When your children come up to you and ask for a pair of pliers or a piece of string, experience has probably taught you to not just give them what they want but ask what they want it for, to ensure they do not damage themselves, siblings or your property. When you go and look at what they are doing, it usually turns out they need a completely different tool. You knew this, due to your greater knowledge and experience.
However, we all too often forget this lesson when we go to work.
If a customer says it wants X, we are usually more than happy to supply X. But what we should be saying is: “What do you want it for?” Or “Can I see how this fits in with the rest of the building and your business, as I might be able to suggest something that will help with both?”
Recently, we were asked to help with a 14-storey building that was built 20 years ago and cooled with a chiller in the basement and an air-handling unit and cooling towers on the roof. Over the intervening years, the need for cooling had grown through increased personnel and much higher amounts of IT.
Rather than just adding extra cooling capacity, we looked at the entire system and the building as a whole. Because of the need to provide a constant flow of fresh air, we discovered that half the chiller’s capacity was being used purely to remove moisture from this air and reduce its temperature, before any of its output could be used to provide actual cooling.
By replacing the cold air-handling unit with one that uses the latest technology that can remove the moisture and excess heat, we could use virtually all the output of a smaller, modern air cooled chiller to provide greater cooling. This meant we could lose the cooling towers, so everything could be sited on the roof, freeing up the basement for the building’s owner to use it to generate more revenue.
Taking a holistic approach to a building can lead to the seemingly impossible result of higher profits for the supplier and greater savings for the end-user. How many refurbishments have you seen where the developer is installing AC, gas heating and a separate ventilation system, when an integrated building solution providing fresh-air heat recovery could have done the job more efficiently and reduced installation and running costs?
Contractors and consultants often take this approach with end-users; manufacturers also have a duty to do the same. We know what our products can do. This will benefit individual bottom lines and the image of the industry as a whole.
Remember, the whole should also be greater than the sum of its parts.
Julian Brunnock is sales and marketing director of Clivet UK