Ensuring that buildings remain safe, operational and increasingly sustainable, often with limited funding, can be challenging at the best of times, but especially in the current climate. Putting a robust asset management programme in place will make it easier for Facilities Managers to achieve all three goals. By proactively planning ahead, FMs can avoid emergency situations, support business productivity and profitability, and budget to bring existing buildings up-to-code to meet our national 2050 net zero target.
How? Let’s consider domestic hot water generation, an essential service in all buildings. Here are three ways in which proactive asset management helps ensure a more reliable, energy-efficient hot water service.
1. Avoid emergency situations
Routinely inspecting and servicing plant room assets, scheduling future upgrades and budgeting ahead will simplify the replacement process for FMs while avoiding an emergency situation.
Of course, it can be tempting to take a reactive approach to asset replacement, especially when funds are tight. However, unplanned replacement often results in costly downtime, expensive call out fees and disruption to business activities, making it a false economy.
2. Protect the business from future changes
Many organisations including hospitals, leisure centres and hotels, rely on direct-fired water heaters to provide an efficient means of delivering large volumes of water in a short time.
At present there is the opportunity to replace like-for-like non-condensing water heaters. The advantage of this is that, as no major work is involved, they can be replaced quickly with minimal downtime.
But the situation could alter. At the time of writing, we are awaiting government response to the public consultation on proposed changes to Part L of Building Regulations for existing non-domestic buildings. However, it’s advisable to note that non-condensing water heaters could be phased out in the next round of updates.
What will that mean in practice? The transition from non-condensing to condensing water heaters can and should be straightforward. But certain factors, such as flueing and condensate arrangements, will require additional planning to avoid the risk of extended downtime.
A planned replacement programme will enable facilities managers to accommodate any additional design factors into the budget. This is particularly important when managing multiple estates, each served by a number of water heaters.
Changes in legislation may create challenges but they also create opportunities. Upgrading to condensing water heaters, which are around 20% more efficient than non-condensing models and with lower NOx emissions, is a quick win for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint and make operational savings.
The greater the building’s demand for hot water, the greater the potential for efficiency gains from switching to condensing water heaters. And with a proactive asset management programme in place to prepare for the transition, FMs can protect businesses from future change.
3. Set buildings on the path to net zero
A further benefit of planning ahead is the opportunity it offers FMs to schedule phased refurbishments to set older buildings on the path to net zero. One option might be to consider integrating air source heat pumps with condensing water heaters in a hybrid system.
Hybrid solutions can overcome the typical challenges faced when refurbishing older buildings, reducing both the number of building and heating system upgrades and the level of disruption. By meeting the hot water demand efficiently and more sustainably, with no issues surrounding system losses, legionella control or space, they maximise operational cost savings and emissions reduction. But forward planning and budgeting is essential.
Taking the time this winter to put in place a robust, proactive asset management programme will make it easier for FMs to protect business operation in the immediate and longer term, avoiding unnecessary downtime and expense and preparing for future change. Surely that’s time well spent.