‘Window Automation - Balancing the Budget’

A recent report from Glenigan has shown a considerable decrease in construction activity during 2010, December in particular was badly hit due to exceptional bad weather during the month. Despite the poor weather conditions towards the end of 2010, the recently released Glenigan Index1 indicates a positive start for 2011, with private non-residential construction on the rise due to improved business confidence and lending conditions.

Despite the positive outlook for building construction, keeping costs as low as possible is crucial to gaining new business in a tight market. The UK currently has some of the highest construction costs in Europe. Recent research undertaken by HM Treasury2 suggests that much of the increased costs of construction in the UK are instigated in the early design stages and could be drastically reduced.

In a typical building specification, the facade specialist will be asked to provide actuators fitted to opening vents to a given specification which will determine the stroke (opening distance) and possibly the number to be used per vent, complete with a wiring route to the location of the buildings BMS or similar. The specification will be loosely based on a specification for an electrical contractor to provide power for operation and possibly some form of integration with the BMS.

This approach usually resorts to the facade contractor selecting the most competitively priced actuator which meets their quality standards, but with little reference to the power that the device consumes. A single device taking 18 Watts power may seem a small amount of power to run a single actuator, multiply this by 100 actuators and the consumption runs to 1.8 Kilowatts. Compared to a 12 Watt device the saving in power alone is 33%, but more importantly the switching equipment will need to handle more power as a result and increase installation costs as a result.

The most cost efficient way of specifying and installing natural adaptive ventilation systems and smoke control systems is to approach a specialist who can offer a complete design package, from design through to installation and maintenance. Not only can this approach offer a balanced approach as far as the system is concerned, but by offering specialist ventilation design advice at architectural concept stage can reduce building costs and as importantly future running costs which effects the buildings long term sustainability. So often initial budgets omit significant packages necessary to implement adaptive natural ventilation successfully, later making causing poor compromise and ill feeling toward the technology.

With clients now very much aware of BREEAM ‘excellent’ buildings being completed and promoted heavily in the construction press, contractors are keen to differentiate their services to attract clients. Reduced construction costs can be achieved by smarter design practices across the whole of the supply chain, often leading to more sustainable buildings. As our buildings become more ‘intelligent’ specialists should be on board at the very early design stages to take responsibility for discussing options to use the very best latest technologies.

BMS systems are now available at reasonable prices, so these systems are finding their way into ever more buildings, not just in new build but refurbished construction projects as well. By bringing specialists together to cover automated ventilation provision and renewable technologies, with heating and lighting requirements, complete joined up cost effective solutions can be found. Simply put, an early design meeting with these specialists will often offer the contractor the correct way to get the best results for less.

Greater involvement from one specialist will also offer more robust warranties on the final system installed. We have seen this in the external envelope provision over the last 20 years; more contractors approaching one specialist for a complete envelope provision. As a result, there are fewer interface problems giving a more reliable and weather tight envelope covered by a single installer’s warranty. As M&E systems continue to become more complex, and increasingly involve renewable technologies, builders are beginning to see value engineering at its best when they involve specialists at an early stage, rather than try to cut corners by pushing others to try and reinvent the wheel.

Commissioning a system provided by several contractors can be challenging at best. The system may not provide the complete solution envisaged at the outset, and may need further modifications; but at who’s cost? Specialist commissioning for smoke ventilation is crucial. These specialists can computer model designs to ensure smoke evacuation takes place quickly and effectively - potentially saving lives in the process.

A single provider of natural adaptive ventilation and smoke control will also be best placed to provide a routine and preventative maintenance service for their installations, vital in smoke ventilation installations to meet the latest legal requirements for landlords and giving proven cost savings on any system over the alternative strategy of ‘fix and forget’.

SE Controls are a UK company that offers specifiers and building owners a one stop solution for smoke control and adaptive natural ventilation solutions. Any building can benefit from these modern low energy and low maintenance automation systems, whether they be new build or existing property.

Through experience gained in almost 30 years in the industry, SE Controls offers complete “turnkey” solutions from design and manufacture to installation commissioning and on-going service throughout the lifetime of the building. SE Controls have 8 “Core Competencies” that enables them to offer a totally professional solution to clients from system design, manufacture, distribution, project management, installation, commissioning and on-going training, service and maintenance.

The result is a well-designed system which saves energy and improves comfort and safety for building occupiers. Building owners can be assured that UK legislative requirements are met, and that the systems installed are regularly maintained to ensure safe operation.

A UK company, SE Controls also operate across the globe with offices on several continents with specialists offering clients expert advice based on local legislative requirements. Visit the website at www.secontrols.com for further information. To discuss your requirements with SE Controls, or request literature, please call their head office in Lichfield on 01543 443060.

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