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What To Consider Whilst Buildings Are Temporarily Unoccupied 

What To Consider Whilst Buildings Are Temporarily Unoccupied 
07 April 2020 | Updated 24 April 2020
 

As some office buildings temporarily close their doors to comply with government regulations, we share advice from the security, energy management, HVAC and CAFM industries.

Here is a selection of what we gathered, along with some tips on pre-closure checks, what to do whilst the building is mothballed and how best to manage this unique situation.

 

Remember your HVAC systems

 

Andy Harvey, Product Manager at Aspen Pumps Group, gave us some suggestions regarding heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Knowing exactly what to do with regards to managing air quality, and making sure systems are safe to return to, will be a key consideration for many businesses. 

“If a building is due to be closed for an extended period of time, HVAC maintenance prior to closure should be viewed as essential,” said Harvey.

“If systems are to be shut off during the period of closure, thorough maintenance, including servicing of pumps and other ancillaries, will ensure the system as whole is in tip top condition and able to provide excellent indoor air quality for occupants when the building is reopened.

"If systems are to be left running, preventative maintenance is just as critical and will ensure essential systems such as server rooms are kept at optimum temperatures and indoor air is hygienic when building occupants return.” 

 

Consider energy efficiency

 

Darren Jones from UK Energy Management, suggests utilising unoccupied spaces to measure energy usage accurately.

“Whilst your building is empty, this is the ideal time to measure your business’ baseline energy use. Any measurements recorded now will be useful to compare against occupied space, when normal activity ensues”, he told ThisWeekinFM.

Jones also suggested that, as long as full safety measures are in place, and strict social distancing according to the latest government legislation is followed, a temporary office closure can provide an opportunity to arrange works that would usually be considered intrusive to daily working life:

“A project that might normally cause interruption, such as building maintenance or anything else noisy or intrusive projects can be done when the office is empty. So long as social distancing is observed, things like upgrading lighting or other systems can be done when the office is empty.”

 

Looking to the future – Remote Building Monitoring? 

 

Remote Building Monitoring ensures that the building control systems are operating correctly, reducing the risk of an incident and providing 24/7 critical asset monitoring. They are designed to enable critical system management, key workflow management, and energy management, through data analysis, remote decision making and actions, business continuity planning and disaster recovery.  

Systems of this type are linked to the building BMS and allow remote monitoring and interventions to be carried out, without the need for engineers on site. Investment in this kind of contactless monitoring means maintenance can continue even when subject to strict social distancing guidelines.

Platinum Facilities, who are making their Remote Building Monitoring Solution available to organisations in London and the South East, told us about the benefits of RBMs.

Glen Cardinal, Managing Director Platinum Facilities commented:

“Increasing numbers of companies are moving to remote working models as government advice restricts travel and personal interactions. Maintaining safe and legally compliant buildings is essential so we are making our Remote Building Monitoring Solution available to support large buildings which are closing for the foreseeable future.

“This remote package dramatically reduces people interactions, with a skeleton on-site team continuing to carry out statutory building maintenance work, ensuring that building insurance and leases aren’t invalidated. 

“We all have to change the way we work and we want to help clients protect their critical assets in the safest way.”

  

Security best practices 

 

We also spoke to Robert Stillwell, Managing Director of WINNS Services Ltd, who provides essential security services, running a 24-hour control room:

“Depending on the size of the building, we would recommend you have regular security patrols to look after the welfare of the building or a static guard to ensure your site is kept safe.”

He also shared the following general advice:

 

  • Secure all windows doors and fire exits
  • Check all washrooms, ensuring taps are turned off, sink plugs are removed from the drain hole and there are no signs of leaking
  • Discard any fresh food from fridges in kitchens and coffee points. Ensure all bins have been emptied and removed from the building
  • Ensure water is run regularly to a schedule
  • Maintain fire alarm checks
  • Maintain intruder alarms (ensure the correct keyholder is registered with the monitoring company)

 

What about when it’s time to return?

 

FSI, a global leader in the CAFM / IWMS industry, advised that when a building is returning to normal occupancy, additional checks must absolutely be considered.

They told us: “When a building is initially ‘mothballed’ it must be prepared for long term vacancy through actions such as the decommissioning of redundant fixtures, final perimeter security checks and re-calibration of BMS or heating systems to enter ‘winter mode’.

“If, after time, the building is then being returned to some form of occupancy a reverse series of tasks are required as well as additional activities such as deep cleaning.

“Upon the property being unoccupied it is not simply the case that maintenance activity will also stop. At the very least the frequency of existing Planned Maintenance tasks is likely to change but in some cases more maintenance tasks are required to keep the building ticking over. The introduction of Low Usage Maintenance schedules, Legionella testing and flushing of water systems and management of Insurance inspections are key examples in keeping the property functional and compliant.”

Picture: As some office buildings temporarily close their doors to comply with government regulations, we share advice from the security, energy management, HVAC and CAFM industries.

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 07 April 2020

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