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Winter wisdom

This coming winter will present some exceptional challenges for FMs; restarting sites after lockdown and maintaining them compliantly and safely through the winter. The experts from Mitie and Adler and Allan offer advice on preparing for a winter like no other

CARLO ALLONI, MANAGING DIRECTOR, TECHNICAL SERVICES & IFM, MITIE:
Given that buildings have been empty or had very low occupation for so long, the first step on any winter maintenance agenda should be dedicated to ensuring that all key systems and emergency features, including emergency lighting, fire alarms, extinguishers and emergency generators, are working properly.

Winter maintenance should also prioritise measures to eliminate any bacteria or settled particulates that may have accumulated in water systems and HVAC systems during the office closure. For example, water outlets will all need to be flushed and tap temperatures checked to ensure they are still compliant. A full system chlorination should also be considered for building water systems that have had little or no use, to reduce the risk of legionella. These systems should also have their dosing levels checked and water hygiene samples taken, to re-establish their regular water treatment regimes. HVAC filters will also need to be changed and air conditioning will need to be run for at least 48 hours to reduce the risk of airborne viruses.

As viruses can also be transmitted from touching contaminated surfaces, businesses should implement extensive cleaning measures focused on sanitising key touchpoints, including door handles, desks, coffee stations and meeting rooms.

PREPARING FOR SHORT DAYS AND COLD SNAPS

As the days get shorter, businesses need to carry out a thorough assessment of all lighting inside and outside the building to ensure they are working properly and that spaces are well lit. Businesses looking to reduce their carbon emissions can take this review a step further by replacing fluorescent and halogen lights with LED. Using LED lighting can improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and save money, which are important considerations for businesses in the current climate.

With temperatures likely to fall and create frost, it’s important to keep gritting services on stand-by. Icy weather can make your employees and visitors slip and fall, so it’s important to be ready to respond to those cold days. We all know that the trademark of British weather is that it is very changeable. Technology is a vital tool to ensuring that businesses, particularly those with a national footprint, can quickly respond to changes in the forecast. Mitie’s ‘Go-Grit’ app allows customers to manage their winter services from any mobile device, 24/7. The app uses an interactive map system which features all of the business’ sites, tracks the local weather impact and flags high-risk areas in real-time. The app also shows the schedule of which sites are due to be gritted, allowing businesses to cancel or add a new service at the touch of a button.

By installing sensors throughout the building – including meeting rooms, desks and entrances – businesses can collect data on how their sites are used and employees can book desk or meeting space in advance. This data can be used to ensure that capacity levels aren’t breached and that there is sufficient space for employees to maintain a safe distance. Monitoring and analysing this data in real-time can also be used to determine whether the holiday season has left parts of the building empty so that they can be hibernated to reduce energy use.

In addition to monitoring occupancy, sensors can also be installed in the building’s key assets and connected to the building management system (BMS) so that they can be monitored remotely in real time. This ensures that all equipment is running smoothly and raises the alarm should anything require maintenance or a repair. Not only can this preventive maintenance save money from repair costs, it can also ensure systems are using energy efficiently – reducing carbon emissions.

These sensors can also be used to ensure critical infrastructure is protected from any cold. By programming ‘Frost Protection’ settings into the BMS, it will then automatically adjust the building’s heating based on outside temperatures. This protects assets such as heating units or chillers from freezing, preventing costly damage. By connecting the BMS to remote access and ensuring the Frost Protection settings are regularly checked through simulations, businesses can be confident that their sites will keep running, no matter the temperature outside or occupation levels inside.

As the weather turns colder, employers can help their people stay healthy and prevent the spread of coronavirus with some simple measures. For example, by ensuring that employees are regularly updated with the latest government guidance, are aware of how and when they should take a COVID-19 test and are encouraged to have the flu vaccine where possible. At Mitie, we’ve taken this one step further by providing free access to the flu vaccination to every employee this winter.

About Sarah OBeirne

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