As the climate changes, will yours?

Global warming is a real phenomenon. Our climate is changing. The way buildings respond to this change will need to continually evolve. Alongside this, our social climate has also changed. Tenant expectations of what they consider to be a comfortable environment have moved with the times. Back in the 1970s, air conditioning was considered a luxury. Now it is a non-negotiable requirement.

What else has changed? COVID-19 introduced us to the concept of social distancing, and we can expect it to remain an issue. Energy efficiency, once only of interest to engineers and environmentalists, is now front of mind for regular people too. There are clear expectations around what a healthy workplace entails. In short, we no longer live in a world where environmental matters, both micro and macro, can be waved away and ignored.

For building owners and managers, it is no longer possible to claim ignorance or deny any of this change. Measures around internal environmental conditions, such as temperature and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) (Temperature etc) are now appearing as conditions within tenant lease documents. Tenants are more aware of their environment than ever before and are requesting reassurance that buildings are safe and healthy.

In this environment, both new builds and existing buildings looking for new tenants need to take higher environmental standards seriously. The rise of triple bottom lines and ESG Reporting (Environmental, Social, Governance) have increased the interest businesses take in achieving a building energy rating such as GreenStar or NABERSNZ; it’s proof that a building has been well designed and is operating at the level expected, and it helps bolster an organisation’s sustainability credentials. It’s no longer a nice-to-have. Soon, it may even be mandatory.

This all can sound overwhelming, the prospect of constant change and a climate that is becoming increasingly unpredictable. But it does not have to be. Your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems can do a considerable amount to accommodate change.

It can start at the design stage. Any new or upgraded system should be designed for the future, not just the immediate need. The climate will continue to change, so the system needs to change with it. It needs to be a user-centric design, that puts the comfort and health of people front and centre. And it should be designed to earn a building energy performance rating, such as NABERSNZ or GreenStar.

Building management strives for consistency, but the only constant in a modern environment is change and smart management means being prepared for this. It can mean periodic building health checks, testing air quality and taking surface swabs, for example. It might mean implementing a Continuous Commissioning programme (the continual monitoring of energy use and building data) to optimise plant performance. It should definitely include monitoring and reporting of tenant complaints about comfort and health, as this can help identify faults or failings before they get worse.

At Jackson’s, we have been around long enough to experience a lot of change firsthand. We’ve followed the climate science and know things are getting warmer. We have seen the changes in tenant expectations. We know how to help property professionals proactively tackle these issues.

We are the New Zealand leaders in Continuous Commissioning – we wrote and currently deliver the industry training programme. We also know how far New Zealand is lagging behind in this area compared to the USA, Australia and others. We put ourselves in the end users’ shoes, putting tenant needs first. We know that satisfying the tenants requirements automatically satisfies everyone in the building food chain of Tenant, Facility Manager, Property Manager and Building Owner.

Building Management Systems (BMS) play a key role in dealing with ongoing change; our experienced, senior engineers have more BMS work than anyone in New Zealand. It’s been a natural evolution, part of our long history working in the built environment, continually learning and improving our design work and our commitment to providing clients with relevant and forward-looking technical expertise.