Managing a square building is easy, but what are the challenges of maintaining the modern environment? | Macro

Managing a square building is easy, but what are the challenges of maintaining the modern environment?

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Simon Long, Senior FM Consultant, Macro

Maintaining a space in the modern environment can pose a number of challenges. As a Macro facilities management consultant I’ve worked on many different buildings and projects across the UAE, where the maintenance needs have varied greatly. We’ve had the good fortune to work on everything from cubic commercial offices and large mixed-used developments to new transport systems and aesthetically-different residential buildings, to name a few. There is no standard interior and there are plenty of one-off buildings, bringing new challenges with every project. 

In today’s world, companies are concerned with future-proofing and sustainability in their buildings, which is reflected in the material and finishes they use. For facilities management professionals this means constantly learning new ways to care for a building. Dealing with angular walls, open water features, combinations of wall coverings and glass enclosed elevators to name a few. 

An internal water feature may seem easy to maintain, but it has very little movement and only uses UV sterilisation, so lateral thinking is needed on how the quality and clarity of water is maintained, without the use of potentially harmful chemicals. Cleaning glass enclosed elevators means using the roofs of the elevator cars, only using those people with the appropriate training, to access the internal surfaces of the glass. 

Maintaining a square building is easy. But with the rise of iconic buildings in this region, the challenge is on. Overhanging balconies, sloping floors and complex mechanical and electrical plant and equipment need innovative solutions. Access is one of the major issues and using Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP’s) isn’t always the answer when trying to reach the light fittings recessed into a high ceiling above a slanting floor. 

Macro has worked on the handover of the unique Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre (SZDLC) at Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort and with this LEED Platinum project being the only Estidama 5 Pearl building in the United Arab Emirates the maintenance of it needs to be innovative. The building has absorption chillers, solar cooling, grey water harvesting, a Photo Voltaic roof and lighting predominantly using advanced LED technology. 

At the SZDLC, the centre’s interactive exhibits as well as the AV and IT systems have a narrow parameter of tolerance in terms of both heat and humidity. To control this, we employed remote monitoring and adjustment through an Internet Protocol based system to the manufacturers of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system components.  This enables us to ensure that the exact environment is maintained at all times, with the manufacturer able to make any required modifications to the operation of the equipment in terms of both performance and efficiency (in accordance with LEED and Estidama requirements), which is done through a remote monitoring centre in Vienna.  

As well as the use of integrated technology we find that the old-fashioned traditional approach of having a technical team on sites 24/7 helps too; technology can’t replace every aspect of problem solving and maintenance and repair.  As with many challenges in the built environment, it’s about thinking outside the box, being creative and finding solutions. 

A version of this article has previously been published by the magazine Commercial Interior Design