on the performance of the country’s heating product sales this year.

BSRIA is preparing the updated view on 2020 market performance and short term forecast for boilers and heat pump markets that will be available in September 2020.


By Socrates Christidis, Research Manager Heating & Renewables,

BSRIA, World Wide Market Intelligence


Notes to editors:
For further information, please contact:

 

Acoustics in the workplace – What’s the “new normal”?

Rebecca Hogg
Acoustic Consultant, BSRIA

Wooden blocks spelling 'new normal'

There is no denying global events this year have turned every aspect of our lives upside down, and as we all start to try and get back to normal while lockdown restrictions ease, we realise it is a “new normal”.

Workplaces have changed, some almost unrecognisable from before, and there is a myriad of requirements to consider beyond the essential health and safety measures. Occupant wellbeing was a prominent consideration prior to lockdown, and this included provision of a good acoustic environment, but how are new COVID-secure workplaces affecting the acoustic environment?

For many years there have been acoustic standards and guidelines on internal noise levels in offices, determining sound power levels of building plant, and predicting the sound absorption of materials. Well designed open-plan offices have allowed large groups of people to collaborate and communicate effectively, and noise regulations have ensured factories and construction sites operate without disturbing neighbours.

In recent months, the workplace has been turned on its head. Following government guidelines many people began working from home. Suddenly the familiar hum of the workplace was replaced in some instances with squabbling children or impatient pets, and if you live alone maybe unwelcome silence replaced your usual face-to-face conversations.

As people are gradually allowed to return to a place of work, new COVID-secure offices have changed the acoustic environment. The installation of screens, the partitioning of open plan spaces, wearing of face coverings, and a lower level of occupancy have created acoustic challenges. For example, speech intelligibility is affected by the reverberation time of a space. Fewer people and more reflective materials, such as plastic screens, will decrease the sound absorption and increase the reverberation time, resulting in poorer speech intelligibility.

Building services have been specified, installed, and commissioned for a particular set up of a workplace layout and building occupancy. If a space is divided into individual offices to allow for social distancing, then the building services provision also needs to be reconsidered. Changing the control settings of a system will have an impact on the internal noise levels and subsequently on levels of occupant annoyance.

Not everyone works in an office, so, what about situation in different workplaces? Factories, shops, and construction sites have been redesigned to allow for social distancing, and often operating hours have been extended to allow for shift patterns, potentially increasing noise nuisance for neighbours.

In these environments the noise levels are also often higher and communication between people can therefore be harder. People working further away from each other and wearing face coverings will inhibit successful communication and influence performance, and if someone must shout to be heard does this have the potential to spread virus droplets further? There should also be consideration of the highly overlooked 12 million people in the UK who suffer from some level of hearing loss. Being unable to lip read because someone is wearing a face covering, or unable to hear the conversation over a bad video conferencing link is incredibly frustrating and isolating.

The acoustic challenges within a COVID-secure workplace may seem overwhelming but there are several simple solutions. Firstly, identify noise sources in the workplace and maintain them appropriately to minimise background noise.

Something as simple as cleaning filters inside a fan coil unit can increase airflow and capacity, meaning the fan speed can be reduced and subsequently the noise level.

Secondly, examine acoustic specifications of any new products being installed – ask to see test reports and consider how a new product could influence the acoustic environment.

Finally, consider the occupants of your workplace and how they use the space. Tailoring the acoustic environment to the needs of the occupants can increase productivity, decrease annoyance and overall improve the wellbeing of all. The focus on workplace safety is paramount, but long-term considering other design parameters, such as the acoustic environment, will ensure workplaces not only survive but thrive.

BSRIA acoustic experts publish guidance, and support our members and clients with a range of acoustic testing solutions. Read more about our UKAS-accredited laboratory for acoustic testing to BS EN ISO 3741, BS EN 12102 and BS EN ISO 354 here.

Thoughts on the COVID-19 impact on China’s HVAC industry

by Martin Li, BSRIA APAC

Some economic background data

After carrying out many conservative policies like Complete City Lock-down, China has started to recover from the COVID-19 related downturn. The economy has been opening since late March 2020 and is in wider re-opening stage by May 2020.

In the first two months of 2020, China’s total import and export value of goods trade reached 4.12 trillion RMB, a decrease of 9.6% comparing with the same period last year, with export, experiencing a particularly bad fall by 15.9%.

According to the latest statistics, both Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing PMIs slid down to the range far below 50% in February 2020, with 35.7% for manufacturing sector and 29.6% for non-manufacturing one. Manufacturing sector has been hit hard, and the central government is mobilizing companies returning to production to catch up with delays as soon as possible.

Construction industry represents a more mixed picture. According to Xinhua Finance, the total sales of residential housing by Top 100 developers dropped by 20.7% under the influence of the pandemic, but 24 among them, have achieved over 10 billion RMB sales, indicating that the competitive environment is going to become more concentrated in the coming months.. Another set of data from KERUIRC in its research on 27 Key Cities showed a decline of sales by 80%, and half of the cities in the sample pool supplied no new housing in February 2020.

2020 Prospects for China’s HVAC industry

Different impact in residential and commercial segment

Both global and domestic demand have fallen significantly in the first quarter of the year. Under severe lockdown rules, sales, installation, or integration work were not allowed and according to CICC, in January 2020, the entire domestic and overseas sales of AC fell by 34% and 28% respectively. The situation worsened in February and March, but the visible recovery has been noted in May.

Similar situation has been recorded in the domestic boiler market where during the first quarter 2020, sales remained heavily subdued with slow recovery noted from the April. Overall Chinese domestic heating sector shrank by 60% in the first quarter of the year.

HVAC products, like RAC-CAC or wall-hung boilers, belong to the “must have” category of products, hence market demand for those has mostly shifted and is expected to “make up”, in the coming months, for lost sales in the first quarter of the year. The whole year performance is expected to come close to the 2019’s sales levels, with the caveat, that there will be no second wave of the virus outbreak.

Commercial AC and Commercial/Industrial heating sectors have not been so severely affected by the pandemic, with many companies reporting successful achievement of their Q1 budget.

Strategic changes related to the offering and distribution business models

This pandemic seems to have forced transformation of conventional business activities. Owners of physical stores and off-line distributors have become acutely aware of the weakness of their business model. Many are now in the process of moving their operation to on-line platforms, which is likely to also accelerate their embrace of the global e-commerce.

From a product mix point of view, companies have become more aware of the importance of the variety of product offer and disadvantages of concentrating on sales of one product family type. An integrated shop/store, selling the idea of Comfort Home with a bunch of products delivering what is ultimately needed by the end user is expected to become a mainstream ideology. Integrating sales of Water, Air, Heating, Automation and Smart systems is where the industrial consensus is heading after the pandemic.

In summary, assuming the outbreak of COVID-19 can be contained and will not reappear in China, its impact on sales levels will possibly be limited in the overall year perspective. However, when debt, assets holding costs and opportunity costs will be considered, HVAC business owners will be looking for more options to mitigate unforeseeable risks in the future. In the short term some distribution and offering trends that have started to emerge before the pandemic will accelerate. In the longer-term higher market integration is likely.

Note to editors:

For more information about BSRIA’s research, please contact:

The importance of investigating failures in building services

Pinhole corrosion of radiator (outside surface)
Pinhole corrosion of radiator (outside surface)

A study from the UCL(1) revealed that building failures may cost the UK construction industry £1bn to £2bn every year. This was a conservative estimate made in 2016, based on 1 to 2% of the total value of construction.

As of March 2020, the Office for National Statistics has estimated the total value of all UK construction works to be worth £12.7bn, 68% of which is for new buildings or the repair and maintenance of existing buildings. This would give an estimated cost of failure between £85m and £170m, of which building services would account for a high proportion.

(1) Razak, D S A, Mills, G and Roberts, A (2016) External Failure Cost in Construction Supply Chains. In: P W Chan and C J Neilson (Eds.)

Types of failures in building services

Bathtub curve regarding types of failures in buildings
Bathtub curve

The typical pattern of failure arising against time is shown by the well-known bathtub curve. The curve is divided into three segments: an infant mortality period, usually marked by a rapidly decreasing failure rate; a random failure period, where the failure rate continues at a

The first period is usually detected during the defects liability period after a project is handed over.

The second period would happen during the operation of a system, and failures may occur due to inappropriate operating conditions or maintenance regimes.

The third period is when the system is reaching the end of its life. Failure could be imminent and there should be little or no surprise in this happening.

Importance of investigating these failures

Showing house made of money i.e. there is cost in everything, so always investigate to prevent repetitive failures
There is cost in everything: Always investigate to prevent repetitive failures

There are various reasons why every unexpected failure should be investigated. Below are some of the key ones:

  • Insurance purposes. Insurers may require an independent evaluation of the failure and investigation of its possible cause to identify possible fraudulent or malicious intentions.
  • Cost savings. Too often, failed components are replaced without investigating the root cause. Without understanding the origin of a failure, it is not possible to prevent its re-occurrence. Repetitive failure and replacement of components could add significantly to the operating cost for a building or estate.
  • Health and safety. In May 2009, a lift at London’s Tower Bridge tourist attraction suffered a vital mechanism failure that sent it falling with 9 people in it, four of whom suffered bone fractures. The malfunction was caused by the failure of a counterweight mechanism. The accident investigation by the HSE revealed that there had been several previous component failures with the counterweight mechanism, and the components had been replaced without proper review, and with no investigation into why they were failing so early. Tower Bridge was ordered to pay a total cost of £100k, and the HSE concluded that, had there been a proper review into the counterweight mechanisms, the catastrophic failure of the lift could have been avoided.

BSRIA can help with building services investigations

BSRIA has been in the building services industry for over 60 years and has been involved in hundreds of investigations.

Our independence makes us the ideal partner to provide non-biased failure investigations. Our expertise and capability in testing various materials and components of building services to determine the likely cause of failure is unique. We are able to perform investigations on site, examinations in our labs and analysis in our offices.

Our professional approach is such that there is no failure too large or too small to investigate today because this can save lives and costs tomorrow.

Read more about BSRIA’s Failure Investigation service here

Author: Martin Ronceray, BSRIA Engineering Investigation Lead

The BSRIA investigation team can be contacted at

+44 (0) 1344 465578

Investigations@bsria.co.uk

Domestic boiler market grew again in 2019

 

While cooling is often mentioned in the context of the impact climate change might have on its rising demand and consequently on the energy demand that growth in cooling need is likely to cause, heating is often somewhat neglected in global discussions on changes that are needed to reduce the CO2 emission levels.

It is therefore worth having a closer look at the global heating markets performance as it provides a picture worth considering in further discussions about the net 0 Carbon future.

The latest release of BSRIA heating reports with global outreach reveals that the world domestic boiler market has grown by 6% year on year in 2019 and sales of non-condensing boilers accounted for 48% of total sales across the world.

 

condensing boilers
While condensing boilers dominate in the EU markets and are making stronger inroads in Turkey and the North American market, the non-condensing wall hung and floor standing boilers are prevalently sold in European countries outside the EU and across Asia.

Gas boilers, that account for the vast majority of sales worldwide, are still considered as good news in parts of the world, where coal has been a basic heating fuel not that long ago. Gas prices, that, with few exceptions, are usually lower than the price of electricity, help retaining consumers.

Out of the total of some 15.6 million units sold globally, 68% are sold as replacement of older units and 32% are still installed in the newly build dwellings.

Boilers are usually installed to provide both heating and domestic hot water – such units accounted for some 83% of the global market in 2019. They are a convenient solution for both, end users and installers.

So, what does the future hold for this market segment? Technologies that could displace boilers in homes are already available (heat pumps) and in some parts of the world policies are providing strong support for their uptake. Overall, heat pumps accounted for some 19% of the domestic heating market globally.

Research and development are intensifying to roll out green gas solutions, that includes the use of biogas and hydrogen, with some serious challenges still to overcome.

With strong regional differences in future performance, BSRIA has forecasted the overall global boiler market to remain broadly flat between 2019 and 2024, before taking the impact of COVID-19 pandemic into consideration. The latter is likely to cause strong disruption in 2020 which will be assessed by BSRIA team later in the year.

BSRIA global research programme on domestic and commercial boiler markets allows for analysis of the market dynamics on a global, regional and country levels, with country in-depth analysis available to support more strategic decision taking process.

The studies provide a full understanding of the latest market trends in terms of sales development by product type, price evolution, structure of the supply, long-term forecast and analysis of driving forces.

By Aline Breslauer, Research Consultant, BSRIA WMI.

 

For more information, please contact us at:

  • Americas sales enquiries: BSRIA USA: sales@bsria.com ¦ +1 312 7536803 www.bsria.com/us
  • China sales enquiries: BSRIA China: bsria@bsria.com.cn ¦ +86 10 64657707 www.bsria.com.cn
  • All other sales enquiries: BSRIA UK: wmi@bsria.co.uk ¦ +44 (0) 1344 465540 www.bsria.com/uk

Planned Preventive Maintenance during the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are living in unprecedented times; The UK has never experienced such restrictions in peace time, and the world has never seen such wide-ranging restrictions in so many countries simultaneously. As we move deeper into the lockdown of the UK, our ability to effect essential maintenance activities is being adversely impacted. There are reports of specialist subcontractors being unable to attend sites, TFM providers having limited resources and members of in-house teams being unable to attend work due to self-isolation, sickness or concerns over the coronavirus. 

Businesses are suffering from depleted competent resources and are also having to risk-assess the impacts to their remaining staff as part of exercising their own corporate duty of care. There are a lot of unknown facets to this issue as, by its name, the novel coronavirus is new. We can only work with the current guidance available and early indications of initial research that is being conducted.

BSRIA is recognised as experts in the field of maintenance, FM and the built environment and well known for our guidance on risk-based business-focused maintenance (BFM). Thus, we have been contacted by our members and clients for advice and support during this unique period. The advice we are offering is on interpretations of the government guidance as it applies to our industry. 

The UK government has stated that “Making buildings safe … remains a priority for the government.” Whilst it is focused on public sector, the Crown Commercial Service is more maintenance-focused and has issued guidance on what to do if you are reviewing the need for a full or partial shutdown of buildings and a reduction in services. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which enforces several pieces of legislation that contain time-bound statutory inspections, initially communicated that there would be no change to their outlook on missing these inspections. However, latterly the HSE have allowed for some pragmatism. There is no relaxation whatsoever on the duty-holder’s legal responsibility to maintain work equipment, but there is more acknowledgment of the difficulties of carrying out thorough examinations, written schemes of examination and statutory inspections. The document detailing this can be found here and the press release here. If maintenance intervention dates are exceeded and the choice is made to keep a certain asset or system running, documenting the risk and the actions taken to avoid this risk is very important. The HSE provide some useful guidance on this here.

BFM respects statutory and mandatory requirements but has long advocated a review of non-statutory generic time-based interventions. Indeed, BSRIA’s BFM practitioners travel to sites up and down the country and across the globe, supporting building owners and operators with independent, authoritative advice on how to maximise business-function-critical building service uptime, whilst minimising cost and time resource investment. Targeted use of condition monitoring can often provide more uptime than intrusive maintenance permits and avoids the risk of maintenance induced failures.

When buildings are left unattended, certain considerations need to be made. If a building is vacant, then it should be mothballed, or put in an appropriate state of stasis. The BESA produced guidance on this in 2006 and published it under the title SFG 30. If there is even a skeleton staff in the building, then systems will need to be kept running.

Water is one of the first things to consider. Whereas under normal operations there may have been a handful of little-used outlets, in reduced operation stage, the vast majority of the outlets are possibly going to be termed as little-used.

As it is much easier to maintain a water system in a wholesome condition than to try to rid it of proliferated biology, it is recommended to ensure the flushing is attended to. We have an article on the subject here, but the basics are: keep  cold water cold, keep hot water hot and keep both moving. That advice works for the pumps too. For buildings that are still operating, cooling systems should be kept running regularly or as needed based on sensor inputs.

There is a growing body of investigations that is suggesting an indoor condition of 24°C+ and ≈50%rH+ is helpful in controlling SARS-CoV-2. However, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) has produced documentation that does not support this and suggests that the figures are closer to 30°C+ and ≈80%rH+ which would not be convenient in a building. If the building is being (or has been) vacated and will remain unoccupied for some time, then cooling towers can be drained and local authorities notified.

Heating is the same, we should keep things running at regular intervals or as and when there is a requirement for a heating load. It is the time of the year when we would be considering shutting down our heating systems, and those activities could be pulled forward, ensuring inhibitors topped up to keep the pipe condition and biological content within desired parameters.

Regarding ventilation; there is much discussion about the transmission methods of coronavirus. Is it fomite and droplet only, or is it airborne? There is talk about UV treatment of ventilation, HEPA room cleaners and whether, in the near future, these sorts of technologies will become the norm.

Based on the latest information and advice on the subject, it is possible to identify a unifying golden thread that puts emphasis on keeping the fresh or outdoor air coming in. Increasing ventilation appears to be the best solution. Creating negative pressures in the toilet areas and filling all other areas with as much fresh, non-recirculated air as possible and similarly increasing extract volumes is repeatedly stated as the best practice for ventilation systems. This may entail manual intervention to fully open dampers, close recirculation paths (including heat recovery where air streams mix), and considering running close to maximum air flow rate for up to 24 hours a day 7 days a week for any level of occupancy in a building.

Life safety systems will need to continue to be looked at even if buildings are at a low occupancy. BSRIA can give guidance on where to go for the best advice on any of these systems. If buildings are being mothballed, one consideration that will need to be made is contacting insurers to understand their coverage requirements. Systems that fall into the LOLER or PSSR categories will have their own considerations as governed by the HSE. Emergency lighting checks in an unoccupied building can be halted and then conducted prior to re-occupation. In an occupied building, the advice changes.

Due to the level of enquiries we have been fielding from our members and clients BSRIA have hosted discussion on this subject to gather industry input and opinions. It is possible to hear this presentation here.

I will finish by reassuring you that you are not alone in this. We are here to support you though these strange times and welcome your calls and emails about how we can support you.

Be safe.

PS: If you are not familiar with BFM, we have an article on the subject here and we would be more than happy to take enquiries on our consultancy@bsria.co.uk email address, but in a nutshell it is a way of adapting PPM routines to focus on the business’s main activities and ensuring that the installed building services are able to support them.

BSRIA first published guidance on BFM in 2004, and the current guide, BG 53, was published in 2016.

Business-Focused Maintenance (BG 53/2016)

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