As engineers contribute to the built world, it is often easy to admire the exteriors of these projects, forgetting that there is a lot more going on inside these structures. The original utilities in these buildings and structures become outdated as their utility increases. This is why engineers must think about this increase in capacity and demand when designing buildings or expanding the utilities in the buildings. An architect’s inputs and opinions might not seem like they matter in these cases, but they do. A collaboration between the architect and other engineers is important to ensure all complexities are dealt with sufficiently. Here are some key considerations during the design or expansion phase.
A Focus on Function Over Form
When designing residential or commercial spaces, an architect has to think about the people who will use the building. However, designing for utilities is quite different because they are thinking about equipment, tools, and utilities such as generators, chillers, and the like. The focus then switches from the form of the space to its function. Key considerations here include material durability, structural integrity and acoustics.
Acoustics are particularly important in spaces where utilities are located close to people. For example, a college might be located close to residential areas, and thus, considerations for where to place the generator have to be made carefully. Placing utilities in areas where their sound can escape, such as the roof, and providing acoustic insulation are key considerations here.
Use of Advanced Materials
Cost remains an important consideration when designing a building and its internal and external structures. Architects can reduce the cost of their materials and expedite the building process by using newer materials that are more advanced than what has been used in the past. While these materials can be a challenge when matching them to the rest of the construction project, we cannot use this as the criterion to dismiss the advantages they hold over older materials.
The advantages of newer materials such as FRE Phenolics Conduit over other materials are plenty. They include the material being less toxic, withstanding a wider temperature range when used in extreme conditions, being lighter than the steel and PVC it seemingly replaces, being easy to assemble and work with, and being corrosive-resistant. While it is possible to consider materials with some of these qualities, it is pretty challenging to find one with all of them.
Placement within the Surroundings
While the proximity of the utility plant is a key consideration, it is also important to think about aesthetics, i.e., how the utility looks against the surrounding structures. This consideration is key in determining whether the engineers will place the utility far and away from sight.
In case of additions to existing structures or expansions, the architect has to also think about how the utility fits in with the existing infrastructure. Clashing designs such as those from 20 years ago and modern ones have to be considered to come up with viable solutions.
All architects involved in designing the addition or expansion of utilities have to work with other engineers and the project’s owner to ensure success. An architect might be able to catch details that other engineers might not, and these details might turn out to have a huge impact.