Comparing the cost

According to the Office of Government Commerce, value for money is the optimum combination of quality and whole life cost. The consistent quality of our room comfort products is one of the reasons SAS International gets invited to tender for projects. Rarely, however, do we get asked to tender for a heating or cooling solution based on whole life costs.

This is frustrating because the best products and solutions are those that are both cost effective to contractors and developers but also provide the best long-term value over the life of an asset. Only by considering long-term costs and the benefits to clients can a scheme be said to represent real value for money.

It is worth explaining what is meant by whole life costs. The term relates to costs throughout the life of a product, facility or system. As such, it includes the cost of design, procurement and construction; long-term operational and maintenance costs; and finally the cost of disposal. The same issues apply whether you are talking about the through-life cost of an entire building or of a building component, such as a chilled beam solution.

It is important to consider whole life cost early in a scheme. Most of the costs of running and maintaining a facility are fixed by decisions made during the design process. The Royal Academy of Engineering reports that the typical costs of owning an office building for 30 years are in the ratio of 1:5:200; where 1 is the cost of construction, 5 is the maintenance cost, and 200 is the cost of operation, including staff costs. Most clients and contractors are aware that money spent on good design can be saved many times over in reduced construction costs. But, as this example demonstrates, selection of the right product can reap even greater savings in maintenance and running costs.

Integration

One way to change this situation is to take an integrated approach to design, construction, operation and maintenance by seeking input from suppliers. We are happy to share ideas to enable the most appropriate solutions to be developed. It is the expertise of the entire team that will enable the industry to drive out waste, improve design quality, enhance buildability and improve health and safety. More importantly from a cost perspective, integration will help minimise maintenance requirements and operational costs which subsequently reduce whole-life costs.

For example, in comparison to VAV systems and fan coil units, chilled beams and ceilings offer a more effective air supply through their ability to re-circulate air within a space, with only sufficient fresh air provided to meet occupancy requirements. As a result, fewer air changes are needed so ductwork and air handling units can be smaller. This reduces construction costs while enabling exhaust fans and chillers to be downsized too, or run at a lower speed, to reduce emissions and cost in use.

Further operational savings occur because chilled beams use higher chilled water temperatures than traditional cooling systems. This has the advantage that it allows the chillers to operate more efficiently and to take advantage of free cooling for much of the year. The raised water temperatures also enable renewable solutions such as ground water cooling to be considered. Such solutions also help reduce both the size of refrigeration plant and its energy consumption.

Saving resources

Maintenance costs too tend to be lower for a chilled beam solution because they contain few moving parts. There are no internal fans, no filters to clean, or actuators to repair in the occupied space, which helps ensure a trouble-free operation over their 25 year life expectancy. What’s more, because chilled beams are manufactured primarily from copper, steel and aluminium they can be recycled easily at the end of their life saving further resources.

In the current economic climate, the construction industry needs to look beyond capital cost to deliver best value for money. The easiest, most cost effective way of achieving this is to make use of the knowledge and expertise of quality manufacturers. The involvement of specialist firms like SAS International as part of an integrated team will enable the industry to deliver the optimum combination of quality and whole life cost to its clients.

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