M&E Engineering

Post-pandemic projects for multifamily buildings

Putting electrical and mechanical projects back on the radar
Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The pandemic caused multifamily building teams to narrow their focus on health and safety. As a result, many electrical and mechanical projects fell under the radar. Now that the world is making a slow return to “normal,” it is time to bring critical maintenance and retrofit activities back into the spotlight.

“The last year-and-a-half has been stressful for multifamily teams, and some electrical and mechanical items had to be put on the back-burner due to COVID-19 transmission concerns, budget, or even time,” says Ed Porasz, Vice President with M&E Consulting Engineers. “The good news is we’re heading to a better place, and it’s a good time to revisit key considerations.”

These considerations include:

Energy-smart retrofits: It’s always a good time to revisit HVAC upgrades. Today’s high-efficiency boilers and chillers can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, smaller environmental footprints, and generate significant energy savings. For example, a high-efficiency condensing boiler can create energy savings to recover your initial investment in as little as four to six years, while an oil-less and bearingless chiller can enable a payback of five to eight years.

Building automation systems (BAS) can also contribute to greater efficiency and operational savings. Moreover, they can help with ease of operation and enable faster responses to equipment failures and repairs. Here again, the initial investment can pay off over the long term.

Makeup Air: Indoor air quality (IAQ) has always been a critical consideration. Now, it’s a top priority. The ability to bring fresh, outside air into a building in a controlled manner reduces the risk of cross-contamination, maintains optimal comfort levels, and increases efficiencies. As such, a building’s makeup air system should be reviewed by staff and/or a professional engineer to make sure it is working as intended and that ideal pressure levels within suites, hallways, and public areas are being met. At the same time, it is worth looking into how the building can better dehumidify or cool makeup air to future-proof your building against rising temperatures.

Kitec pipe failures: If your apartment was constructed between 1995-2005, the suites may have Kitec piping. Unfortunately, these pipes have been found to fail after just 10 to 15 years from the initial installation. If you weren’t already replacing these pipes before the pandemic, now is the moment to revisit this issue.

“Kitec failings are a known concern. It’s not a matter of if they will fail, but when,” explains Porasz. “And since it typically takes a number of months to prepare design drawings and go to tender start the project, the best time to get started is yesterday.”

PEX piping risks: PEX pipes were installed on risers and recirculation lines in buildings built between 2005 and the present. PEX has been known to fail, if the velocity of water within the pipes exceeds manufacturer recommendations. Herein, it pays to have a professional engineer or service contractor come in to review the velocities within your piping system and take measures to extend their lifespan.

EV charging stations: The electric vehicle revolution started well before the pandemic. Now? It’s shifted into full gear. With eco-friendly attitudes higher than ever, more and more drivers are moving to cleaner, greener, and electric forms of travel. This is a good opportunity to add value to your building by installing EV charging stations for your residents and visitors.

“EV charging stations are going to be table steaks soon, so you want to consider them now rather than later,” says Porasz, adding, “Step one is working with an engineer to determine what infrastructure you’ll require, the best places for installation, and maintenance requirements.”

Catching up on essential projects

It’s been a trying time for multifamily teams. Between keeping owner and staff safe and productive, it’s understandable that electrical and mechanical initiatives fell by the wayside.

Nevertheless, electrical or mechanical projects can’t be put on hold forever. As we move into the post-pandemic, there are benefits to exploring the upgrades, repairs, and maintenance activities that will keep your building operating at its peak for years to come.

Ed Porasz is Vice President with M&E Engineering, a professional and multi-disciplined mechanical and electrical engineering firm serving clients in the GTA and across Canada. For more, visit www.me-eng.com

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