Critical Facilities Summit

4  FM quick reads on HVAC

1. Make Sure New HVAC Systems Are Designed for Maintainability 

I’m Ed Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today’s topic is the importance of keeping maintenance in mind when designing new HVAC systems.

Facility executives have a lot to keep in mind when new HVAC systems are being designed. But there’s an important point that’s often overlooked: the maintainability of the system being designed.

Good maintenance is crucial to the operation of HVAC units. Without good maintenance, energy costs will rise, and equipment will need more frequent repairs and ultimately will fail sooner. The result will be significantly higher life cycle costs.
Designing for maintainability isn’t conceptually difficult. The biggest thing is to give HVAC mechanics the space to do their jobs. Mechanics need to be able to reach valves, access hatches, filters in air handling units, and so on. Moreover, they need room around the equipment. Taken together, those two points mean that HVAC units can’t be crammed into the least amount of space possible.

The good news is that many new HVAC systems are designed for ease of maintenance. That will make it far easier for facility executives who want to ensure that the new HVAC system will operate at the lowest possible life cycle cost.

Avoiding Ceiling Panel Bowing

Ceiling tiles need to stand up to some forms of use and abuse. If a facility executive cuts corners on ceiling durability for cost reasons, the ceiling panels may need to be replaced much sooner than anticipated, costing more money in the long run.

Schools and other seasonal-use facilities are spaces where special durability considerations are important, for example. When school isn’t in session, HVAC systems are usually turned off to save money. This is often the most humid part of the year, however. When HVAC systems are turned back on in the fall, the ceiling panels can bow. For spaces like these, ceiling panels designed to tolerate a high level of humidity and temperature fluctuation are important.

Why Some Geothermal Systems Will Save More Than Others

Geothermal heat pump systems promise to provide lower cost heating and cooling than conventional systems, with far less reliance on fossil fuels. But the amount of savings varies from system to system. To understand why, there are a couple of points facility executives should keep in mind.

One important point to remember is that geothermal systems offer more savings in cooling-dominated climates. But if the load between heating and cooling is balanced, geothermal systems can also operate cost effectively.

Another important point: The greater the temperature difference between the air and the ground, the more efficient the system.

A final efficiency consideration: With large systems, very warm ground temperatures — for example, on a hot day in late summer — may make it necessary to dissipate some heat in a fountain or other open water source or to use it for domestic purposes.

Understanding Bioterrorism: Solutions for Facilities

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is better understanding the threat of bioterrorism attacks.

Besides learning about the most common biological agents, managers also must understand the most likely mechanisms terrorists could use in an attack. Four methods are the most likely. Each will require a different response to protect building occupants. The response also will vary with the type of building and the type of HVAC systems serving that building.

The first type of incident involves an indirect attack. In this scenario, a large-scale release of a biological agent occurs outside a facility. If the facility is downwind from the release, a portion of the biological agent could enter the building through outdoor-air intakes for the HVAC system.

A second type of incident is the release of the biological agent directly into the HVAC system outdoor-air intakes. The biological agent enters the system and is distributed to areas of the building that system serves. How widely the agent is spread will depend on the system’s design and how much of the building the system serves.

A third possible scenario is similar to the second, only the agent is released within the building itself, directly into the return-air portion of the HVAC system. Again, the distribution of the agent depends on the design of the HVAC system.

The fourth scenario involves the release of a biological agent within a specific area, such as a conference room, lobby, or classroom. While much of the release would be confined to that space, the biological agent can spread readily through the building’s HVAC system or even as people move from one area in the building to another.


HVAC , construction , maintainability , life cycle costs

Critical Facilities Summit