Burning issue Offices in a tight corner

Despite growing economic worries over Brexit, the latest figures show the robustness of the prime office rental sector, with vacancy low, take-up high and rental growth forecasts. However, with space at a premium and flexible working on the rise, installers need to think carefully about the cooling system they deploy. Mike Hayes at FläktGroup explains how underfloor air conditioning (UFAC) can help meet the changing needs of office buildings

can provide the answer. These solutions work by installing discreet local zone units to areas of between 50m2

and 300m2 , 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

A corner office example T

he top end of the office rental market continues to see good levels of demand from occupiers of all sizes and rents remain high. However, with uncertainty on the horizon as Brexit looms, occupiers are seeking

new ways of protecting themselves against any outcome of negotiations through flexible workplaces. Flexible working spaces are set to grow by up to 30% annually for the next

five years across Europe, drastically changing the way thousands of businesses organise their work force. As we move into 2019, the best offices will need to be both accessible and

affordable, able to provide tenants with competitive rates and design features that are forward thinking. And this applies to critical operations, such as heating and cooling, as much as other building services. In a typical office environment, space heating and cooling requirements are at their peak during the weekdays when most staff are present. However, flexible working trends mean that, increasingly, people are working at different times of the day and night. So, what options are available to installers looking to respond to these changing needs?

Saving space

Mike Hayes of FläktGroup

Between 2012 to 2016, the average size of office floor space in London fell by 24%. The mantra for modern construction certainly seems to be ‘do more with less’ and this can be challenging when it comes to finding the right heating and cooling solutions. Conventional air conditioning systems include chilled water or direct expansion wall mounted fan coils or ceiling cassettes. However, these solutions can take up valuable floor space, or require high level access and only provide localised cooling and heating. Increasingly, buildings need to be easily adaptable to different uses, but conventional systems make this a challenge. Underfloor air conditioning systems (UFAC), such as FläktGroup’s OfficeCool,

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. A key benefit of underfloor systems is that 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), improving energy efficiency.

Easy installation

The rapid turnover and multi-functional nature of modern office spaces means that easy installation and maintenance of heating and cooling systems is now an important factor for busy building managers and engineers. Fortunately, with underfloor systems there’s no need for ceiling-based duct and pipe work, leading to huge savings in construction materials, installation costs, fit out and reconfiguration costs. This also allows designers to make the most of historic or ornate ceilings on refurbishment projects, whilst still providing full air conditioning to the space. All service connections in the floor cavity are easily accessible for maintenance purposes, and all risks associated with maintenance personnel working at height are removed. When the office space has to be redesigned, the technology can be easily moved without special tools. Power and data rails run in the modular raised floor, so the electrical systems can be relocated quickly. The LECU is dimensioned to fit a 600 x 600mm floor tile exactly without the use of stringers. With two adjustable grilles and a space for a preferred floor finish in between, it can seamlessly blend into a space. With floor space falling, and flexible working on the rise, it’s more important than ever for installers to be aware of the heating and cooling options available to them. Underfloor air conditioning systems are highly flexible and can be easily adapted to suit any future modifications to a building’s layout. Combined with ease of installation and the opportunity to save on valuable floor space, this technology can help building managers to stay one step ahead of rapidly changing workplace trends.

An example of an office using FläktGroup’s OfficeCool

February 2019

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