By Dane Taival
From the May/June 2015 issue
Facility teams can use rental heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and power equipment to meet their needs when permanent systems are unavailable or cannot do the job. HVAC rental services companies stand ready to provide schools, hospitals, businesses, and other organizations with state-of-the-art rental equipment that meets short-term needs.
And when this equipment is needed, time is often of the essence. Many of the larger rental companies position equipment at several locations around the country in order to respond quickly to customer needs. This is particularly valuable when an organization experiences an unexpected mechanical system failure and needs to adapt quickly to avoid disruption to normal operations. Temporary equipment can meet a building’s heating, cooling, or power needs while technicians repair or replace permanent systems.
Temporary equipment can also save the day while a building is undergoing a large-scale HVAC retrofit to maintain occupant comfort and productivity during construction. Renting chilled water systems and components, cooling towers, rooftop air conditioners, air handlers, generators, or other equipment allows facility directors to ensure uninterrupted service during the renovation process, which can take weeks or even months to complete on a large facility.
Facility executives might choose to keep rental equipment on-site after a renovation is complete, to provide backup for the planned (and unplanned) interruptions that are a normal part of the startup and commissioning processes.
Of course, rental equipment is also a valuable resource during more routine circumstances, such as while technicians perform scheduled maintenance on the building’s main system. Rental equipment can also be used for short-term dehumidification needs, such as controlling humidity in specific areas after painting, drywalling, or floor refinishing. Particularly in warmer climates, facility teams use rental solutions to meet seasonal cooling needs or to reduce stress on the main system. Finally, rental companies often provide temporary equipment including power generators for special events held at schools, hospitals, and businesses.
Whether planning an HVAC system renovation or preparing to respond quickly in the event of a system breakdown, facility teams need to set an effective equipment rental strategy well in advance. Since the use of rental equipment is a vital consideration in any disaster recovery effort, many organizations incorporate their rental equipment strategy into their contingency plan.
Every organization should include a power and HVAC contingency plan as part of its comprehensive crisis response plan; service interruptions can cause millions of dollars in damage, disrupt operations, and erode stakeholder confidence. An effective contingency plan minimizes financial risk, protects the health and safety of building occupants, and provides peace of mind for the company and its stakeholders.
A well developed plan can also dramatically reduce the time required to find, install, and start up a temporary HVAC or power generation system by ensuring all parties understand their roles and responsibilities. Advanced planning and a standing agreement with a rental services company can reduce response time by two-thirds, which can mean getting an HVAC system up and running in hours instead of days, or days instead of weeks.
Rental equipment companies modify their inventory by adding special framing, piping, and electrical connections to expedite the delivery, installation, and startup without compromising safety. These kinds of modifications make installing equipment easier and less costly for rental company specialists and facility team members.
Facility teams can do their part by ensuring their buildings are ready to accommodate temporary equipment well in advance of the planned or unplanned need. These preparations can be identified and addressed during the contingency planning process. For example, facility teams should find the best place on the site to position rental units and ensure this space is available for this purpose.
Buildings may also need to be modified in advance to ensure the proper placement of electrical connections to allow for quick tie-in with the temporary equipment. Experience has shown that a misplaced electrical connection that needs to be dealt with on the fly can be costly and time consuming, especially when a major building system is not in service.
The team also needs to ensure that proper amperage is available to operate temporary equipment and that the right connections are easily accessible for power, water, and air ducts. The need for additional safety and security precautions, such as fencing, should be considered.
The contingency planning process also should include investigation of city ordinances, permits, and other requirements that could potentially impact the use of temporary equipment. As much as possible, these requirements should be discovered and addressed in advance to ensure a smooth installation process.
An experienced rental service company can help facility teams make sure that they are considering and addressing all the implications of temporary equipment usage as part of a comprehensive contingency planning process. Identifying reliable, experienced partners, including third-party contingency planning consultants and temporary equipment providers, is essential for facility executives who are developing and implementing a power and HVAC contingency plan. The most effective equipment partners often have large inventories of equipment, are well positioned geographically, have a proven track record, record world-class response times in the field, and maintain a reputation for high levels of customer service.
Taival is vice president of service and customer care for Trane North America, a global provider of indoor comfort solutions and services and a brand of Ingersoll Rand. He handles asset management, high performance building services, rental services, remote services, and the customer care organization. Taival has been with the company for more than 20 years.