Commercial Property Management – The Key to Maintaining Mechanical Plant Systems in Office Towers

When you manage commercial buildings there are many things to consider from a maintenance perspective.  Some of those things will be set to a budget plan and a preventative maintenance program to be actioned throughout the year.  In that way costs can be controlled and repair strategies set to take into account most systems failures.

In reviewing the mechanical systems in any commercial office building, the plant and equipment should be split into essential and nonessential systems.  Understand the factors of plant and equipment that could have a direct impact on occupancy and personal safety.  Those items will be high on the agenda of maintenance and control.

In every commercial building there will be preferred consultants and contractors that are selected to understand the current installations of plant and equipment.  Their information will be invaluable when it comes to setting targets of property performance and maintenance.

When you think about mechanical services and systems in any office building you immediately think about air conditioning.  That being said there are also other mechanical systems to manage and maintain (some are ventilation related) that are very common in the operation of high rise commercial buildings.

Mechanical Plant Systems

Here are some of those other systems to consider in your maintenance planning and budgets:

  • Toilet exhausts – Most toilet ventilation systems are reverse pressured. In other words air is extracted and expelled from the toilets in a dedicated ventilation ducting system to the outside air.  The system has to be maintained especially in situations where high usage is a factor of occupancy.
  • Tea room exhausts – These zones are usually in or near the core of the building where services and drainage are easily tapped into. The tea rooms can be extensively used by many tenants on a floor, and on that basis ventilation should be incorporated into the building design.
  • Kitchen exhausts – Kitchens can be both tenant related or positioned in the common area. Either way separate ventilation is required to remove kitchen cooking smells from any and all the tenancy areas.  The ventilation of kitchens is something that should be considered as part of fitout design.
  • Plant room ventilation – Plant rooms are usually located at the top of and or in the mid-rise of a commercial building. Ventilation will need to occur to the outside air.
  • Car park ventilation – Cars produce toxic fumes, and on that basis carbon monoxide sensors are usually installed in car parks to activate exhaust fans when gas levels are detected and rise. This is a particular issue at the start and end of day when vehicles are moving around.  Toxic fumes from car parks have to be removed to the outside air.  Clean air has to be supplied to the car parks.  In closed car parks the air flow is quite restricted and the only ventilation achieved will be through the use of these special ducting systems.
  • Boiler systems – Boilers require heat to function and fume stacks are installed to achieve and provide that air flow.
  • Hot water systems – Most hot water systems in a commercial application would (for economic reasons) be gas powered, although electric hot water systems are also used in some buildings. Either way ducting is required to the outside air.
  • Generator systems – Gas powered generators are common in many high rise buildings today for the supply of emergency power. An extensive amount of heat and fumes need to be expelled from the generator and the plant room area.
  • Generator cooling water systems – Generators need to be cooled and ventilated as they provide energy to the power grid in a building.
  • Tenants condenser water loops – Many tenants may have dedicated supplementary air conditioning systems in their tenancy space. Commonly the requirement occurs where a tenant installs an air conditioning system for a boardroom or kitchen within the fitout.  Condenser water will then be supplied to the supplementary air conditioning system.  Many high rise office towers have a special condenser water loop for that very reason and for a tenant to tap into.  Condenser water then circulates in the loop through the building 24 hours per day.  The tenant should pay a premium for access to this system.
  • Smoke and Stairwell ventilation systems – From a safety and building code perspective, the smoke from a fire needs to be expelled from a building and removed from stairwells. Large fans pressurize the stairwells in a commercial building to push smoke from the escape zones and allow a safe exit route for building occupants.
  • Fuel oil tanks – If your building has fuel oil tanks installed to supplement heating or any other plant related issue, the tanks will need to be ventilated to the outside of the property. Fuel tanks of this type are usually located in the basement of a commercial building.
  • Pumps – The plant room in a commercial property will have many instances of pump use and fluid control. Storm water, sewer waste, and clean water all need to be circulated through and around the building.  All of the pumps and the building should have specific maintenance programmes in place with a special focus on the critical plant systems that could disrupt building occupancy.
  • Gas piping – Natural gas supplies to a commercial building today are very common; gas is an economic fuel for heating within air conditioning systems. The gas is used in heat generation for the air conditioning systems, hot water supply to the building, the function of the electricity generation backup system, and in the case of any industrial property, the function of plant and machinery.

So there are plenty of mechanical systems to maintain and control in the average commercial high-rise building.  Every one of these systems will require a specific maintenance program and a strategy that can be deployed in the case of plant failure.

The property manager will be the best person to set and maintain the budgets for mechanical plant performance throughout the year; this assumes that the property manager will firstly be seeking the advice and direction of specialised maintenance contractor’s and consultants.

The maintenance contracts for all of the mechanical plant systems in any high rise office building should all be compiled and then put through the property manager from budgetary perspective.  Frequency of plant failure, the required maintenance, and the strategies of capital expenditure can then be monitored accordingly for the building.

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