3 Things to Consider for Your Next Building Project

The way buildings are used — and the needs within building spaces — are continuously changing. Revitalization efforts turn abandoned warehouses into residential and commercial hot spots. Work place trends turn an old conference room into collaborative space or a wellness lounge.

Whether the changes are driven by corporate growth, new technology or shifting needs, building spaces must adjust. This is true for existing buildings and new construction.  

So how do you know what equipment and systems will meet your customers’ needs in your next building project? The answer is influenced by many factors — from upfront costs and ease of installation to integration with existing systems and flexibility for the future.

Key questions that drive next steps  

In planning your next building project, first consider a few key questions:

  • What is the budget?
  • How will the building be used and what are the operating hours?
  • What is the building size?
  • What are the energy and operational goals?
  • Will the building be managed with on-site facility staff?
  • How will results be measured?

The answers help you zero in on the right solutions and technologies to meet specific needs. A 50,000 square-foot building that is occupied 24/7 has very different needs than a 10,000 square-foot building that runs on a 9 to 5 schedule.

In choosing between the many heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system options, consider these three factors to ensure the choice you make best meets your customers’ needs.

No. 1: Upfront costs versus long-term savings

Energy efficiency is a priority driving building design in many commercial spaces. Building owners and managers want solutions that improve efficiency, reduce costs and promote more sustainable building operation. Finding solutions that meet those needs results in more satisfied customers — making you more competitive.

Keep in mind that the most energy-efficient solution for a building may not be the option with the lowest upfront cost, just as the system with the lowest upfront cost may not be the most cost-effective long-term solution. There are trade-offs to consider when weighing these issues.

For example, are upfront cost savings so important that the building owner or manager would sacrifice long-term energy savings?

The right HVAC system is often determined by the size and usage of the building. Owners and operators of smaller commercial buildings may not have on-site facility staff, so they typically want a system that is easy to install, operate and maintain. Given these preferences, a unitary system is often a good choice for small commercial buildings.

With larger commercial buildings, there are more options to consider. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems can provide affordable installation and energy efficiency over the life of the system. A chilled water system is another option in larger commercial buildings. These systems deliver high energy efficiency, but water-cooled chiller systems require ongoing water treatment and cooling tower maintenance.

Thermal energy storage can provide significant long-term cost savings by shifting a building’s energy use to off-peak hours when utility rates are lower. However, these systems are typically best suited to larger buildings because of the upfront cost and space requirements for installation.

While the project budget and priorities of the building owner are important, be sure to consider the return on investment. It’s important to look beyond upfront costs and consider the system’s long-term savings potential.

No. 2: Individual pieces versus whole building design

When specifying an HVAC solution, decisions are often made based on a single piece of equipment’s operating efficiency. But this is not the best way to achieve the most efficient building performance.

There are many variables that contribute to optimized building performance.

  • How is the building being used and occupied?
  • How do the various pieces of equipment in the building interact and work together?
  • What are the energy goals in the facility?

Instead, we must look beyond the efficiency of a single piece of equipment and consider the performance and efficiency of the entire building. Seeing the whole as greater than the sum of its parts can result in improved energy efficiency and operational cost savings for building owners and managers. And meeting customer needs with a systems-design approach can provide you with a competitive edge.

Proper energy modeling will help you evaluate equipment and determine which options will make the entire building more efficient. It allows you to optimize the systems from an energy and utility bill perspective before construction even begins — and it can pay off in improved energy efficiency and performance.

No. 3: Balancing today’s needs with future growth

Replacing or upgrading a system in an existing building requires a different approach than specifying a system for a new construction project. In existing buildings, consider what types of equipment and systems are already in place. Then look for options that can be easily integrated with existing systems and building controls. Ease of integration is also a factor when designing new buildings that are part of an existing campus or network of buildings.

Leveraging technologies already in place is one way to uncover cost savings. A hybrid VRF system, for example, can connect to existing building systems — such as a chilled water system — using integrated controls. This can result in more cost-effective expansion in some buildings.

And because building spaces are constantly changing, it’s important to consider which solutions provide the greatest flexibility for future changes. Using wireless communication technology to connect devices is one way to improve ease of integration and ensure greater flexibility for changes.

A building where equipment and systems are connected in the cloud also enables efficiency and performance. In many buildings, existing systems can be easily integrated with open protocols, such as BACnet™ or Modbus™. This includes the building automation system (BAS), which can offer cloud-based connectivity and control of building systems.

This connectivity can provide access to intelligent services that extract the operating data from building equipment and systems and use the connection into a building to run advanced analytics. This data enables facility managers to make informed decisions and take actionable steps to help ensure a building runs a peak efficiency long term — not just on day one.

Keys to success

Considering your customers’ priorities — from costs to energy efficiency to reducing ongoing maintenance requirements — can help you choose the right system for your next building project. Help deliver long-term savings and results for your customer, while positioning yourself as a valuable business partner.

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