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24 June 2013

Regular maintenance means better performance. Or does it? Daikin UK, ISS and Seaward, among others, give their opinions on M&E

If you need reminding of how important maintenance is in the business of FM, Martin Passingham, will set you straight. ''The operating efficiency of an air conditioning system is vital to ensure that emissions and energy consumption are minimised,'' says the product manager of Daikin UK. ''But it goes much further than that. Operating efficiency affects the reliability, cost of maintenance and the life expectancy of the system. If air conditioning equipment can be kept running at an optimum level, it results in a longer lasting, cheaper to run system that produces fewer emissions.

''One of the most effective ways of optimising operating efficiency is simply to ensure ceiling cassettes are kept clean. Regular cleaning and maintenance programmes will make a huge difference to maintaining peak performance levels. Dust accumulating in air filters can mean that efficiency gradually reduces between air conditioning maintenance visits and energy consumption increases over time. It can also decrease airflow by up to 65%.

''However, if you're running a busy shop or office, it is not always straightforward to clean ceiling cassettes. There are practical issues, such as finding a time when the premises are empty or where moving furniture or stock is required to gain access. There are also health and safety considerations associated with reaching the ceiling especially if the cassettes are situated in hard to reach areas.

''But there are products on the market that will perform an automatic cleaning function, solving these irritating and costly problems.''

Passingham isn't the only one expounding the benefits of maintenance, however. Jim Wallace of Seaward says that maintaining the safety of electrical equipment in the workplace requires a robust approach to risk assessment.

Wallace say there is indisputable evidence the in-service inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical equipment has prevented injuries, saved lives and avoided workplace fires that would otherwise have been devastating for those involved.

However, he points out, an overzealous approach to testing has led to some situations of over-compliance with the regulations. ''To overcome this, the IET Code of Practice for In Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment has been updated.

''The latest version emphasises the importance of taking a proportionate response to ensure that all workplace electrical systems are maintained to prevent danger, in line with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. To do this it says that electrical equipment inspection and testing regimes should be based on a structured approach to assessing the safety risks posed by appliances.

''With electrical equipment this should include a full consideration of the environment in which the equipment is being used, the level of user awareness, the equipment construction and type, frequency of use, previous records and type of installation for fixed appliances.

''Consideration of these factors will enable informed decisions to be made on the frequency of any workplace electrical inspections and tests required.''

Daniel Betts, marketing manager for ECEX, a multi-specialist service and solutions company in the FM sector, says the planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedule of any facilities team, whether in-house or outsourced, is imperative to the successful operation of any building or facility.

''Ensuring mechanical systems are able to provide adequate heating and cooling is essential in providing a comfortable and efficient work environment for employees. However, carrying out routine condenser coil, air-handling unit (AHU) and cooling tower maintenance can often be a time-consuming and difficult task, absorbing valuable engineer time. Therefore, the objective of any maintenance team is simple: Achieve adequate building cooling whilst minimising labour time.''

After conducting a detailed research investigation, Seppänen, Fisk and Lei (2006) demonstrated that failing to provide office temperatures can have a significant impact on employee productivity. ''The greatest levels of efficiency were achieved at temperatures of about 21-22oC; any temperature above or below this range caused a reduction in employee work rate.

''With building temperatures heavily influenced by the effectiveness of HVAC equipment, it's no surprise competent maintenance and management is considered a mission critical task among most building and facilities managers. After all, if cooling equipment were to fail due to system fouling in summer months for example, the temperature could increase causing a reduction in productivity which could have significant cost implications on a business.''

In most regions of the UK, pollen is a major contributor to cooling equipment fouling, Betts points out. ''This, combined with general debris caused by foliage, refuse and other airborne particulates, can have a significant impact on the day-to-day running of the equipment. During summer in particular, coil cleaning, changing of internal air filters and general HVAC maintenance must be carried out more frequently, consuming much of the engineering team's routine PPM schedule (often to the detriment of other key activities). This problem is compounded by the present economic climate, which has caused nationwide cutbacks on staffing and budgets.''

Betts says that fewer staff onsite equates to a reduced capacity for maintenance output and often, client-facing tasks take precedent over the behind-the-scenes plant maintenance. ''Cooling equipment, if not attentively maintained, will operate at increasing levels of inefficiency until it can no longer support the cooling requirements of the site. Breakdowns will eventually occur, causing major issues for employers. After all, if a building is operating above or below the desired requirement, productivity will drop and company output/profitability will follow.''

The solution, Betts says, is simple: Prevent airborne debris before it can enter the air intake systems, clogging coils, overloading internal air filters and reducing airflow efficiency. ''An air intake screen does just that. Fixing to the external intakes, this highly engineered filtered mesh was designed specifically to prevent fouling to HVAC equipment. Many commercially mesh screen products can damage equipment by restricting airflow too greatly; the air intake screen was designed with airflow in mind.''

Once installed, he says, an air intake screen can be cleaned using a soft brush or vacuum cleaner, significantly reducing the requirement for coil cleaning; even the rain has a cleansing effect. ''By installing a product that reduces maintenance time by protecting cooling systems, engineers can be re-deployed to other mission critical maintenance tasks on site. Engineer time aside, air intake screens assist in ensuring adequate heating and cooling can be provided to the valuable employees within the building, assisting in maximising their output potential.''

Maintenance covers a vast area. A single company can tackle projects ranging from small community churches to prominent landmarks. Take Darlington-based Stone Technical Services, which says it's a specialist in maintenance, safety systems, high-level repairs, restoration and lightning protection working on everything from small, community churches to prominent landmarks.

The company recently secured contracts to carry out various repairs at high profile locations in London, Wales and West Yorkshire. In London, Stone is working at St Margaret's Church, Lothbury, in the City - a church serving the Square Mile, built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1660s directly opposite the Bank of England.

Stone's CITB-registered steeplejacks are completing an inspection of the church spire and portico. The extensive quinquennial survey also includes make-safe works to the spire. In Wales, Stone is working on one of the country's most historic castles. Roch Castle in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire has an illustrious history dating to the 12th Century.

The Grade 1 listed ancient monument was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and, having been updated and modernised internally, is used today for weddings, events and as a holiday retreat. Stone's conservation and restoration team has carried out work for owners, the Retreats Group, to repair and restore the castle's historic windows.

The ancient nature- and current use- of Roch Castle required a sensitively executed project, lasting just over three weeks, to ensure little or no disruption and in-keeping with the Norman castle's historic beauty. Stone's experts used a powered access cradle suspended from the castle's roof, using a counter-balanced weight system, to reach the high-level windows.

And at Wakefield in West Yorkshire, Stone is carrying out a major project at Chantry Bridge, also home to the Chantry Chapel of St Mary. The historic bridge, just south of the city, has nine arches spanning the River Calder. Stone's bridge conservation experts have recently started work to restore the bridge which dates back to the 14th Century.

Owing to Stone's access capabilities no scaffolds are needed. Instead, specially-crafted pontoons are used to carry out the work. This also means there's no disruption to the general public and the sustainable methods used ensure no obstruction or damage to the breeding beds in the river.

MD of Stone Technical Services, Dave Stone, said: "We're now securing more and more varied contracts - projects that often require the combination of several of our divisions. Because we have vast experience of working at height and implementing unobtrusive repair methods, we're often called upon to complete work on ancient and historic buildings that need sensitive repairs- another of our specialist capabilities.

"This recent batch of new projects- up and down the country- is really boosting our planned growth and our team feel very privileged to work on such an unusual variety of structures."

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