Thursday 17 October 2019

The right moves: The heat is on to find long-term solutions to global warming issues

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

The ongoing heatwave will see temperatures in the low 30s, threatening our highest ever temperature of 33°C, recorded in Kilkenny in 1887.

There seems to be no doubt that extreme weather conditions are happening now with greater frequency.

Storms Emma and Ophelia are still fresh in the memory - the latter was our strongest hurricane in 150 years. But what are the implications for our buildings and the environment?

One frequently hears that infrastructure or buildings have been designed to withstand "100-year weather events" but it looks like that parameter will need to be revised.

It also appears to me that our entire approach to our water supply is going to have to change. Dublin, in particular, is rapidly following the worldwide trend for higher proportions of the population living in the largest cities, and Dublin's water supply is under threat.

The long-term solution is to pipe water to Dublin from the River Shannon and, despite all the objections, that scheme must now be an imperative. One simple improvement the government could bring about is to make the recycling of 'grey water' compulsory under the building regulations. 'Grey water' is water that has been used for cleaning or washing and there are great technologies for storing it and re-using it - for example, for flushing toilets. Air-conditioning plant has been working at close to capacity in buildings all over Ireland, and whilst it's operating within design limits, experts tell me that systems now being installed in Ireland are not designed for longer periods of heat like today's. If temperatures continue to increase, some buildings may need a retro-fit within 10 years.

Higher temperatures make solar power increasingly viable, but we are still lagging in adopting this technology. These days, solar power can be used to generate electricity, and heat and cool buildings.

Occupiers of older industrial buildings should check their roofs as some of the older "rubberoid" roof membranes can melt in temperatures over 30°C, causing damage and a 'sticky end' for birds.

Project managers

Our frustrating inability to build social housing appears to be a result of 'too many cooks spoiling the broth', but one discipline that could confront that problem is the fast-growing speciality of the chartered project manager (PM).

The project manager acts as the client's representative and leads, directs, co-ordinates and supervises a project in association with the project team.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) established a specialist PM division five years ago, already up to 100 members, and some surveyors have added the dual designation of PM to their original qualification.

Chartered building surveyor Krystyna Rawicz is one such professional.

A former Chair of the SCSI PM Group, she told me that the most important thing for a PM is to be able to manage people. "You're pulling multiple organisations together, with different cultures and different ways of communicating, into a coherent team with a shared vision, able to deliver the quality, cost and timeframe that the client wants," she told me.

The PM, Rawicz says, is always concerned with the three essential, inter-linked strands of time, cost and quality, and it is vital that the PM establishes the client's priorities, at the start of the instruction. For example, her firm KRA recently handled the delivery of the new Nissan Ireland HQ at Park West, Dublin 12. This was a complete refurbishment of an existing building and, whilst "cost and quality" were important, "time" was the key driver as staff moved from other buildings. The refurbishment was tricky as it had to be carried out around staff already working in the building.

Other major KRA projects include the €38m fit-out of the Vodafone headquarters in Leopardstown and they are currently working for a UK plc on the redevelopment of two prominent city-centre buildings, one due on-site this summer and where quality is the key driver.

Most importantly, if you are engaging a PM, make sure that they are a chartered property specialist, with the skills to steer you through the complexities of building construction management.

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