Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Systems(25)
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As a Managing Director of a company that provides temperature and humidity solutions to predominantly the warehousing and industrial sectors, I thought I would share my dilemma that I’m sure other business owners and managers also face. I don’t pretend to know the answers, but thought it might be worth sharing some of the considerations that I’m facing in whether to reshape, recruit and build or hunker down until the World, Europe and the UK offers some sort or predictability. I promise to not refer to ‘new normal’, masks or social distancing as this is extensively covered elsewhere. Context Our business has seen steady growth in the past 5 years, as a result of our efforts to create and retain relationships with customers who value our offer. Our focus has always been to offer solutions to large scale complex HVAC projects. We invest heavily in intellectual talent sponsoring PhD and MSc students, to keep us on our toes and develop leading edge solutions. We also feed off each other and our network of equally talented suppliers. My dilemma as Managing Director is do I continue our ambitious Research & Development (R&D), IP and Business Development or throttle back and take a cautionary approach until the economy offers a more certain platform? ‘Fortune favors the brave’ they say, but when you have a good business and employees look to business managers to ensure their livelihoods, how brave is brave? The Dilemma Immediate transactional or contractor resources are easy to obtain with the right screening and due diligence Immediate transactional or contractor resources are relatively easy to obtain with the right screening and due diligence, but for more developmental strategic roles, do you recruit in an emerging post pandemic, catastrophic employment forecast, that to in a mid/post Brexit world? From my personal perspective, it boils down to attitude, communication, enthusiasm and buy-in from everyone in the company. Nothing new there, but it feels that the stakes are higher so confidence is key. Do we or don’t we? Inaction is the riskiest response to the uncertainties of an economic crisis. Rash or scattershot action can be nearly as damaging. Rising anxiety (How much worse are things likely to get? and for how long is this going to last?) and the growing pressure to do something often produces a variety of moves that target the wrong problem or overshoot the right one. Within the world of HVAC, changes to legislation, environmental considerations, technological changes and research and development might be slowed or influenced, but won’t stop as a consequence of the immediate economy, which is a good thing. Recruiting on a need basis Many companies recruit when needed, to fill a vacant position or when a large project demands more manpower than the current headcount supports. This approach is obvious and addresses immediate transactional and resource needs. Using headcount as a KPI for growth, at a glimpse may illustrate positivity, but may be signaling a stop gap and may not be a true indicator of strategic growth. Of all the things I have observed over the last 5 months, reading the news, talking to colleagues and peers, a few things have stuck out for me, such as how companies have treated their employees, customers and suppliers, how creative and flexible some big organizations have been in responding to market changes and demands and how, despite uncertainty, their core business skills, intelligence and ability enabled them to prosper in a new and unforeseen environment. Finally, how companies will be remembered post crisis. Robust business planning The ability to respond quickly to market changes relies on creativity and attitude My belief is that those companies that have and continue to float to the top had the key ingredients of a successful business, enabled by capable enthusiastic talent that were given the opportunity to shine. These people weren’t hired to fill a stop gap, but rather these people were hired as part of a robust business plan. So, ‘do we or don’t we?’ Our philosophy at Jet Environmental Systems is to have a solid platform, identify future markets, trends and technologies and hire the absolute best people that we can to get us there. Recruitment in our business is a process that supports our strategic development and so for us our answer is yes, have confidence and continue to invest in the best talent. The ability to respond quickly to market changes relies on creativity and attitude with support from equally enthusiastic management who create the opportunity for individuals who present this talent to grow. Conclusion I hope the thought process I’ve shared has been useful, for me it has been a checkpoint in whether our choice of investment in people is right, not just now but in all situations. For me, it’s a resounding yes! I think we will create opportunities by having vision and giving people opportunity.
Sensors have been used in buildings since the invention of air conditioning to understand how buildings are performing, from in-room temperature sensors, to sensors on plant equipment, motors, ductwork and pipes. The Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled more sensors of different types to be deployed in more locations throughout the building easier than ever before. The point of installing and using IoT sensors is to gain deeper insight into how buildings are performing, and ensure buildings are healthier, more productive for people to work in, more effective to run and more energy efficient. This article looks at in-room sensors, such as temperature, air quality and occupancy, and how IoT sensors can help improve building performance. The benefits of IoT sensors is that they are easy to install, both physically and from a commissioning perspectiveThe benefits of IoT sensors is that they are easy to install, both physically and from a commissioning perspective. Cabling is usually minimal or not required at all: IoT sensors are battery powered, or require simple USB power (from a plug socket) or utilise Power over Ethernet (PoE). IoT sensors use low power wireless protocols (such as Bluetooth, Mesh etc) to send data, and thus can be placed anywhere within a building and do not require multiple physical IOs for integration. Unprecedented amounts of data IoT sensors are usually cost-effective such that thousands of sensors can be deployed throughout the building without much effort. This gives an unprecedented amount of data to building managers, which comes with its own challenges – How to make use of this data? There are two ways to utilise this data to improve building health, performance and efficiency: Use an effective monitoring platform or data analysis tools to turn raw data into actionable insights. This can provide the building and facilities team with insights to be more pro-active, and spot temperature, air quality, overcrowding, etc issues even before the users or tenants begin to notice e.g. it’s too cold, too drafty, too stuffy, etc. Integrate the live data from the IoT sensors straight into the Building Management System (BMS) and create new control strategies to automate the building further. This requires a bit more integration and commissioning work upfront, but the performance and efficiency benefits through automation will give a fast Return on Investment. The key here isn’t the sensor integration itself, but the building control strategy that will be the logic to which the building automation fucntions. Some use cases of IoT sensors are: Temperature and HVAC A common problem I’ve heard from many buildings is that existing temperature sensors that connect to the BMS have been placed in the ceiling, and not at head height. Using battery powered IoT temperature (and humidity) sensors, and sticking them to the wall at head height, is a quick and easy way to measure temperature where it actually matters.Data can be used to plot temperature heatmaps, find hot or cold spots, or analyse the solar heat gain Data can be used to plot temperature heatmaps, find hot or cold spots (e.g. if two nearby FCUs are working against each other, one heating one cooling); or analyse the solar heat gain, and adjust internal loads. The IoT temperature sensors can be connect to the BMS to provide more accurate temperature data to FCUs instead of the sensors in the ceiling. In general, IoT senors can easily be reconfigured and moved, e.g. during a fit out. But care needs to be taken to keep a close eye on the sensors and which room/space they relate to. Battery will need to be changed every 5 years. The IoT temperature sensors are cheap enough that they can simply be replaced with new ones e.g. the sensors element need recalibrating. Indoor air quality sensors and HVAC Accurate CO2 level sensors (which use duel channel NDIR technology) with IoT connectivity are getting cheaper and can also be used to do ‘heatmapping’, of the building, and provide accurate insights on indoor air quality. Similarly, heatmaps can be done with particulate matter sensors (PM10, PM2.5, PM1), VOC sensors and others embedded in an IoT connected sensor. CO2 level sensors in Accurate CO2 level sensors with IoT connectivity are getting cheaper and can also be used to do ‘heatmapping’particular are important as the level of CO2 indoors affects our cognitive ability. High indoor CO2 levels hinder our productivity. Indoor CO2 levels of 900ppm to 1400ppm and higher, which are seen in buildings with poor ventilation, reduce our ability to make decisions and use complex information by 15% to 50% and higher, respectively. Indoor CO2 levels are also a good indication of the risk of infection, as people breathing are usually the main source of CO2 in buildings. So being able to monitor CO2 levels in every space inside the building will provide building owners, tenants and users with reassurance with regard to COVID-19 related challenges. ‘eCO2’, a derivative from VOC sensors, should NEVER be used as a measure of CO2 levels. All CO2 sensors elements need to be recalibrated every 3-5 years. Occupancy level and HVAC Knowing the occupancy on every floor of the building can be used to control HVAC systems. Through BMS integration, controlling the flow of ventilation dynamically, based on real-time floor-by-floor occupancy, allows the building to ‘breathe’ with actual demand.Employing an occupancy-based, dynamic control strategy on the BMS reduces the energy consumption for buildings that rarely see full occupancy This balances the building from a technical perspective, and improves air delivery by opening up more ventilation capacity. Employing an occupancy-based, dynamic control strategy on the BMS, not only improves the indoor air quality, but also reduces the energy consumption for buildings that rarely see full occupancy, or have dynamic use (which will only be more common as we begin to work-from-home more often) Measuring the number of people is difficult, which usually means expensive. One way to count people is using PIR sensors places under each desk. This can get expensive for 1,000 desks even if one IoT PIR sensor is relatively cheap. Another way is to use a less accurate, but cheaper method, e.g. using long-range sensors that count the number wireless devices in a vicinity / floor, and using that as a proxy for percentage occupancy levels. Summary 1,000s of IoT sensors can be easily installed anywhere throughout any building. To get the best out of an IoT system a clear use case (or set of use cases) is necessary. By understanding the use cases and benefits, the right design, UI or integration can be used to maximise the cost-benefit ratio for the specific use cases, for example: BMS integration for IoT temperatures sensors; Relevant platform UI and analysis to extract actionable insights for the Facilities Management team from the raw IoT sensor data; or Correct HVAC control and automation strategy based on occupancy level data.
It is said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the single biggest driving forces behind the digitalization of industries ever seen. And although not new within HVAC infrastructures – especially within the food retail environment where it has been rolled out extensively – remote management and automation of HVAC systems is increasingly being used to support supermarket responses to COVID-19. From air filtration through to dynamic scheduling, digitalization of HVAC within the food retail sector is going through something of a renaissance. Pre-COVID Digitalization Software solutions that use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures, for example, are common in food retail stores. These solutions work by monitoring mission critical aspects of HVAC systems, from simple temperature data through to complex asset monitoring. This data can then either be fed back to the retailer for them to perform their own analysis or, using more advanced IoT technology, can be used to enact automated HVAC outcomes. Software solutions that use IoT technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures are common in food retail stores From preventing HVAC asset’s overworking – and therefore expending too much energy – through to detecting the first stages of a fault and alerting the relevant maintenance engineers, automation has been shown to deliver numerous benefits. These combine to serve the retailer’s primary purposes; enhancing the consumers in-store experience, improving the bottom line and decreasing energy usage to lower carbon footprint. But not only is the digitalization of HVAC helping food retailers drive down costs and energy, advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that it is also being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 related issues. Filtering Out the Virus Air filtration is a primary focus when looking for ways to keep internal spaces free from pathogens. While not exactly a new feature for HVAC systems, food retailers have been increasingly working towards implementing or improving their existing air filtration techniques in their stores. The solution to keeping air clean and fresh is actually quite straightforward and relies on the same technology that many stores already use to monitor CO2. Advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that HVAC is being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 By connecting CO2 monitors to a central controls panel (the technical way of describing the place where all of the sensor data is collected and, in some cases, analyzed), sensors are able to detect the CO2 levels instore, signal if they begin to drift past a pre-determined base level, and automatically alert the HVAC systems to provide more fresh air into the store. This is a simple process of optimization. Additional sensors detect when fresh air is either too humid, hot or cold to be filtered into the store and rectify this by automatically adjusting the HVAC. Essentially, monitoring CO2 and air quality levels makes sure the air in a store is constantly fresh and filtered to keep the chances of airborne transmission as low as possible without causing the HVAC systems to expend any more energy than is necessary. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person when coughing, talking or even breathing. Within a store environment therefore, where surface contamination and proximity to other people are likely to increase the chances of transmitting the virus, optimized fresh air flow to dilute indoor air is desirable. By detecting higher levels of CO2 within the air which in turn increases the chances of pathogens floating around, food retailers can automate their HVAC systems to filtrate the air and significantly reduce chances of transmission. Dynamic HVAC Response Air filtration isn’t the only way that food retailers are combining digitalization and HVAC systems to help them navigate the ‘new normal’. With store opening times continually changing, fewer people inside a store at any one time and staff performing additional and stricter clean regimes after hours, the requirements for optimum store temperature have moved from static to dynamic. Before the pandemic, HVAC systems would have to keep an average non-24 hour store at the optimum temperature for between say, 7am and 11pm, and would have to work a little harder to deliver more air into the store during the lunch time rush and post-work peaks – a mostly predictable routine. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person Now, however, with adjusted store schedules and social distancing regulations, the footfall and peak traffic times have changed dramatically. Through digitally enabled remote management of HVAC temperatures and schedules, new schedules could be deployed across the estate at the touch of a button. Real-time monitoring of in-store temperatures and the volume of people inside also enables HVAC systems to run more efficiently by stopping them from filtering in more outside air than is necessary in a shop that contains fewer customers than normal. IoT solutions are ensuring HVAC infrastructures are running efficiently, saving energy, helping a retailer’s bottom line and most importantly, ensuring the comfort and safety of customers and colleagues. However, as retailers look for solutions to the challenges posed by the post-COVID landscape, digitalized HVAC is breathing fresh air into the industry. From improved air filtration to dynamic schedule monitoring, digitalized HVAC systems are proving to be an important tool in a food retailer’s arsenal as they navigate the new normal.