Potential Impact of New US administration on Technologies for the Built Environment

Today marks the inauguration of incoming US President Joe Biden. At any other time, this might not be such a momentous global occasion, however, all eyes are on Washington DC this week and there is a strong expectation of – and appetite for – change. As a long-time climate activist, the bold ambitions of the new President and his administration are being taken seriously.



Last month, in anticipation of President Biden taking office, Larry O’Brien of ArcWeb.com published an article entitled ‘Biden’s Energy Plan Will Boost Building Automation and Smart City Tech’. After a triumphant campaign against Donald Trump, the next president of the United States got to work straight away, outlining his agenda for the future and how he plans to deliver this. One part of this agenda in particular that has sparked serious interest is his “potential to spur growth in the building automation marketplace and overall technologies for the built environment”. This includes building information modeling (BIM), IoT based systems, and digital twin technologies for cities. Many may not have realised this, however, the commercial building sector across the United States (and, arguably, globally) is in need of an upgrade, quickly. The new administration understands this. More than half of all commercial buildings currently standing in the US were reportedly built between 1960-1999 (and 21% were constructed prior to this time period), according to the EIA’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey conducted more than two years ago. This means that many of these buildings are quite inefficient as they incorporate “various generations and levels of sophistication when it comes to building controls”.  Any upgrades that are made will have to meet new federal building performance standards that will be created under Bidens rule. 


Biden’s plan for commercial buildings is to upgrade approximately four million of these spaces to make them energy efficient without having to tear them down and rebuild; “The goal is to take nearly a quarter of the savings realized from these retrofit projects and return them directly to state and local governments where those buildings are located”. Measures will be taken to improve energy efficiency after the upgrade, these measures include advanced HVAC systems and LED lighting. These upgrades will also improve air quality. It is reportedly planned that further monies will be put aside to invest in homes, offices and warehouses for energy upgrades. In order to carry out these upgrades, more than one million new jobs will be created across the construction sector in all areas. 


Reportedly, every year  typical office buildings spend approximately 19% of total expenditures on energy. This is due to the fact that between 54% and 71% of total energy use on a daily basis goes toward heating and cooling (lights, A/C, radiators), making this the right place to start upgrading to save money. In fact, over 20% of all energy produced in the United States goes toward commercial buildings and they currently consume approximately 70% of the electricity produced also. A survey completed in September 2020 shows that throughout the pandemic, the energy being used by commercial buildings did not decrease as much as expected considering the nationwide lockdown. 


Most commonly used HVAC systems consist of pneumatic controls and aging electronic hardware hardwired together via social networks. In order to cut down costs of manufacturing and production, the microprocessors must first be decreased in size and made stronger. As manufacturers realised this, the bid spec market saw a new price structure in relation to this piece of hardware. These price changes meant there was a jump in prices across all pieces of hardware and services in particular including, wiring and installation. These realisations created a ripple effect across the industry. Before, we would have had a “large space dedicated to housing all system controllers and running conduits to each physical access point”, however, it has now been replaced by “a model that scattered an appropriate number of controllers throughout the facility”, which is server based and can be accessed from anywhere and at any time. 


The true impact of Covid-19 on real estate and construction technologies has yet to be determined, however, the author of the above-mentioned article is certainly bullish about the market for technological solutions such as HVAC systems and smart building technologies under the Biden/Harris administration. 


About McKeon Group

Established in 1950 and ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The family-run Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact: www.mckeon.ie

Understanding the role of building ventilation in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021



Ordinarily, our first post of the New Year would be a jovial affair, with greetings shared and hints given of the plans and ambitions of the business over the coming 12 months. But these are no ordinary times. Ireland is struggling to cope with a powerful third wave of Covid-19 infections, with a record number of new cases reported by the Department of Health this week. Despite positive news of the impending availability of vaccines, it is a chilling start to the New Year. In terms of infection rates, Ireland has gone from being the best country in Europe six weeks ago, to one of worst today.  At the time of writing this, all non-essential construction is to cease this evening (January 8th, 2021) until at least the end of the month, as part of restrictions introduced last Wednesday to slow the spread of the virus (full RTE report available here: https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2021/0108/1188412-construction-sector-to-close/)


Already in our third lockdown, non-essential businesses have been ordered to close their doors, with even greater numbers of employees working from home. As construction contractors and specialist contractors, the team at McKeon Group have been working on pandemic-responsive building solutions over the past 10 months. Working closely with our clients, our immediate priority is to ensure the safety of workplaces. This has involved rethinking previously established energy-saving methods employed in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, particularly in relation to air recirculation, heat recovery, thermal wheels in AHUs and the provision of the minimum fresh air requirements that would ordinarily apply. While much is still unknown, aerosol transmission is widely accepted. Proximity to asymptomatic infected people, duration of the exposure and the quality of the air are the key factors in determining spread, which is 20 times more likely indoors rather than outdoors. For this reason, improved building ventilation will likely help to control the spread of the virus indoors. 


As documented here previously, the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) is now recommending increased rates of direct fresh air supply and exhaust ventilation. Recirculated air systems and transfer of air from one occupied space to another should be avoided where possible. In practical terms, this means running ventilation systems at a higher volume rate than would ordinarily be necessary, and central ventilation systems with recirculation mixing boxes should be set to full fresh air and full exhaust to avoid any possibility of contaminants being recirculated into the space. Also, the use of recirculation fan coil units and split-type air conditioning units is to be discouraged unless there is an adequate source of fresh air, mechanical or natural, to the space.


Further information can be found in the CIBSE Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance: https://go.cibse.org/l/698403/2020-07-15/2n3qmd/698403/87225/CIBSE_Covid_Ventilation_Guidance_version_3_FINAL.pdf


McKeon Group Mechanical Services Director, Jim Wheatley, recently explored the impact of pandemic-responsive solutions in the context of the industry’s sustainability goals in an article titled ‘COVID-19 Preventative Measures vs. Energy Conservation in Office Buildings’, you can read the full article here: https://mckeon.ie/covid-19-preventative-measures-vs-energy-conservation-in-office-buildings/ 


Also, the HSE/HPSC Guidance on Non-Healthcare Building Ventilation during COVID-19 document is available in full here: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/religioussettingsguidance/Guidance%20on%20non%20HCbuilding%20ventilation%20during%20COVID-19.pdf


About McKeon Group

Established in 1950 and ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The family-run Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact: www.mckeon.ie 


McKeon Group Wins Retail Fit Out Award 2020

Well done to all the team at McKeon Group – our retail project at Dublin’s iconic Royal Hibernian Way was recently announced as the winning project at the https://www.fitoutawards.ie 2020.

Ireland-based fit out teams have earned a reputation for world-class delivery and the annual Fit Out Awards recognise and celebrate excellence in this specialist sector. For 2020,  in line with pandemic restrictions, business broadcaster Richard Curran hosted a digital awards ceremony to announce the winning firms and projects. Well done to our industry peers on their projects, which were shortlisted alongside McKeon Group’s Royal Hibernian Way project in the Retail category, including Allcare Pharmacy, Merrion Shopping Centre; Chadwicks Drogheda; Chadwicks Gorey; Cloud 9 Furniture and Junction 14 Mayfield.

You can read more about the Royal Hibernian Way project here: https://mckeon.ie/project-detail/royal-hibernian-way/



About McKeon Group:

Established in 1950, this year marks the 70th anniversary of McKeon Group, which remains a family business. ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact McKeon.ie