Social Value and Community Wellbeing

Through innovating the built environment

Earlier this week, the Construction Sector Group, or CSG, for ‘Innovation and Digital Adoption’ published its Sustainability Consultation Group Report.  The scope of the report was to outline the key research areas for disruptive and scalable innovation in sustainability, carbon reduction and climate action across Ireland’s construction industry, with a focus on supporting increased construction activity. In the course of research, 100 of the industry’s key stakeholders were surveyed under the themes of Decarbonisation, Circular Built Environment, Climate Change Resilience, and Social Value & Community Wellbeing. The outcome of this survey influenced the initial proposals for research and innovation projects.

 

Given Ireland’s current housing crisis and the persistent societal challenges faced, a key area of focus for the CSG is built environment innovation that will ensure social value and  community wellbeing. Initial proposals aim to protect human health and wellbeing, while  supporting local economies and increasing community engagement.

 

Under this theme, the majority of people surveyed believe that smart mobility and multifunctional or adaptable streets are the most important innovation required. The financial value of vegetation, placemaking and urban design was also seen as a key priority, along with the digital mapping of air pollution, identification of sources and mitigation initiatives.

 

Specific proposals for research and innovation include social and environmental post-occupancy evaluation methodology for public buildings and projects. This entails researching suitable POE methodologies that will capture the social and environmental performance of all public buildings and projects, both existing and newly built assets. It is intended that the data be collated and used as ‘lessons learned’ for future projects. Currently, POE in public buildings is only conducted for operational energy. According to the report, there is a need to put in place a system for capturing the in-use performance of these projects and their contribution to community health and well-being, in the context of Ireland 2040 and Housing for All ambitions.

 

Another specific proposal involves researching successful models for community driven planning processes. This will involve a review of local and international best practice examples of community driven planning processes and then the possible creation of digital tools for better communication and participation, and for implementation of a plan for enhanced community participation with local authorities. It was acknowledged by the report that digitalisation opens up an opportunity for greater community engagement in planning, with many international cities now using digital models to test scenarios and proposed developments with input from residents.

 

Encouraging biodiversity across the built environment is another proposed area of research and innovation. This might involve the introduction of a ‘green area ratio’ for proposed developments. A health/cost benefit analysis of increased biodiversity in Irish towns and cities is encouraged. The report concludes that introducing a green area ratio requirement into Irish planning would encourage healthier and more resilient communities.

 

We look forward to seeing how these important industry research projects progress and to contributing through our in-house Innovation Boost team.

 

 

 

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

 

Evolving role of HVAC systems to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

 

Following on from our previously published article on ‘Understanding the role of building ventilation in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021’, which can be accessed here https://mckeon.ie/understanding-the-role-of-building-ventilation-in-curbing-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-2021/, this week – as workplaces prepare for the return of staff and customers – we are exploring the role of HVAC systems and how these are evolving to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

As mechanical and electrical specialists, when approaching HVAC installations or upgrades, the first step is always to understand the overall needs of the clients and the specific needs of the building, with consideration to the existing infrastructure, building and control systems. There is no ‘one size fits all solution’, rather, our team develops a custom-designed solution that meets clients demands in terms of optimising operational and energy efficiency, and increasing user comfort. Going forward, greater control over plant and equipment is likely to be prioritised by the building operators, together with an enhanced, integrated user interface.

There are a number of HVAC measures that have been proven to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to industry resource website https://www.facilitiesnet.com/hvac/article/3-HVAC-Measures-To-Fight-COVID-19–19283, including:

  

1) HEPA filtration: High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove more than 99.9 percent of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or greater, including pollen, dust, some bacteria and some viruses. The coronavirus has a diameter of about 0.1 microns, however, as the virus typically attaches to exhaled water droplets that are 5 microns or larger, they can be trapped by a HEPA filter. 

2) Outdoor-air ventilation rates: HVAC systems have evolved to operate with a minimum of outside air. Increased levels of outdoor air will dilute contaminants inside, including COVID-19, however, this increases heating and air conditioning costs as the system must raise or lower the temperature of outside air to the temperature of the conditioned space. According to the previously mentioned article, higher rates of outdoor-air ventilation might not help much in the fight against the coronavirus, “but higher ventilation rates coupled with other good practices can curtail the spread of the virus from one area in a building to another area served by the same system”.

3) Humidity levels: Research has now shown that the virus remains airborne longer and can travel farther in dryer conditions, therefore relative humidity of 40-60 percent might help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The article cautions that not all HVAC systems can maintain these high humidity levels year round so the operation of the systems and spaces should be monitored for signs of condensation and/or mold.

 

The above measures prioritise minimising the spread of Covid-19, which can – temporarily – run contrary to energy efficiency and best practice. For more about this, please see McKeon Group insights on ‘COVID-19 Preventative Measures vs. Energy Conservation in Office Buildingshttps://mckeon.ie/covid-19-preventative-measures-vs-energy-conservation-in-office-buildings/ . For expert advice, contact the team at www.mckeon.ie.

 

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

 

Investing in Sustainability

 

According to Irish Building Magazine, Ireland-based AEC firms are on track to invest an average of €800,000 in sustainability initiatives over the next five years. You can read the article in full here: https://www.irishbuildingmagazine.ie/2021/03/22/irelands-aec-firms-to-invest-on-average-e800k-in-sustainability-over-five-years/

The figure above is based on European research undertaken by Autodesk, in partnership with global consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan and it applies similarly to UK-based architecture, engineering, construction and manufacturing companies. This research was conducted amongst 600 business decision-makers in the AEC and manufacturing industries located across Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Ireland and the UK. According to the findings, construction companies in the Nordics countries are leading the way when it comes to a focus on industry sustainability. More than 90 percent of the businesses surveyed in that region have a dedicated sustainability team. And Ireland looks to be following suit. Of the business leaders surveyed in Ireland and the UK, 95 percent reported that their organisations are investing in improved workflows, including reducing waste and energy consumption, as part of their sustainability initiatives and they identified sustainability as a key area for business investment over the coming years. In fact, more than half of AEC firms in Ireland and the UK are investing in recruitment and training as part of their sustainability objectives, likely within the next two years.

Given the broad meaning of the term ‘sustainability’ in the context of the built environment, it was interesting to see the report break this down into areas of immediate or priority focus for the industry. According to this particular report, members of the AEC sector see green building as the most important area for achieving future sustainability impact goals, followed by low carbon innovation. Circular design and supporting vulnerable communities affected by climate change also make it onto the list of industry priorities. Despite the very real and important benefits of greater sustainability across the built environment, lack of financial resources and access to skills and training remain significant challenges for a large cohort of the industry.

It was positive to see that more than half of all leaders surveyed believe sustainable practices improve overall project quality, which is something that we here at McKeon Group heartily agree with. One particularly enlightening part of the report covered the motivation behind this increase in sustainability initiatives across the industry. When asked why their company was embracing sustainability more than 90 percent of those in Ireland and the UK cited customer retention as the most important factor, and this was followed by competitive advantage at 64 percent, customer expectations at 83 percent, supply chain and partner expectations at 54 percent, attracting talent and employee satisfaction was cited by 39 percent and investor relations came in at 44 percent. Frankly, it is surprising and somewhat alarming that environmental concerns did not even crack the top six reasons! 

Positioning technology as  having a pivotal role to play in driving sustainability, the Autodesk/Frost & Sullivan survey also probed current and expected investment in technology and more than 77 percent of respondents confirmed that they are already investing in technology. Of course, confirmation bias is inherent in such surveys, particularly online, so it is difficult to determine just how reflective of the entire AEC ecosystem this stat actually is… 

 

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