Co-working spaces place added demands on hot water supply but FMs can take steps to ensure optimal performance, says Tom Murray.
The number of co-working spaces in the UK continues to rise.
A 2018 report from Cushman & Wakefield showed that UK co-working spaces host an average of 121 people - up 81 per cent from 2016. And investment management company JLL predicts that 30 per cent of all commercial office space will be shared by 2030.
Yet these spaces pose unique challenges to those who manage them. For example, there are rapid and unpredictable changes in occupancy totals as team sizes fluctuate. With these changes comes a shifting demand for hot water.
So workplace and facilities management professionals overseeing co-working spaces can help to maximise the hot water supply by adhering to the following best practices guides.
Reconsider your boiler type
Water supply will fluctuate so the hot water supply must be constant but it also should be as energy-efficient as possible.
A condensing boiler might have been the traditional choice in this situation, but this is arguably not the most energy-efficient choice. A condensing boiler's efficiency would typically be above 90 per cent and might seem suited to the job at hand, but a heating boiler cannot operate in condensing mode when generating domestic hot water.
When these appliances are generating hot water, they do so at a rate up to 10 per cent less efficiently than when operating in condensing mode.
A condensing heater is better
A boiler coupled with a calorifier might not be the most appropriate source of hot water generation either when it comes to buildings with varying requirements.
So specifiers should look to specify separate systems with a dedicated plant for each use, meaning each plant item can be sized much more closely to meet the varying requirements of the building. Therefore, they would be much better suited to the subsequent demands of flexible office workers.
For example, a condensing water heater, which has an efficiency of up to 98 per cent, will not lose efficiency during the generation and supply of hot water because it will provide water at the required temperature (typically 60-65°C) yet still operate in condensing mode.
This guarantees that co-working operators are not left out of pocket by unexpected energy bills as a result of lower-than-expected efficiency.
Why heater size matters
Correctly sizing a water heater is vital to make sure a constant supply of hot water is available during the day. Failing to size a water heater according to the needs of the users may result in excess financial costs - in both upfront investment in the cylinder and for longer-term operating costs.
An appliance that is smaller than required could lead to inadequate hot water supply, while an appliance that is bigger than necessary may incur higher energy costs because too much hot water is being heated - a challenge for those cost-conscious end-users.
Understanding the peak demands of a co-working environment such as those hours when users are most likely to need hot water is paramount.
According to the Hot Water Association, the average shower uses 18 litres of hot water a minute, so a space with hundreds of users will need a water heater that can cope with the demands placed on it.
Selecting a water heater should be informed by the following considerations:
- Periods of peak hot water demand;
- Business operating hours;
- The number of residents in a residential building;
- The number of fixtures - including showers, baths, sinks and pools; and
- The physical footprint of the cylinder.
As co-working spaces proliferate over the next 20 years, greater demand for utilities will become a core consideration for specifiers of water heating appliances in commercial properties.
Those with an eye to the future will focus on energy-efficient water heaters to keep down emissions and costs.
Tom Murray is specification director at Baxi Heating