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What is HVAC?

26 Jan 2023

HVAC, in other words, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, plays a crucial role in making sure commercial buildings are comfortable and healthy in terms of indoor air quality and thermal condition. But it is possible to take HVAC up a notch and transform it into an automated system that uses Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices to relay valuable data insights that can improve workplace well-being and enhance health and safety. Let’s take a look at how this is possible.

What is HVAC?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It is, in a nutshell, climate control for commercial buildings. Whilst it deals mostly with the heating and cooling of air, it is also related to the maintenance of indoor air quality (IAQ).

The key objective when looking at what is HVAC has to be to preserve indoor air quality at a healthy level courtesy of sufficient ventilation, as well as to deliver thermal comfort, either by cooling or heating a space.

HVAC generally includes a heating system, which could be a boiler or heat pump; an air conditioning system, plus a network of ducts and moisture vents. It works by sourcing fresh air from outside, and bringing it in via natural or mechanical ventilation.

Commercial buildings that have no opening windows depend on mechanical ventilation systems. These filter incoming air and route it to where it is needed most, either for heating or cooling. The filters take out the likes of dust, allergens and other particles to help purify the air and enhance indoor air quality.

Why is HVAC important in commercial buildings?

Good levels of ventilation are important in commercial buildings. Too much humidity can aggravate allergies and cause skin irritation and respiratory infections. It can also make the symptoms of rheumatoid diseases worse, as well as promoting the growth of mould.

However, it is important that the air in commercial buildings is not too dry, as this can lead to sore and irritated eyes, dry skin, sinus problems and breathing difficulties.

Whilst there is no given legislation around workplace humidity, it is generally recommended that levels should range from 40 to 70 per cent.

Other issues can influence well-being in commercial buildings. Poor air quality caused by things like cleaning products, inbound pollutants, viruses and emissions from appliances and office equipment, can result in a range of symptoms, from headaches and sore throats to tiredness and difficulty concentrating.

This is precisely why an efficient HVAC system is important in commercial buildings. Without it, organisations will find it a challenge to retain and attract the best talent, and could find that productivity takes a hit.

But it’s important to be mindful of the fact that technology has moved on since HVAC systems were first introduced. Therefore, for the commercial landlord, it’s becoming increasingly important to look to what today’s smart world has to offer in order to make rental stock more appealing to the commercial tenant.

In other words, it’s time to look at how an HVAC automated system can prove beneficial.

How does an HVAC automated system work in today’s smart world?

Automated or smart HVAC is transforming the way indoor air quality is managed. It is also helping organisations achieve the ultimate healthy building, as well as promoting building sustainability.

A smart HVAC automated system has the power to cut energy consumption in commercial buildings, as well as improve workplace well-being by monitoring and enhancing indoor air quality.

Smart HVAC works on the basis of Internet of Things technology. It incorporates a network of interconnected motion and noise detectors, humidity sensors, thermometers, geo-fencing and location indicators, and also brings in real time weather data from the internet.

This valuable data is channelled into a central dashboard. Here, machine learning and artificial intelligence step in to work out automations that trigger HVAC actions, so that adjustments are made to align with varying environmental conditions. The system will also react to internal fluctuations in air quality, from prompting boosted ventilation to issuing an evacuation warning depending on the severity of the problem.

Let’s take a closer look at the key ways in which an HVAC automated system can help make commercial buildings more attractive to tenants…

Help making commercial decisions

Together with the automated changes it prompts to keep indoor air quality at healthy levels, a smart HVAC automated system will also relay valuable data to facilities managers.

This data will allow them to make knowledgeable decisions regarding the need for things like dehumidifiers or humidifiers; to budget for machinery repairs and replacements, and to organise the servicing or replacement of plant and office equipment that are displaying emissions levels in excess of what is considered safe.

Hands-on control of the personal working environment

A smart HVAC automated system, used in conjunction with a building management system in commercial buildings, makes it possible for users to tailor their own individual climatic conditions to suit not just their own workspace preferences, but also to alter them to suit current weather conditions and the task in hand.

Even better, thanks to machine learning, the system educates itself based on user input. So next time environmental conditions change, the automated system will intrinsically know how to react.

The gesture of making it possible for individuals to control their own personal workspace offers both physical and mental well-being benefits, both of which can lead to improved morale and, therefore, productivity.

Energy cost savings and environmental benefits

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that buildings are responsible for 36 per cent of global final energy use, and 39 per cent of energy and process-related carbon dioxide emissions.

In terms of HVAC, air conditioning and heating are two of the processes that influence global warming the most, together accounting for almost 40 per cent of overall energy consumption in buildings, and 42 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.

The use of air conditioning in commercial buildings is on the rise because of a burgeoning demand for workplace comfort, and the hotter summers and heatwaves that go hand in hand with global warming will only add to the issue.

A smart HVAC automated system, however, provides a solution. The system enables monitoring of individual spaces via Internet of Things connected sensors, triggering automations to switch off heating and air conditioning when rooms are unoccupied; reducing heating levels where the ambient temperature has increased, or switching off air conditioning where temperatures have dropped.

All of these automated procedures reduce waste in commercial buildings, and limit pressure on the resources that would traditionally be employed to manage them if they were manual.

How can Smart Spaces transform HVAC into a smart, automated system to make commercial buildings more attractive?

Smart Spaces is an Internet of things driven, app-based platform that transforms the HVAC element of a building management system into a smart automated system, making it possible for managers to scrutinise, manage and maintain healthy indoor air quality and monitor and reduce energy consumption.

With all this in mind, Smart Spaces can make commercial buildings generally more appealing to the business tenant.

Why not request a free demo or get in touch to discover how Smart Spaces could help you upgrade your HVAC into a smart, automated system to add value to your commercial rental portfolio?

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