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Best practice: there’s a reason to follow it

It seems that despite there being a wealth of documentation in our industry to help with the design, installation and commissioning of systems, it is not always used, and best practice is subsequently not always followed.

Whatever level of intelligence a person may have, it is not possible for anyone to just pick up a pen and design a flawless system. It takes training and understanding and the skills have to be developed over many years. This is what the wealth of documentation in our industry has been created for. Collected groups of people with the right knowledge and experience produce documentation that explains best practice and provide methods for success. However, as our industry gets busier, it seems there isn’t always time to sit and follow best practice guidelines, and more people are relying on the knowledge they already have, whatever that may be.

The documentation is like the recipe for system design, and it is only when a recipe is followed and the right ingredients are used that there is the most chance of success. If the recipe wasn’t used to bake a cake, especially a cake that had new specifications from the last one, the chances of the cake turning out as expected aren’t that great. Why, then, is it common practice to not follow the “recipe” for system design, installation and commissioning, and surely the chances of success are compromised by not using the “recipe”?

The best way to tackle any project is to start with the end in mind. From the very first step, which is always the design stage, it is vital that it is done with the complete picture in mind, ensuring that all the factors of how it is going to work long term, in real life conditions, are considered. If something’s missing or needs changing, it is far easier to do it earlier on than after the project is almost complete.

Ultimately, designers want to make sure that they design the most efficient systems possible using the simplest method. Problems are always inevitable, but the chance of success will be greater if a system is designed so it can work as well as it possibly can, with a few contingencies in mind.

The documentation that has been put together by these collected groups of experts should provide anyone with all the information they need. A commissioning code, for example, such as Code W, will provide guidance on what needs to be specified and included to make a system work; and then a BSRIA document will give all the important detail to achieve individual areas such as pre-commissioning.

The benefit of such guides is that they are not the opinion of just one author. They are made up of the knowledge of a group of experienced individuals who have to agree on what the best practice is, providing the greatest possible level of information. It is so important that the use of such documentation is actively encouraged throughout our industry, as getting the design, installation and commissioning of systems right, and right first time, is vital to the long-term welfare of any system.

Martin Lowe is joint managing director at Marflow Hydronics

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