Winter is coming – words now immortalised by pop culture, and yet relevant every year in October, especially for Facility Managers. Why? Because winter brings with it a host of FM duties, maintenance schedules and all-round administrative upkeep.
So what does the average FM do in the months leading into winter, and during, to ensure that costs stay down, accidents don’t happen and the bill gets paid at month’s end? Here are a few things you should be querying, checking or doing.
Step 1 – Install Effective Insulation
Proper building insulation is about more than just retaining heat in winter and expelling it in summer; it’s also about staff comfort within the building, acceptable temperatures and ensuring both health and safety at all times.
Here are some things to consider about your insulation:
- Summer overheating: Although we are discussing winter, your insulation must also meet the needs of summertime! 35°C is considered the internal limit before the temperature is dangerous. Your insulation needs to keep the building far cooler than this, as employees start getting “too warm” at about 28°C. The real win here is to avoid needing to use the air conditioner throughout the entire season.
- Breathability: Good insulation still allows for an effective passage of moisture throughout the building. It has been reported that 70% to 80% of building damage occurs to a build-up of trapped moisture.
- Occupant Health and Safety: Pollutants like particulates and volatile organic compounds exist in all buildings and have a serious impact on the quality of air indoors. A robust ventilation strategy is required; and here a good insulation system can absorb or mitigate many of the harmful particles. For example, sheep’s wool insulation was found to absorb huge quantities of formaldehyde.
- Effective mould protection: No moisture = no mould. Correct insulation will help you avoid this problem from the start.
Buildings do not exist in isolation. They are like a clock – primed with cogs and gears which are based on one another. A broad and holistic approach to your building, as an FM, should go a long way to assisting in cost reduction and effective season-dependant temperature control.
Step 2 – How Efficient Is Your HVAC System?
It was estimated that about 40% of monthly electricity usage can be put down to HVAC system usage. Cutting down heating and cooling plays into the insulation argument above; but it is also a matter of having the right equipment and correct information. There have been studies showing that modern HVAC systems are a major improvement on systems from as early as ten years ago. In fact, one such study claims that a 2019 HVAC system can improve energy efficiency by up to 20% when compared to a decade-old system. In short, if your HVAC system was installed any time before 2009, you could be wasting a lot of energy. It goes without saying that if your HVAC system is from the last century, it’s definitely time for an upgrade.
Fortunately, there are a number of signs which point to the need for a proper clean of the HVAC unit, which include:
- Water Damage
- Build-up of biofilm
- Presence of debris
- Restricted airflows
- Dust coming from vents
- Offensive odours coming through the vents
Step 3 – What About Overall Energy Efficiency?
Question your methods and look to improve on them. Here are some quick tips:
- Be Smart: Do you really need the air conditioner on in room 2b, while the guys in 3f have the heater on?
- Get baselines: Understanding your energy use will allow to look at curbing it. Establish baseline results each month, and then look for spikes and dips and where you can possibly double down on resources to ensure that your building remains at optimum efficiency.
- Fulfil your building’s potential: If you have groups moving in and out of the building regularly, or large parts of the building which remain empty and unused – look to reduce office space. Collate and save.
- Lighting: Modern technology has been very kind to the lighting industry, with some incredible strides being made in energy saving products which will go a long way toward reducing your electricity expenditure. LED lighting is, in particular, the current talk of the town. Invest in it quickly!
- IT: This is a big one. Computers and modern technology account for a massive portion of daily energy use. Be cognisant of this fact, and look to implement processes and rules which will allow for your business to operate technology with energy efficiency in mind. With the changing nature of the workspace looking to include far more electronics; having an effective plan in place will pay dividends in the long run.
- Water: This is an aspect oft-overlooked by the busy FM. But keep a strict eye on your water bills and again, look at spikes and dips and think up ways to reduce or stabilise which will work for you and your facility.
- Self-sufficiency: This is a big one for the future. Although it likely requires major overhauls and refurbishments; looking to become self-sufficient and provide your own energy could have MAJOR cost benefits to you in the long-term. Combined heat and power engines are the modern craze and can have long-lasting positive effects on your building. Replacing old boilers with modern ones will also reduce the gas bill to an exponential degree.
- “Switch Off”: Aside from being an obvious request, this is also a campaign which many FMs drive in their buildings. It is simply the consistent and painstaking method of reminding staff and employees to reduce their consumption of energy on a daily basis.
Step 4 – Have a Plan For Winter!
A winter maintenance plan should already be in place as this is a critical part of any organisation’s health and safety policy. Ensure that yours has the following:
- Clear processes and procedures with allocated responsibility for an overseer and subordinates
- Specific tasks for individuals who are correctly and fully trained to carry out these tasks
- Detailed specifications for hazardous sites
- Clearance and gritting instructions for each site
- Risk assessments and avoidance method statements for each site
- Monitoring of the plan for the duration of winter
- Performance measurements against key performance indicators
- This plan should be reviewed, edited and criticised at the beginning and end of each winter season – October and April.
- Maintenance plans for winter vehicles and equipment
- Procurement and maintenance of supplies like clearance equipment, salt and grit bins and others
- Most importantly, procedures for communication to all staff of the correct and safest actions in case of emergencies
How Can Voltix Services Help?
Voltix Services provides a wide range of facility maintenance services, especially when it comes to compliance and safety auditing. Let Voltix Services assist you in your preparation for winter by calling in for a full range assessment of your facility, allowing you to make the best possible choices for the health and safety of those around you.