Commercial construction is an industry in a constant state of evolution as new technology is always shaping the landscape. This is especially true when looking at mechanical building systems as they have the most variety and will see the most changes in the next 5 years.
There are five key trends that will fuel this change: internet of things (IOT) connectivity, client power, miniaturization, adaptable systems, and evolving regulations. Staying on top of these trends is in the best interest of any contractor or building owner, so let us take the opportunity to examine them closer.
Internet of Things (IOT) – Connectivity
The Internet of Things (IOT) will have a huge impact on mechanical systems as this technology will allow individual components of mechanical systems to communicate and share data like never before. For example, most larger buildings already have web-enabled building automation systems that monitor and track environmental information.
Smart HVAC systems will soon be able to react to various metrics which are measured in real time resulting in excellent efficiency. For example, replacement filters can be ordered in advance for air handling units based on pressure drop information that is relayed to the service provider over the internet. The overall impact of the IOT has yet to be fully realised as more and more applications like these are coming to market.
Design-build and design-build-operate project delivery systems are becoming increasingly popular and this means contractors are hiring consultants and utilising a value-based methodology. The design-build approach allows contractors to provide input into the project immediately from the design stage, meaning their concerns will be addressed up front before any construction actually begins.
Clients are increasingly hiring contractors first before consultants, and there have also been changes to the construction process from building permit application to commissioning.
Advancing technology is resulting in mechanical equipment that is smaller than we have ever seen before. Smaller boilers, air conditioning units, and other mechanical equipment will give designers new flexibility as mechanical rooms can be smaller and floor to floor building heights can be reduced.
As these components continue to decrease in size, designers will be able to come up with more and more innovative and original solutions such as these. For example, VRF technology has allowed for the use of significantly smaller indoor units and outdoor units. This allows buildings to be built with either higher ceiling spaces or to add an additional floor the building.
Variable speed fans, pumps, and motors allow mechanical systems to run only as much power as they need to based off of the current load. This efficiency allows for great savings, especially during off-peak periods. Not only are these variable systems becoming standardised, they will also continue to improve in efficiency and provide relief for older commercial buildings who are looking to replace older components.
For example, parkade exhaust fans rarely run at full speed because they are controlled by sensors connected to variable frequency drives so they only run when the pollutant level is too high.
Increasingly stringent energy and building codes are being adopted around the country. While these do wonders in increasing energy efficiency in commercial buildings, it also means increased costs. As mechanical systems and components have to meet more energy efficiency requirements, owners and contractors will need to keep up in order to stay in compliance.
ASHRAE 90.1-2010, an energy code, was adopted BC wide two years ago and has forced building design to be more efficient. The adoption of more stringent energy codes in the future has also been discussed by local building authorities.
Trust the Experts
Keeping up with these mechanical trends is essential for both owners and builders. New construction projects have to consider these trends or they may very well be left behind, and existing commercial buildings can benefit as they replace aging mechanical systems.
If you’re interested in learning more about adapting to these upcoming changes in mechanical systems, contact our Design team today.