Innovations in energy and building management systems have opened new avenues to implementing cutting-edge features to commercial buildings without increasing overhead. As developers and owners evaluate energy management strategies for their facilities, they often choose technologies that are both cost-effective and eco-friendly while supporting structurally advanced building design. In the case of energy supply, owners and developers at many commercial facilities, such as hospitals, universities and mixed-use developments, often look to upgrade their heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) and cooling systems to save on managerial costs. However, it is important to recognize that upgrading an HVAC system can go far beyond simply saving money.
Here are some of the top reasons motivating building owners and developers to upgrade HVAC systems:
1. Their HVAC system is outdated.
As systems age, they require more maintenance, run less efficiently and experience more downtime, making them less reliable management systems. For hospitals and pharmaceutical facilities where the sensitive nature of work depends on reliable energy systems, this can often be problematic. In addition, aging wiring in outdated systems can be a fire hazard in any facility, and it can result in potentially dangerous situations for occupants.
To combat these problems, it’s important to remain ahead of the curve by installing an energy system that will meet the needs of today’s end user while meeting building standards in design and efficiency. Today, there are many different specialized systems, including various heating and cooling structures as well as retrofit options used to replace or update current energy and HVAC systems. All of these systems have evolved and serve different purposes, depending on a building’s needs. For example, a single-stage heating and cooling option is often popular in hotter and colder climates because the systems are set to provide comfort for days where temperatures are at extremes. This is great, but also can mean a great majority of the time, these heating systems or air conditioners are operating at full capacity when they don’t need to be. Investing in a multistage system comes in handy and can save energy and money in the long run. When the time is right, an experienced building automation professional can perform an energy audit to see exactly where a building owner can save money on energy bills, and can determine the best automation system to install for both yielding energy savings and maintaining an optimal environment.
2. Their building requires greater occupant comfort and better air quality.
Proper heating, ventilating and air conditioning are key to maintaining a comfortable, healthy and productive environment for building occupants. For example, poor indoor air quality has been linked to different health-related problems, including dizziness, asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Building owners who only apply minimal preservation practices sacrifice worker comfort, and they can run into these types of more severe issues that will put their occupants at risk for health problems. In addition, particularly sensitive environments, where energy reliability is essential for operating smoothly without costly disruptions, require innovative technology to handle complicated energy, HVAC and processing needs.
Pharmaceutical facilities and research institutions can present these unique challenges for energy and building automation. Recently, my company completed work on a mixed-use waterfront development in Boston’s Seaport district, and it required automated control systems throughout the 1.1-million-square-foot pharmaceutical facility. Our team installed a complete direct digital control system for use in the new pharmaceutical research facility, which required detailed design and programming to ensure the new pharmaceutical headquarters would operate at the desired efficiency.
Integrating these types of systems into a plan can be crucial in maintaining an environment that meets clinical, research and regulatory requirements that preserve the sensitive nature of the work. By bringing independent systems together, building automation leads directly to better performance and more intelligent energy use.
3. Increase efficiency, reduce costs and achieve a better return on investment.
Most businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, and often the greatest cost-cutting opportunities are associated with reducing energy expenses. Energy audits and energy management plans that identify potential improvements in energy efficiency are an effective way to discover opportunities for immediate and long-term cost savings. These investments include not only installing energy efficient controls, but also upgrading energy systems and replacing energy consuming equipment, such as an outdated HVAC system. An effective energy management plan can increase your property’s value, extend the life of energy supplies and assets, generate savings, minimize the risk of equipment failure and reduce a building’s environmental impact. To do this, facility owners and building managers must collaborate and plan to ensure the building is running at optimal efficiency. In turn, it also provides building owners with the time and concentration needed to focus on other responsibilities.
Buildings require a routine of continuous maintenance, and when it is neglected, improvements can become more time consuming and expensive, and it can lead to lost revenue. Automation controls are increasingly necessary for maintaining a setting that meets and preserves these standards. It is important for facility owners and managers to know when to upgrade their HVAC systems to ensure that their building’s environment is optimal and to ensure that they are properly managing building costs.