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Article Date: 28th November 2018

FläktGroup - Keep Apace with Changing Space

Underfloor Air Conditioning - UFAC Systems - Heating and Cooling

FlaktGroup Mike Hayes

The UK serviced office model is expected to grow from £16bn in 2017 to £62bn in 2025. Space is at a premium, and with multiple occupants sharing one building, flexibility is required. Mike Hayes, applications specialist at FläktGroup, explains why facilities managers should consider Underfloor Air Conditioning (UFAC) for this reason.

Demand is growing exponentially for serviced offices and co-working spaces across the country, both for fast growing SMEs and increasingly also for larger and more established companies. In central London alone, flexible workplace providers have taken over 21% of office space in 2017, while competition in the regional cities is intensifying.

Co-working minimises exposure to long-term leases and offers businesses room to grow and downsize if required. To deliver this flexibility, a building’s operations - of which heating and cooling is a crucial element – must also be able to adapt quickly to changes in tenants’ needs.

Combined with shifts in workplace culture, the modern flexible office
presents a range of challenges when it comes to specifying the right heating and cooling system.

Open all hours

In a traditional nine-to-five office environment, space heating and cooling requirements are at their peak during the weekdays when most staff are present. However, people are increasingly working at different times of the day and night. So gone are the days when office temperatures are fixed at a set level across the building at specific times. Today, heating and cooling need to respond to changing functions at different times of the day to maintain a comfortable temperature for occupants. At the same time, it must be easy to install, maintain and reconfigure to suit any future modifications to a building’s layout without taking up valuable lettable space.

Under control

Fortunately, advances in modern cooling technology means that there are many different options for specifiers and building managers to choose from. Conventional air conditioning systems include chilled water or direct expansion wall mounted units or ceiling cassettes. However, these solutions can take up valuable floor space, or require a large suspended ceiling void and can only provide localised cooling and heating.

For buildings that need to be flexible enough to accommodate changes in design and usage, Under-Floor Air Conditioning systems (UFAC), such as FläktGroup’s OfficeCool, can provide the answer.

UFAC solutions work by installing discreet local zone units to areas of between 50 m2 and 300 m², using the raised floor void as an air distribution plenum to distribute the conditioned air.

The Local Environmental Control Units (LECU) which are sited within the raised floor void, can then each be controlled as required by the occupants to adjust the temperature and control the release of conditioned air into their particular area of the office. The LECU will also continuously circulate room air and can even provide local heating should this be required.

Efficiency and flexibility

Because there is no need for a ceiling-based duct and pipe work, UFAC systems can offer huge savings in construction materials, installation costs, fit out and reconfiguration costs. If an ornate ceiling is to remain exposed for all to see, this is the system to suit.

The LECU is dimensioned to fit a 600 x 600mm floor tile exactly without the use of stringers. This means that the technology can be easily moved without special tools when the office space has to be redesigned. Since their own power and data rails run in the modular raised floor, the electrical systems can also be relocated quickly. In fact, all service connections in the floor cavity are easily accessible for maintenance purposes, and all risks associated with personnel working at height are removed.

A UFAC system can also offer energy savings too. This is because air velocities are kept very low, with very generously sized heat exchangers. Conditioned air flows in the same direction as thermal lift, not against it, supplying the highest volume of fresh air into the occupied zone. The air stratifies in the office, which means that the high air temperature, at high level, returns to the downflow air handling unit (AHU), further improving energy efficiency.

One step ahead

With the popularity of co-working set to increase, specifiers and building managers need to deliver flexible building services without compromising on space, occupant comfort or energy efficiency. Underfloor air conditioning systems ticks all the boxes and can help managers to stay one step ahead in a fast-evolving commercial property market.

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