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Removing public building heating risks

phil_marris_-_managing_director_jaga_heating_products_uk1In this article Phil Marris, managing director at Jaga Heating Products UK, discusses why Low Surface Temperature (LST) radiators are the best choice for heating public buildings

Public sector buildings are subject to continuous public footfall, so organisations must carry out particularly stringent risk assessments. Any building which is open to the public has a duty of care to ensure that both visitors and employees are not exposed to unnecessary risks. One of the most overlooked considerations is how safe the building’s heating systems are, given their almost constant exposure to public occupants.

By taking extra care in the key features of the radiators they choose, a building’s owner or facilities manager can demonstrate that they have performed thorough due diligence – ensuring that the risks to staff and to the general public have been minimised. And, there’s no need to compromise on performance, looks and energy efficiency either. In addition to safety assurances, the best safe heating solutions can exceed the desired levels of heating performance and efficiency, and even prove complementary to the interior design.

When protecting the safety and welfare of the occupants – and protecting the organisation itself from potential liability claims – a radiator is never ‘just a radiator’. That is why LST solutions should be considered as the ideal choice.

LST radiators are commonly found in healthcare facilities, schools and care homes. Each of these scenarios share common considerations to that of public buildings, so the benefits of LST radiators will ultimately be transferable. There are any number of buildings that would fall into the public category, be it a library, museum, hotel, gallery, shopping centre, leisure centre, town hall and many more.

15818048349_ccc0fc26f3_oThe one thing they all share is that they are all open to scrutiny and potential legal action should a member of the public fall to harm on their premises. In each case, the building’s heating system should be designed with a ‘worst case scenario’ approach. That means acknowledging that the radiators will likely be exposed to any given person at any given time during opening hours – including the more vulnerable members of society such as the elderly, disabled or children.

The potential harm caused through touching hot surfaces or exposed pipework is the most obvious risk to members of the public. According to statistics from the Leisure Accident Surveillance System, in 2010, 1,970 people were injured in a public building in the UK by either a radiator or hot pipework. For the most vulnerable demographics; the young and the elderly, prolonged contact with higher temperatures can cause severe burns, and can have catastrophic consequences. A conventional hot water system has an incoming flow temperature of at least 75°C and a return of 65°C. Here, surface temperatures can exceed 70°C, making the radiator a constant hazard with the potential to cause serious burns within seconds of contact.

Surface contact might be completely accidental, or as the result of innocent, casual contact – such as using a radiator to lean on during conversation. However, something so innocuous could escalate into a serious problem for the building’s owners – everything must be accounted for.

For example with elderly people, they might have a reduced sensitivity to temperature or may not be able to react quickly enough to prevent injury should they make contact. It is also true that older people are susceptible to losing their balance and falling over. In the event of this happening, serious injuries could occur if attention hasn’t been paid to the physical design of the radiators. Sharp corners and edges are an unnecessary risk that can exacerbate injuries in the event of a fall, so radiator casings should be designed with rounded corners.

In just a matter of seconds, an organisation’s neglect of its duty of care is exposed – why take the risk?

The vast majority of public buildings are equipped with outdated, inefficient and potentially harmful steel-panelled radiators. These radiators are highly inefficient, taking a lengthy time to warm up to the desired temperature, and using a lot of energy to do so. No other solution truly satisfies every heating criteria better than wall-mounted, low mass, LST radiators.

The low water content heat emitter found in these products features a large surface area for transferring heat effectively to the space. But more than that, it prevents burns through contact because it incorporates a casing that covers all the potentially harmful piping components. It also features a safe, cool to touch surface – no more than 43°C, which is the temperature outlined in NHS Estates Health Guidance Notes and in the HSE Information Sheet “Managing the risks from hot water and surfaces in health and social care” on surface temperature and casing design.

Even if a public building runs high flow temperature systems, the maximum casing temperature will remain safe at all times.

But safety extends beyond surface temperature. Radiators can also be specified with rounded corners to minimise the risk of injury should someone fall onto the radiator, or even if they simply bump into or brush past it accidentally. It is a subtle design element, but one that has already been well received in healthcare buildings and care homes.

According to Gov.UK heat accounts for roughly 45 per cent of our energy consumption and a third of all carbon emissions. When looking at the breakdown by sector, the commercial and public administration sector are responsible for 11.4 per cent of the UK’s total energy consumption. Investing in low water content radiators is one way of reducing consumption levels and energy bills, and should be an important consideration for public building owners.

11235055123_32dcaacb0c_oThis shift to using lower energy heating solutions is something which the UK government is also actively encouraging. In 2012, the government ensured that Display Energy Certificates (DECs) were mandatory for the majority of public buildings; a marker which must be displayed to the public to show how the operational energy use in public buildings compare to established performance benchmarks. If a building is labelled with an ‘A’, it is the most energy-efficient, and if it is labelled ‘G’ then it is the least. Heating and hot water accounts for a significant proportion of a building’s operating costs, so public organisations of course need to be wary of its radiators’ performance as part of this balance.

If the LST solution chosen is low-mass and low water content, it will in turn be safe for any audience, highly responsive and as such, extremely flexible in accommodating the temperature demands of a large building. Independent testing at BRE and KIWA has shown that the installation of this type of radiator can reduce energy consumption – and as a result, heating bills – by 10 per cent compared to traditional steel panel radiators. This therefore means that public building owners feel assured that they are helping to protect the planet and become more energy-efficient by investing in LST radiators, but furthermore, it will also ensure that they escape fuel scarcity.

Installation of this piece of technology is super-fast too, making the process easier for public buildings. Installation can often be completed in less than an hour and requires minimum man-power.

LST radiators also work best when they also utilise Low-H2O technology, consequently providing the end-users with energy savings of up to 16 per cent. Whereas a conventional radiator continues to give off heat for at least 20 minutes after a temperature change, low water content heat emitters respond immediately thanks to their low thermal mass. Public buildings will no longer have to wastefully over-heat any space.

Low-mass, low surface temperature radiators provide specifiers with an ideal solution because the added safety benefits do not detract from overall heating performance. The installation of LST radiators can be a contributory factor in achieving the highest standards of public safety in per cent and help to reduce their clients’ energy bills too.

It is difficult to find a reason why LST radiators would not be seen as the first choice for heating in public sector buildings, and difficult to understand why more aren’t being installed already.

About Sarah OBeirne


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