Reliable indoor air value delivery: The importance of having the end in mind at the design stage

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, September 2021, Volume 4, #121

[Cite as: Fadeyi M (2021). Reliable indoor air value delivery: The importance of having the end in mind at the design stage. Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, September 2021, Volume 4, #122.]

Do not design what cannot be managed, i.e., maintained and operated. Do not do it no matter how high performance the design is expected to produce. End in mind, which is a consideration for how a designed product or service will be managed and used, should be prioritised when making design decisions. Do not design a product or service without a value-oriented plan for its management.

A reflection on lived and professional experience suggests that a building’s performance during the occupancy can largely be attributed to how it is designed to be managed. A building is an enclosure that consists of several integrated systems to provide safety. Building systems can be largely categorised as building envelope; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); structural; and interior systems.

This article’s building performance of interest, resulting from the systems, is indoor air quality (IAQ). However, the discussion on IAQ can be applied to other building performances. It is not uncommon to experience a situation in which building systems are designed to provide healthy IAQ with little consideration for how to manage them to sustain the healthy IAQ throughout the useable life of the building.

The aim at the design stage should be the suitability of indoor air value delivery at any time during the useful life of the building, i.e., reliable indoor air value delivery. Setting the aim at indoor air value delivery suitability at the building handover stage or a few years after building completion can lead to several problems. Suitability should only be seen as a milestone towards achieving the aim and not the aim.

Unreliable indoor air value delivery will lead to physiological, psychological, social, and economic problems for major stakeholders during building occupancy, i.e., building owners, facility managers, and occupants or users. Ensuring a reliable indoor air value delivery necessitates consideration, at the design stage, of how a building will be managed.

Thus, there must be a clear understanding of what needs to be managed to reduce the risk of unreliable indoor air value delivery occurring. Firstly, understanding value delivery is important. Value delivery will be higher if the ratio of healthy IAQ performance that provides the required usefulness to incurred costs is higher.

The job of facility managers is to manage, i.e., maintain and operate, building systems to retain the ratio as designed or enhance it during the useful life of a building. If you are going to be responsible for managing something, you need to have a say in how it is designed. You cannot manage what you do not understand effectively. You cannot manage effectively what you do not know its design purpose, determinant of success for the purpose, the reasons for the defined purpose, and reasons for the design method.

Unfortunately, many times, facility managers are not involved at the design stage. It is also not uncommon for some designers not to diligently consider how facility managers will manage the designed building systems to sustain the suitability of indoor air value delivery throughout the useful life of a building. It is also not uncommon for designers not to provide proper documentation of design purpose, determinant of success for the purpose, the reasons for the defined purpose, and reasons for the design method for the awareness of facility managers to do their job properly.

Why is the role of facility managers essential to warrant inclusion at the design stage and provide them with the required information for effective facility management? Why is it important to consider how design decisions made at the design stage will affect facility managers’ work and can cause unreliable indoor air delivery?

Facility managers keep building systems working to deliver the required building performances during occupancy. The wear and tear of building systems that occur over time due to stress caused by usage and other stressors, including the environment, necessitates facility management. The impact of variation in building users’ needs, patterns and usage, and other sources of stressors, including how the buildings are being managed, on the design systems also necessitate facility management to ensure reliable indoor air value delivery.

A poor risk assessment at the design stage of the wear and tear of building systems occurrence, the impact of variation in building users’ needs, patterns, and usage, and facility management practice on the building systems’ effectiveness will compromise indoor air value delivery reliability. Higher costs will be needed to manage the threatening risk and building systems during occupancy because of poor risk assessment at the design stage. The inability to afford the costs would lead to poorly managed building systems.

A poorly managed building system can turn to be a source or poor sink (removal) of pollutants in the indoor air. Even when the stakeholders, e.g., building owners, facility managers, and building occupants or users, can afford the costs, the value delivered will be reduced, i.e., the ratio of the usefulness delivered to incurred costs will be reduced.

This is because the usefulness, i.e., a healthy IAQ due to well-performing building systems, could have been delivered without incurring unnecessary additional costs caused by the poor risk assessment. Furthermore, a poorly managed building system may not deliver the required usefulness to the stakeholders even after incurring costs to make the building systems perform well.

The lack of or inadequate value delivered may also include a poorly managed system consuming more energy than necessarily required to make it work and release excess unused energy to the environment. This will lead to demand for more energy. The increased demand will increase energy costs for all stakeholders and reduce value delivery. When it occurs in many buildings, such a situation will increase energy demand in the industry where unstainable energy production and delivery practice are prevalent.

Stakeholders will incur costs during the facility management. It is unavoidable. The goal of designers at the design stage should be to prevent or reduce vulnerability to incurring unnecessary costs to increase the chances of optimising value delivery during facility management.

Costs are the comfort, convenience, and knowledge or experience sacrificed. The number of resources such as manpower, machinery, materials, equipment, digital solutions, time, energy, information, expertise, finance, etc., invested influence the extent of costs incurred.

Resources are invested, leading to incurring costs to diagnosing and solving the IAQ problem. To eliminate unnecessary costs that would be incurred during the facility management, designers should pay attention to the vulnerability areas for unnecessary costs to occur and make efforts to reduce or eliminate them when making design decisions.

Understanding the vulnerability areas of incurring unnecessary costs is a step towards making the right design decisions that can deliver reliable indoor air value. It is important to emphasise that the impact of construction and facility management practices on costs incurred during facility management is not within the scope of this article.

Instead, it is on how design decisions made at the design stage affect costs incurred during facility management. Designing building systems to require a high level of management before healthy IAQ can be ensured will increase the risk of not achieving reliable indoor air value delivery because of the high costs incurred during the management.

The first area of vulnerability is related to the facility management practice process in the country, state, province, district, etc., where the building will be situated. Designers need to prioritise building systems design options that require the very least frequency of management of building systems to ensure healthy IAQ delivery throughout the useful life of the building.

This is especially important for designers to pay attention to in an industry where the following wastes shown in Table 1 are prevalent in the facility management process to reduce the risk of unreliable indoor air value delivery. Discussions between designers and facility management experts are essential at the design stage to make the right design decision.

Waste is the consumption of resources, leading to incurring costs with no usefulness produced. In a waste-value spectrum, the movement towards the waste end of the spectrum will occur the lesser the ratio of usefulness delivered to costs incurred becomes. A movement towards the value end will occur the higher the ratio.

An unresolved problem in a facility management practice process will increase the possibility of incurring costs with little or no usefulness delivered to the stakeholders. Facility managers involved at the design stage can make the right plan for the process involved in managing the designed building systems depending on the agreement made from their discussions with designers at the design stage.

Suppose designers fail to balance the suitability of IAQ performance delivered with the facility management required to sustain it. During the occupancy of the building, stakeholders may find it uncomfortable and inconvenient to manage the building systems as required, considering the wastes involved in the process. The outcome of this is unreliable indoor air value delivery.

Table 1. An overview of wastes prevalent in facility management process.

WastesDescription of the wastes
DefectsDefect waste occurs when resources are consumed to deliver an error in problem definition, analysis, and solving or deliver a product or service that fails to meet consumer or customer expectations.
OverproductionOver-production waste occurs when resources are consumed unnecessarily to deliver more products or services than consumer demand.
WaitingWaiting waste occurs when time and other resources are consumed while waiting for the next step in problem definition, analysis, and solving, or a product or service delivery to occur.  
Non-usage of talentsNon-usage of talent occurs when resources are consumed unnecessarily due to underutilisation of talents, skills, and knowledge.
TransportationTransportation waste occurs when resources are consumed unnecessarily moving instruments, equipment, and materials.
InventoryInventory waste occurs when resources are consumed to manage acquired information, instruments, equipment, and materials that are not processed or acquired when it is not time to process them. Inventory waste is driven by the need to cover up the effects of an inherent problem in a process.
MotionMotion waste occurs when resources are consumed unnecessarily moving people.
Extra-processingExtra-processing waste occurs when resources are consumed to do more work in or do high-quality problem analysis and solving activities than required by the consumer.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon to see designers design building systems and apply codes and standards with little respect for the culture of a place. Culture is determined by behavioural interaction between people in a group or place. Thus, consideration for people’s behaviour and their place is essential at the design stage. For example, in a country where corruption and lack of accountability are prevalent, facility management culture is usually poor, at least poorer than countries with a high level of accountability and lesser prevalence of corruption.

Designers should be careful in specifying materials or designing building systems that require a high level of management in such a place, even if their design will provide a high suitability level of healthy IAQ at the earlier stage of building occupancy. Corruption and lack of accountability can cause building owners or facility managers not to incur the costs required to maintain and operate building systems to sustain the healthy IAQ as the building ages. Such practice will reduce the possibility of achieving reliable indoor air value delivery.

Even if building owners incur the necessary costs, the required quality needed to ensure the reliable indoor air value delivery may not be delivered due to contractors’ and facility managers’ corrupt construction and management practices, respectively. One may argue that this is not the problem of designers if the contractors and facility managers are corrupt. The reality is that designing building systems that require high management in such a place will increase the risk of indoor air value delivery unreliability.

Unnecessary costs can also be incurred due to the failure to consider at the design stage how the designed building systems would facilitate human and/or machine or equipment access for close inspection needed for managing building systems for optimal performance. In such a case, costs that could have been avoided will have to be incurred to do extensive renovation works to facilitate the required access for effective management of the building systems.

In another situation where the owner cannot afford the renovation costs or is unwilling to incur them, IAQ will continue to be compromised, and stakeholders involved will suffer the consequences. Either way, reliable indoor air value delivery will be compromised.

Value delivery will also be compromised when the way a building system is designed makes stakeholders perceive the discomfort and inconvenience that poor IAQ delivered by the building systems to be lesser than the discomfort and inconvenience involved in managing the building systems. The lack of awareness of the poor IAQ condition and the severity of the IAQ problem can also contribute to hesitation in building system management.

Read Article 110 in this journal for more information on how human behaviour is formed. Failure of designers to consider human behavioural psychology in building system management will increase the risk of unreliable indoor air value delivery.

Designers should use knowledge of human behaviour psychology to design building systems with awareness provision that will facilitate the change in stakeholders’ behaviour towards building system management for reliable indoor air value delivery. Designers should also use the knowledge to choose design building systems that deliver healthy IAQ with the least maintenance. Prevention is better than cure.

Designing building systems with the end in mind at the design stage will help prevent unnecessary costs incurred to cure the IAQ problems that surfaced during facility management. Designing building systems to deliver healthy IAQ with the least possible management of the systems to sustain healthy IAQ throughout the useful life of a building should always be a priority.

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