More FM needed to make buildings Covid secure

Regular maintenance and continuous commissioning will be required

Buildings managers will have to change the way they operate and maintain buildings to allow people to safely return to work in the wake of Covid-19.

CIBSE guidance on boosting ventilation rates to minimise the risk of airborne transmission will mean that systems will have to be checked regularly to ensure they are working properly, according to Troup Bywaters + Anders partner James Campbell. He estimates that 75% of the systems he’s working on are not performing as expected.

‘We have to ensure that buildings are fully operational and performing as designed, or better, otherwise people’s health is at risk,’ he says.

Cundall associate Kavita Kumari says building managers will ensure filters are regularly changed. ‘A lot of buildings have record sheets saying areas have been inspected, but that’s not always the case. You can have all the filters, but if they are not maintained, you could be reducing airflow.’

Austin Wikner, head of Building Services London at WSP, says maintenance will have to become much more regular. ‘Irrespective of good practice, the volume of HVAC maintenance will increase, and filters will have to be cleaned regularly.’

Campbell suggests that continuous commissioning may have to take place to ensure systems critical to minimising transmission risk are working. Areas to focus on include the BMS, toilet ventilation, and heating and cooling, he says.

‘Set points adjusted over time result in systems operating outside of their design parameters that may lead to reduced ventilation rates,’ says Campbell.

He believes maintenance strategies will have to evolve as lessons are learned, and that facilities managers will become more prominent as a result.

‘It’s time for us to stand up and support safe reoccupation,’ he adds.