Beat the heat

Facilities Management Middle East asks industry professionals what can FMs do to keep employees productive?

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

Most facilities managers in the Middle East come from a part of the world where they only experience temperatures above 30 degrees on holiday.

Working in this region means they have heat stress to consider and efficient air conditioning systems are a must. With outdoor temperatures reaching and exceeding the 50 degree mark over summer, how can FMs beat the heat and keep employees happy, productive and cool?

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) states the optimum office temperature should rest somewhere between 21 to 23oC. However, it also advises companies that have air-conditioned offices, to keep them slightly warmer when the outdoor temperatures increase, to minimise temperature discrepancy between indoors and outdoors.


Humidity also effects employee productivity and the University of Sydney say the optimum level to keep productivity up is around 50%. Air movement and the influx of fresh air is also something FMs need to think about.

If FMs are manually monitoring and adjusting HVAC and air flow, it will be difficult for them to achieve the ideal working environment. However, if there is a building management system (BMS) installed, they should use it to automate operations.

One of the functions of a BMS is to automatically control and monitor the indoor environment, ensuring the optimum working environment and temperature is met.

If the system is to work correctly, regular maintenance checks and properly trained staff are essential.

Planned preventative maintenance (PPM) will help keep check on the company's operational systems. If this is carried out routinely throughout the year, FMs will reduce the chance of system/product failures.

Thinking a little beyond the day-to-day, what would a company do if there was a power cut? Sending staff home would ultimately impact on the company's bottom line, but there is a solution.

Even though the Middle East is prone to power cuts due to the inconsistent supply and demand figures, by installing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), companies experiencing a power failure can continue working until the power shortage has been resolved. The UPS will be able to power the BMS and help keep the indoor environment comfortable.

FMs should also have a disposable number of portable fans in case they are needed to help move airflow around the office.

Putting the technical and back of house operations to one side, educating employees about how to deal with the summer heat can help decrease employee complaints to the helpdesk about being too hot.

Things to consider include, advising employees to wear appropriate clothing for the summer months and ensuring people know to drink enough cool water throughout the day to keep hydrated.

Yearly refresher courses on heat stress and exhaustion are advisable. Make sure employees know what symptoms and signs to look out for. If they are feeling unwell, ask them to report this to the relevant person straight away.

Other areas to think about are the use of blinds and windows to prevent sunlight penetration.

Rajeev Rajappan
Job title: sales leader
Company: Honeywell Building Solutions
Based in: Dubai - U.A.E

Innovative building automation control technology, delivers big improvements to facility managers as well as building owners and occupiers. For the office dwelling population it makes for a cooler, more comfortable, healthier and more productive working environment. To support a comfortable and productive indoor environment a building mechanical system should:

• Provide an acceptable level of temperature and humidity and safeguard against odours and indoor air pollutants;

• Optimise ambience through air movement, ventilation and slight temperature variation;

• Enable the occupant to control and modify conditions to suit.

A (BMS) can meet these needs. As a central computerised system for managing and operating core building applications, it incorporates controls for air conditioning, energy management and maintenance. It is an essential tool in fine-tuning building efficiency, reducing costs and improving comfort.

A BMS is best used as a monitoring, controlling and reporting tool. For example, it can help to audit, analyse, reduce and benchmark energy consumption by monitoring key parameters such as temperature, humidity and occupancy patterns. In doing so, technical services such as air conditioning, ventilation and heating ((HVAC), lift services, hot water systems and lighting can be controlled so as to minimise energy consumption without detriment to comfort and functionality. Data logging can also define temperature and conditions in the event of leasing disputes.

Added to that, a BMS can facilitate easier maintenance by providing reactive, preventive and predictive maintenance messages.

Current FM thinking focuses on an intelligent, enterprise-wide facility management systems, a solution comprising applications for:

• Comfort - (heating) ventilation and air conditioning and quality control;

• Life Safety - fire alarm/detection/suppression and Public Address Voice Announcement;

• Security - access control, time and attendance, video surveillance and asset/people tracking.

Companies have developed a smart centralised solution that pulls these different systems together into a common platform. This ability to interlink the different systems supports a holistic approach to building management. It enables automated building control processes to perform on the basis of all available information within the different systems - improving comfort levels, increasing productivity yet reducing costs (energy, installation and operating) and risk.

Dan Davis
Job title: facilities manager
Company: Limitless
Based in: Dubai

While many decide to take long vacations during the summer periods to escape the extreme high temperatures those left do not have to sweat it out.

It is widely recognised that the largest percentage of complaints to the facilities management department is that of temperature, especially in mixed, open plan offices when it is almost impossible to please all.

It is one of the main contributors to reduced staff productivity and is sometimes sacrificed at design stage due to financial restraints.

The optimum temperature is debatable but 22oC is what most facilities managers work too, with a variance of plus or minus 2oC.

Building management systems (BMS) are a great tool for monitoring the performance of air conditioning plants and conditions.

But they are often under utilised and not operated by fully trained staff.

In many cases BMS's are purchased and then left to run themselves, which can create severe problems.

When operated and monitored correctly, they are the perfect tool for highlighting issues, troubleshooting and following through on corrective action.

Integrated with a good computer aided facilities management (CAFM) package, by using logged complaints, recorded temperatures or alarms, statistics can be reported.

This data can then be presented to highlight progress or failure.

If facilities managers have to retrofit a building, a well chosen protective window film located in sun exposed areas along with quality blinds will dramatically reduce heat gain.

If heat gain is reduced, the cooling load will also be reduced taking the strain of the core plant.

Many simple measures can be taken to keep temperatures stable within the workplace and retaining the conditioned environment.

For example, ensuring all windows are locked and air tight during summer months, all doors are kept shut or doors closers installed and maintained. Security and cleaning staff also play a role by training them to be vigilant and report broken doors/windows and not keeping fire exits wedged open when going outside.

Saidja Geirnaert
Job title: general manager
Company: Dalkin
Based in: Dubai - U.A.E

Possibly the first thought of the business manager or owner is what will be the capital cost. However, managers are increasingly considering the concept of whole life costs for the investments they make in building services.

It makes sense that if you purchase premium products from a quality manufacturer with a comprehensive service and maintenance package there will be a long term impact on the profitability and productivity of your business.

Whole life costs for air conditioning can be divided in two area's: financial costs (purchase price, annual energy cost, maintenance charge) and hidden costs (downtime, staff performance, customer comfort, cost to the environment).

When evaluating different air conditioning systems the above factors should be taken into account.

Another issue for business managers when considering air conditioning is cold draughts and the discomfort that may be caused to employees and customers. Poorly designed systems can indeed cause uncomfortable draughts and so location of the indoor unit and its air distribution must be considered at the design stage.

The height of the ceiling in your building will also be relevant in this process. Air conditioning manufacturers generally assume that the optimum ceiling height for a direct expansion system to be between 2.7 and 3.5 metres. Cold air at about 12 to 14°C supplied from this height is able to mix with warmer room air before reaching personnel level, thereby relieving any feeling of draught.

One of the most worrying and natural concerns when considering air conditioning systems is that of noise.

The inconvenience of a loud and permanent humming sound resulting in complaints and discomfort.

In practice, today's modern systems are manufactured to such a degree that a well-designed system will operate within a more than comfortable sound zone often unnoticed by the people occupying the space. The target zone for an air conditioning system is 30 decibels - 30dB(A).

There are many things to consider when choosing and managing an air conditioning system: energy efficiency, noise, cost effectiveness and meeting legislation requirements.

A controlled environment is no longer a luxury, it is an essential component for a successful business. The perception that air conditioning only ‘cools' is a common myth:

• Air conditioning maintains a steady and comfortable temperature to keep your valuable customers and hard working staff happier;

• In cooling mode the humidity in the air is reduced, keeping the surroundings feeling fresh and pleasant to be in and prevent mould;

• An air conditioning system will not only cool in the summer, but the latest models can also heat in the winter.

The optimum comfort zone is between 18-24°C, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Above or below this temperature will start to have a negative effect on almost all businesses.

In short, air conditioning makes you feel better, more active and fit, resulting in many advantages, because he or she who feels better is more creative and productive.

What is the effect on personal performance?

There is a close correlation between a person's performance and the temperature of his immediate surroundings. An environment that is too hot, too cold or too damp will certainly not contribute to higher working efficiency.

Performance begins to drop at about 22°C whilst above 26°C, it falls dramatically. Therefore, it is important to keep temperature under control.

It is scientifically proven that accidents tend to occur more frequently during extreme temperatures - the optimum temperature appears to be about 21°C, and mental performance and work rhythm drop off sharply when it is too hot.

Obviously, the provision of a constant environment is subject to many influences.

For a building to operate comfortably and efficiently, due attention must be paid to its services.

More and more health concerned people pay attention to indoor air quality (IAQ). You may experience health effects from indoor air pollutant soon after exposure or possibly even years later. Air conditioning is able to prevent or reduce some of the health effects.

The way houses and buildings are constructed to conserve energy has reduced the natural ventilation of fresh air, which, in the worst case, results in sick building syndrome.

When ventilation is stopped, the amount of energy required to cool is reduced. But this also means that humidity levels are maintained by re-circulating the same air and pollutants day after day.

Solutions to lower the concentration of indoor air pollutants are ventilation, filters and humidity control. Air conditioning offers these solutions. Every air conditioning unit has a filter. The type of filter depends on the type of system. A system with integrated ventilation requires a less effective filter.

Air conditioning is not only bringing comfort and clean, healthy air but it also has a positive effect on indoor equipment. The low humidity level ensures a prolonged lifetime of your equipment. A humidity level of 40-60 % is advised for a good conservation of indoor equipment.

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