A buyers’ guide to public buildings: Five heating considerations for contractors
Public buildings are incredibly diverse and have different uses. For contractors specifying heating solutions and deciding on products and systems, a ‘one product fits all’ approach isn’t possible.
Public buildings can include anything from hospitals, schools, museums, libraries, churches and council offices, therefore assessments are completed on a case-by-case basis. Public buildings also have to cater to a wide range of visitors and employees, therefore the radiators chosen must be the perfect fit for its occupants and specific function.
What factors must contractors consider to ensure that the right heating products are chosen?
1. Safety & legislative requirements
It is vital that visitors and employees remain safe in their surroundings, particularly where vulnerable people are concerned. This can be ensured by:
• Choosing radiators that include a casing which covers all hot elements, consequently eliminating the risk of burns. Low Surface Temperature (LST) radiators do just that – they are a cool-to-touch solution that remain at a safe temperature of no more than 43°C.
• Designing the outer casing of the radiators to have rounded corners and edges, which in turn will minimise the risk of injury if impact occurs in incidents such as falls.
Not only is it important to consider all of the above factors, but ensuring that the radiators meet current government legislation regarding heating systems, energy efficiency and the recommended temperatures for public buildings is also crucial.
2. Heat output
Heat output depends on many factors; the size of the room, the number of likely occupants and what each room will be used for. How well sheltered or insulated the building is can also impact the overall output.
It is important to consider how different heat output options compare across these two factors:
• Size and space available: A standard steel panel LST radiator will not be able to provide the same output as a Low-H2O LST radiator in size-by-size comparison. Standard steel panel radiators have almost half the output of a Low H2O radiator, meaning larger radiators would be needed to meet heat output requirements.
• Responsiveness: Steel panelled radiators do not respond as quickly and effectively to fluctuating heat changes, which can be caused by varying occupancy levels common in public buildings.
3. Efficiency conscious
Heat accounts for around 45% of our energy consumption, and a third of all carbon emissions. Public sector buildings also spend over £2.5 billion each year on energy use in England alone. For mechanical and electrical contractors, energy efficiency is essential.
Low mass, low water content LST radiators offer the ideal solution for inefficient public buildings. This is because they contain a tenth of the water content of a traditional radiator, and are therefore able to react three times faster to fluctuating temperatures, consequently using less energy and saving the building owner money. Independent testing by KIWA has shown that LST radiators, combined with Low-H2O technology, can provide energy savings of up to 16% year-on-year.
4. Importance of aesthetics
In any public building, contractors should not only choose radiators based on the amount of heat that they can provide, but also on how they complement the space. Consider in this case:
• The radiator casings – do these need to be specified for extra strength and impact resistance? (Something that would be appropriate in high-risk public buildings such as hospitals, police stations, prisons and other high risk facilities.)
• Do they need to be ordered in specific sizes to fit effectively?
5. Investing for the future
For contractors, it is also important when selecting a heating radiator today that it is a solution which will be affordable over time. Considerations include:
• How easy and affordable the system is to maintain?
• The guarantees available on different radiator parts?
• Whether it contains features such as the ability to remove casings separately for cleaning, and the ease of accessibility should any maintenance need to take place?
Amidst the various factors that mechanical and electrical contractors must contemplate, ultimately what is crucial is that when planning the implementation of heating solutions, safety, energy efficiency and aesthetics are prioritised. These three factors are particularly important for public buildings, and can all be met when the right heating solution is selected.