Specifying heating and cooling services for commercial workspaces can be challenging, especially when considering speculative office developments where occupant requirements are not defined but must be flexible, adaptable and enable prospective businesses to use their premises for the best gain.
Modern trends in design promote “feel-good workplaces”, with consideration for the health and wellbeing of office workers. It is long established that a healthy workplace encourages productivity and efficiency from employees, but can designers realistically achieve adaptable spaces with daylight, fresh air, sightlines and personal environmental control when considering the core internal services of a commercial building?
Incorporating mechanical ventilation adds specific challenges to the designer’s brief. Traditional air conditioning systems are often fixed installations without the capability to change. Adopting an underfloor air conditioning (UFAC) system early in the design phase can overcome these challenges. Contrary to traditional systems, UFAC designs are easily reconfigurable, adaptable to change and provide a high-quality indoor environment for a building’s occupants.
UFAC makes use of the plenum beneath a raised access floor as the ventilation duct, and can introduce a number of ways to benefit by providing fully flexible modular building services that can be adapted to tenant requirements.
The AET Flexible Space system is a duct-free approach to air conditioning that can offer a number of savings throughout the construction process. Users of such systems have reported total construction cost savings of up to 7%, reduced energy consumption by up to 30% and the ability to reduce building height or maximise the available lettable space by reducing or completely eliminating the ceiling void and adding more floors within the same height of construction.
The whole plenum under the building’s raised access floor becomes the “duct”, with each floor of the building divided into a number of zones depending on their potential use and occupancy density. Each zone is supplied with chilled or warmed air by a conditioned air module, and the clean, treated air is delivered into the work space via a floor recessed terminal unit, or “fantile”. The fantile has been designed to fit into the space of a standard 600mm x 600mm floor tile, which can be repositioned in minutes. Additional features include local personal control of temperature and fan speed for users.
The specification of a building’s core elements is critical for a customer-focused design. Making the best use of space can only be achieved if the core services in a building are flexible and adaptable to change of use. By using an underfloor ductless system, space and flexibility can be maximised, creating a better working environment that saves time, costs and energy and will therefore add value to the building over its lifespan.