Building tight and ventilating right
Providing appropriate ventilation for refurbishment projects is just as important as new build, and just as every building is different so too is the ventilation solution. Steve Mongan discusses the importance of developing bespoke solutions for commercial and industrial applications.
If targets set out by the Government to reduce carbon emissions and improve the efficiency of the UK’s building stock are to be met, the whole design of a building has to be challenged.
From a ventilation point of view, the good news for our industry is that the impact of these legislation changes has pushed the importance of ventilation up the agenda. The fact that buildings are becoming more airtight means that providing sufficient ventilation is essential for both new and refurbishment non-domestic projects. The most important factor is indoor air quality — achieving a clean, fresh and healthy environment. Other key issues are thermal comfort and reduced transmitted noise.
The ventilation solution you choose will obviously depend on the type of building and the application. It is most important to consider what a building is being used for, how often it will be used and how many people will be using it at any one time.
Ultimately, poor ventilation is a serious issue. Excessive condensation can cause mould growth, leading to cosmetic and structural damage to the fabric of a building and can create extremely poor indoor air quality, which can lead to potential health issues for the building’s occupants.
There are a number of ventilation systems on the market which installers and specifiers can choose from, including central plant, MVHR, natural ventilation and mixed-mode ventilation.
So which is the best solution for a particular commercial or industrial building?
The common myth amongst many specifiers and contractors is that central plant and heat-recovery units are the best systems. However, every new or refurbishment project is different, therefore it is essential as an industry that we do not get into a ‘one-solution-fits-all’ scenario.
A new commercial premises such as an open-plan office development, for example, will have different demands to a school or a hospital. In each of these commercial buildings, providing a sufficient quantity of fresh air to ensure the efficiency of a workforce, class or patient comfort is vital.
On the industrial side, a ventilation system may also need to control exposure to substances to prevent ill health, including adhesives, cleaning agents and fumes from soldering and welding. In all buildings, naturally occurring substances such as dust and biological agents like bacteria and other micro-organisms also need to be considered.
Whatever the application, the answer as to which is the best ventilation system to install has to be to fit application-specific systems that take advantage of the design and orientation of a building, the changing temperature throughout the day and night, and the regional seasonal profiles to optimise comfort whilst minimising energy loss. The system design should have the ability to be stand-alone or integrated with renewable heat-pump heating and cooling, solar-thermal panels and wind energy systems to suit the application.
To do this, it is vital that we as an industry adopt a partnership approach to working. Doing this will enable us to share technical expertise and achieve best practice. At Xpelair, we recognise that it is no longer just about product, it is about providing a solution and value-added services. Our Customvent division provides innovative solutions to help specifiers, contractors and installers select the right solution for their commercial and industrial building projects. The team works with our clients from the pre-planning design stage right through to installation and commissioning.
One project that has benefited from this bespoke service is Handsworth Grammar School in Birmingham.
We designed a tailor-made natural-ventilation solution around our recently launched Classmate system, which provides a fresh supply of air throughout the indoor environment of the school building, along with extracting stale air and controlling CO2 levels. Classmate’s world-class acoustic performance also helps eliminate excessive outdoor noise that could disrupt pupils and staff during lesson time.
Our team of technical experts worked closely with contractors CGJ Building Services to install the system as part of an extensive refurbishment project. Providing sufficient ventilation to the library, classrooms, toilet facilities and a new reprographics area, the Classmate solution helps maintain a comfortable learning environment at Handsworth Grammar School all year round.
A series of mixed-mode units and Xcell 600 and Xcell 1000 low-profile heat-recovery units were installed internally, whilst a selection of high-level passive stack natural ventilators were fitted onto rooftop areas. Appropriate rigid ducting routes were planned to ensure optimum airflow levels were achieved.
Handsworth Grammar School also benefited from our post-installation commissioning service whereby all control panels with automatic management software were programmed by technical experts to ensure suitable CO2 levels and temperatures were achieved throughout the premises.
Steve Mongan is head of marketing at Xpelair Ventilation Solutions.