What are sustainable drainage systems?

Sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, are a way to prevent surface systems from becoming overwhelmed or polluted during heavy rainfall.

They work by reducing the amount of standing water on hard surfaces like roads and pavements, delaying surface run-off from entering drains and sewers, and preventing contaminated water from reaching natural waterways.

SuDS – which is sometimes used to refer to sustainable urban drainage systems – have become an important part of planning in more densely populated areas, where a significant percentage of land is covered by roads and buildings.

There isn’t just one SuDS technology. Rather, the term relates to a number of commonly used techniques which, together, help to prevent and spread out surface run-off and wastewater that would otherwise enter drains, sewers and rivers in large quantities.

Five common SuDS techniques

SuDS can work in several ways:

  • Catch rainwater so it can be directly reused.
  • Divert contaminated surface water away from natural waterways into storm drains.
  • Delay large quantities of run-off to prevent flash floods.

Five common SuDS techniques that help to achieve one or more of these main aims are:

1. Swales

Swales use soil and vegetation such as grass to provide a soakaway for surface run-off. They are popular in urban environment design where grass verges and other green areas along roadsides are already common.

2. Retention Basins

Another common feature of urban areas, retention basins provide a place for floodwater to accumulate before it is released in safe quantities. This can help to prevent downstream flooding during heavy rainfall.

3. Wetlands

Wetlands and nature reserves can serve as a place for surface water to collect. Artificial wetlands can help with urban SuDS efforts, and usually do not rely on using a pumping station, but instead use the ecology of the habitat to disperse the surface wastewater.

4. Green Roofs

Green roofs are a way to deal with excess rainfall on buildings, which would normally be sent directly into the sewers via gutters and drainpipes. They use vegetation to catch the falling rain – although it’s important to make sure older roofs can support the weight.

5. Permeable Paving

An increasingly common SuDS technique is permeable paving, such as Grasscrete which allows rainfall on hard surfaces to penetrate into the ground below, instead of staying as surface run-off. This can be achieved using a permeable membrane beneath the paving, and by using permeable paving materials or leaving small gaps between pavers.

Find out more

If you want to know more about sustainable urban drainage systems, or if you have problems with standing water during heavy rainfall, contact us today on 0151 2360707 and we’ll be happy to discuss suitable SuDS options with you.

Common electrical problems for commercial buildings in summer

The summertime might feel like a time of year when electrical problems in commercial buildings should be at their minimum – after all, there’s less heavy rain that can get into the wiring and cause havoc.

But that doesn’t mean it’s plain sailing all the way through to autumn. In fact, summer can put extra strain on commercial buildings’ electrical systems, creating some common problems we see year after year.

1. Air Conditioning

It’s one of the biggest headaches for commercial building electrical problems, but air conditioning has become an essential way to keep employees comfortable in the peak of summer.

Malfunctioning air conditioning can be the cause of your mains circuit breaker tripping. So, if your power keeps shutting off, get your air conditioner serviced – and be glad it hasn’t caused an electrical fire yet.

2. Overheating

Air conditioners, computer workstations, server stacks and data rooms can all generate massive amounts of heat, which is bad news when the ambient air temperature is already high.

Make sure you get your equipment’s cooling systems checked – including the ducts and vents that carry hot air from your air conditioning to the exterior of your building – as overheating equipment can be just as much of a problem as faulty electrical wiring.

3. PAT and Fixed Wire Testing

As you put more strain on your commercial building’s electrical system, you can come across wiring problems and faulty appliances that weren’t apparent during the winter months. That might be because some appliances are used more in summer, but it can also just be general wear and tear that could happen at any time of year.

Regular PAT and fixed wire testing can check your portable appliances and your mains wiring loop to identify any power quality problems – variations in the electricity supply that can lead to power surges and brownouts, and risk damaging the circuitry inside sensitive equipment like computers and servers.

4. Extension Cords

Employees plugging in individual desk fans can soon use up the available electrical sockets, but it doesn’t take many multiway trailing sockets to overload a circuit. If your staff have been plugging in extension cords to power their desk fans, this might be why you’re having electrical problems.

Again, make sure your air conditioning, natural ventilation and solar shielding are all working well, to reduce the reliance on fans at individual workstations. You might also want to invest in USB desk fans that can plug into employees’ computers, rather than using up a mains socket.

5. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans are not as common in the UK as in some other countries, but if you have them in your premises, it’s worth checking the wiring regularly to keep them in good working order.

You may also need to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans for summer. In hot weather, you need to feel a downward breeze from your fans for them to cool you down. On cold days, reversing the fan can actually help to circulate warm air from close to the ceiling, sending it around the room to raise the temperature by a few degrees.

Most modern ceiling fans have a simple switch to change their direction, but older models may depend on the polarity of their wiring – so if your fan is stuck spinning in the wrong direction for summer, call a commercial electrician to take a look.

 

If you would like to know more about our electrical maintenance services , call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

HVAC tips to allergen-proof your space

Allergic reactions like hay fever are an annoyance at the best of times, but the events of 2020 have shone a new spotlight on respiratory conditions and on minimising coughing and sneezing, especially in indoor shared spaces like workplaces and hospitality venues.

Your HVAC system can go a long way towards allergen-proofing your space, but it’s important to keep up with your HVAC maintenance to avoid simply circulating allergens and other irritants around your interiors.

So, here are some helpful HVAC tips to allergen-proof your space.

Reduce dust levels

Often, coughing and sneezing is caused not by allergens like pollen, but simply by dust circulating in the air.

HVAC maintenance should include deep cleaning to remove dust from your vents and ducts, as well as from parts of your air conditioning unit like the air intakes and filters.

Reducing dust levels is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make your HVAC system deal with allergens better – so don’t neglect it.

Clean filters

HVAC filters, which we have just mentioned, deserve extra attention. Another way to allergen-proof your space is to check them regularly, clean them if appropriate, and replace them when necessary.

Some HVAC systems support the use of HEPA filters. You may know of HEPA filters from their use in vacuum cleaners, where they prevent dust from getting out of the machine and into the air.

Likewise in HVAC systems, a HEPA filter can remove more dust, allergens and other irritants from the air output, so there’s less risk of occupants suffering from hay fever or other allergies.

Monitor moisture levels

HVAC systems can affect the humidity level of the air in your premises, either deliberately or as an unintended consequence of heating, cooling, and circulating the air.

It’s worth monitoring moisture levels in the air in your premises. Relative humidity should be around 40-50% when possible.

Higher humidity allows bacteria to live for longer, while very dry air can be irritating to the throat too – so keep it in the sweet spot to avoid coughs, sneezes, and infections.

Get help with HVAC maintenance

The best thing you can do is to call in the experts to examine your HVAC system and make suggestions on HVAC maintenance and cleaning, as well as replacing or updating any parts that are not pulling their weight.

At hebs Group our engineers have years of experience on preventative

expertise to your equipment too. Call us today on 0151 2360707 or email usinfo@hebs-group.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Refurbishing your leisure and gym facilities for the future

A growing number of individuals and businesses are starting to recognise that there is no ‘miracle cure’ for COVID-19, and any vaccine could be over a year away from going into mass production.

For indoor hospitality venues like gyms and leisure facilities, this raises significant challenges. However, these venues are also ideally qualified to maintain high levels of hygiene so that they can operate safely over the long term.

UK government guidance for COVID-secure gyms

The government has published sector-specific guidelines for gyms and leisure facilities to open in a COVID-secure way, as well as further guidance if you provide close contact services like sports massage.

Some of this is quite obvious – cleaning surfaces and maintaining social distance, for example – while other aspects like effective ventilation of indoor areas have been less widely discussed in the public domain.

Here are some of the main steps you can take to maintain a COVID-secure gym or leisure centre, which you might want to factor into any future gym refurbishment projects.

1. Reducing contact

One way to create a COVID-secure gym is to reduce direct contact between customers in more ways than just encouraging them to keep their distance on your premises.

Gyms are being asked to minimise the use of changing rooms and showers. Customers should arrive wearing their gym clothes if possible, and should travel home to shower.

2. Reducing noise

Lower noise levels can allow people to talk to each other at a normal volume, instead of shouting – the louder the voice, the further any droplets and aerosol transmission are projected.

Keep background music to lower levels than you normally might, and consider acoustics in any refurbishment work, as some noise insulation and acoustic design could be a big help.

3. Improving ventilation

Outdoor areas are more COVID-secure because the virus disperses to safe levels more quickly in the open air.

Indoors, better ventilation can help. Consider investing in appropriate air conditioning systems as part of any refurbishment, or in smaller venues give some thought to air flow and the availability of exterior doors and windows you can open safely.

4. Cutting capacity

Unfortunately, you may have to cut the maximum capacity of your gym at any one time, in order to ensure people can keep the recommended distance apart.

To mitigate this, you can use one-way systems and physical barriers to prevent people coming close to one another, and place equipment such that people are not facing each other – and therefore breathing in each other’s direction – during their workout.

5. High-density areas

Certain areas are naturally more challenging than others. For example if you only have one main door for both in and out, you need to try to find a way to segregate arriving customers from those just leaving.

Even if you are not allowing use of your changing rooms, customers might want to put their valuables in a locker – so try to have lockers spaced well apart to avoid close contact in those areas too.

A COVID-free approach

No two venues are identical and the guidelines keep changing, but by applying the basic principles of distance and hygiene, you can make your gym or fitness centre as COVID-secure as possible.

If you need any help when planning a refurbishment in the current climate, just give us a call on 0151 236 0707 and we can bring our own expertise to your upcoming gym refit project.

 

 

How retailers are adapting to life after lockdown

The retail sector has faced mixed fortunes during the Coronavirus pandemic, with essential retailers able to stay open while many non-essential businesses were forced to close.

As lockdown conditions start to be lifted, it’s an opportunity for shops to open their doors again, albeit in a ‘COVID-secure’ way.

But what does that mean for retailers – including those who have been able to trade throughout lockdown?

Here are some of the main issues retailers have faced, and the lasting legacy COVID-19 is likely to have on the sector in the months and years to come.

Degrees of distancing

Social distancing is one of the biggest challenges across the entire sector. It places limits on many aspects of trading:

  • Queues at entrances and checkouts.
  • Maximum customers in a store at any one time.
  • Distance between customers and one-way systems.

Retailers have had to think fast, with makeshift social distancing markers just using brightly visible tape to designate two-metre boxes on the floor.

Over the coming months, the retail sector will need to continue to adapt to changing degrees of social distancing, such as the recently introduced ‘one metre plus’ rule, which allows customers to get closer together if mitigation measures like masks and physical barriers are used.

Online and on the road

Some retailers who were not able to open their physical stores during lockdown have continued trading as online-only businesses.

This has led to some novel collaborations – such as Argos, who have allowed customers to collect their orders from Sainsbury’s stores during lockdown, a partnership that looks set to continue for some time.

Others have unlocked previously untapped revenue streams, either by allowing customers to order directly online, or by providing home delivery options that were previously not available.

Back in business

The easing of lockdown creates a two-tier retail sector, with some businesses already trading for weeks with social distancing measures in place, while others are playing catch-up as they open their doors again for the first time.

However, the ever-changing path of the pandemic means conditions are unlikely to stay static for very long, which could quickly level the playing field across the entire bricks-and-mortar and ecommerce retail sector.

For retailers, the coming months are a time of shifting challenges, but also one of opportunities, to cut costs, serve customers in new and COVID-secure ways, while catering for emerging demands like hand soap, face masks and other personal protective equipment.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our retail services and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

 

HVAC maintenance tips during summer

HVAC maintenance goes through several phases throughout the year. In winter, more of the pressure is on the heating, whereas in summer this shifts to the ventilation and air conditioning.

As we move into the warmest part of the year, here are some summer HVAC maintenance tips to keep your system in good working order.

  1. Clean the filters

Clogged filters can prevent air from circulating properly through the system, so make sure your filters are cleaned and clear of any dust or debris.

Over the course of the year – especially during the winter months when weather conditions are unsettled – all sorts of residue can get into your HVAC system.

Cleaning your filters should be one of the top summer HVAC maintenance tips on your to-do list, to get everything ready for the sunny season.

  1. Clean the vents

Filters affect air flow into the HVAC system, but clean vents are equally important for the air coming out.

Remove any dust from on and around your air vents, and you’ll not only benefit from better HVAC efficiency, but could also reduce the risk of seasonal allergies in your premises too.

  1. Clean the condenser

Don’t neglect your air conditioning condenser unit, which is usually located out of sight at the rear of your premises, on an exterior wall.

It’s important to exhaust hot air to the outside, but it’s easy to forget about the outdoor parts of your HVAC system.

If you’re not sure how to maintain these, or you’d just like to save yourself the trouble, call in the experts who can take care of it in a couple of hours, so your HVAC system is completely clean and running at maximum efficiency.

  1. Adjust the thermostat

Make sure your thermostat is set to the correct level, especially in workplaces where multiple people have easy access to adjust it.

In summer there can be a temptation to set the thermostat to an extreme, in order to keep the air conditioning running constantly.

However, it’s much more efficient to adjust the setting to a sensible value, and then use natural ventilation to get fresh air into the building without spending unnecessarily on electricity.

  1. Check the power supply

This is one that’s best left to the professionals, but it’s important to get your HVAC power supply and electrical wiring checked regularly.

Large commercial HVAC systems use a lot of power, and that flow of current can eventually lead to burnt out connections or loose wiring from electromagnetic movement.

Get your HVAC appliances examined regularly for electrical safety, and also make sure you get the mains wiring in your walls inspected for any degraded wires and connections, so you can rely on your air conditioning to get you through the summer without failing.

 

If you would like to find out more, contact hebs at info@hebs-group.co.uk or call 0151 236 0707 and we will be happy to discuss our full range of HVAC services.

How to reconfigure hospitality premises for social distancing

After weeks of total lockdown – with some exceptions for key workers and vulnerable residents – the hospitality sector is starting to open back up as the Coronavirus curve enters a steadier phase.

The COVID-19 pandemic creates a contradictory environment for the sector. Premises normally designed to bring people together must now do more to keep them apart. This requires some careful planning.

In and out

Entry and exit are a major challenge for all kinds of premises. Restaurants and bars can introduce staggered arrival times, but if possible, it’s even better to have a designated ‘in’ door and a separate exit door.

This extends to indoor areas too. Hotel reception desks should have a clear, socially distant queueing area, which guests do not need to walk past when leaving the front desk.

Floor markings can help to keep people apart, while recognising that those from the same household or ‘support bubble’ can be much closer to one another.

Fixed yet flexible

Another challenge is making sure one-way markings, social distancing measures and physical barriers are fixed enough that guests cannot easily ignore them, yet can be moved easily if guidelines change.

For example, the ‘one metre plus’ rule allows individuals to come closer together in areas where two metres of distance is not feasible.

Hospitality establishments must currently cater for both rules at once – two metres where possible, and one metre plus where appropriate.

Communal spaces

With the exception of hotel bedrooms, most customer spaces in hospitality establishments are communal – such as bars, pubs, restaurants, hotel dining rooms, reception areas and so on.

Careful reconfiguring and semi-permanent refurbishments can adjust these areas to become COVID-secure zones, for example by using booths to separate groups of diners, and solid barriers to remove the risk of infection in shared spaces.

Removing some tables from dining rooms, as well as some seating in reception and other communal areas, can also help to increase the minimum distance between guests as they move around your premises.

Trust and respect

It’s difficult to police all parts of your premises at all times, but you can take steps to protect your customers, while trusting them to take some of the responsibility upon themselves.

For example, you can provide safe queueing areas, request that customers wear masks if necessary, in communal spaces, and provide things like alcohol hand gel on arrival.

You could even put together a complimentary COVID-safety pack for new arrivals, with a disposable mask per person and a pocket-sized hand gel, which could prove extremely welcome to travellers.

The hospitality sector has always found ways to make customers feel welcome, and to provide added value during their visit – so with some simple adjustments, you can continue to do just that as we move through the rest of this year and beyond.

 

Call us on 0151 2360707 or email info@hebs-group.co.uk if you would like to know more about our hospitality services and ways in which you can improve your facilities for social distancing.

 

No more blocked drains in Morecambe

Flowtech continue to keep ambulance stations in the north-west free from the scourge of blocked drains, which can cause problems for car park drainage as well as backed-up pipes inside premises.

By clearing obstructions and flushing through the pipes, Flowtech make drains as good as new, with free-flowing wastewater and no residues left behind.

That means less standing water in car parks on rainy days, no clogged and overflowing sinks, and no bad smells due to food scraps and other waste caught in the pipes.

Often, it’s a relatively easy job to unblock a drain or pipe, or clear a gutter, yet it can have a huge impact on the use of your premises, as well as issues like hygiene, health and safety.

We have a variety of different tools to reach awkward locations and clear blockages wherever they occur in the drain, and we follow up by cleaning the pipe or gutter of any surface grime so you get the maximum possible flow rate through it.

Jetting off to Morecambe

In a recent call-out, we attended Morecambe Ambulance Station, where a blocked drain was causing problems with getting rid of wastewater.

We soon found the obstruction and diagnosed the best way to deal with it – we always assess the situation first, before using the best tool for the job.

In this case, we used a high-pressure jet to clear the sludge that was blocking the drain, leaving it completely clear of obstruction.

Once we were confident the blockage had been blasted away, the Flowtech team flushed a brightly coloured dye through the drain from above, which allows us to double check that everything is flowing freely again.

Only after we complete the final checks are we satisfied that there are no remaining obstructions elsewhere in the drain, and we can call it job done.

Flowtech drainage and pipeline services

If you have a blocked or broken drain, Flowtech can help. We have high-tech equipment to inspect pipelines for clogs and collapses, and we can clear and rehabilitate pipes back to good working condition.

We can check high-level gutters, ground-level drains and manholes, and buried pipelines, with trenchless rehabilitation methods if we find a breakage in need of repair.

To find out more, contact the Flowtech team today by calling us on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to discuss what you need, including a quick callout if a blocked drain is causing standing water, overflowing pipes or other forms of flooding.

 

Signs that your guttering system needs repairs

Well-maintained guttering is essential to effective drainage from roofs, so it’s important to get any damage or wear and tear fixed as soon as you notice it.

Doing so will not only help to keep wastewater draining properly from your property, but will also reduce maintenance costs in the long run by tackling problems before they worsen.

At hebs Group we have years of experience dealing with all kinds of drainage problems, from leaky roofs to flooded car parks, and many of them stem from faulty guttering.

Here are five major signs that your guttering system needs repairs – any one of these deserves further investigation, but if you have several at once, it’s a good idea to get your gutters cleaned and repaired as soon as you can.

1. Overflowing gutters

Blocked gutters can lead to overflowing water when it rains heavily, as the rain cannot flow along the gutter to the drainpipe.

If you notice overflowing gutters when it rains, they might just need clearing out. It’s totally normal for debris like leaves, twigs and moss to accumulate over time.

2. Sagging gutters

Unless your gutters are very high up, it should be possible to spot from ground level if they are sagging, especially in a spot that overflows during rain.

There are a few reasons why gutters can sag, from broken supports to incorrect lengths of guttering used during initial installation.

3. No downpipe outflow

If the bottom end of your downpipe is visible, check if water flows out of it during rainfall. If it’s not visible, you might be able to hear the water flowing or lift a nearby drain cover and peek in.

No downpipe outflow can mean a blockage in the drainpipe, but often means – you guessed it – blocked or damaged gutters.

4. Roof leaks and damp walls

If your roof appears to be leaking or you notice damp walls, especially along an exterior wall with guttering, it could be that excess rainwater is overflowing the guttering and penetrating the wall or roof.

Get your guttering checked first, as it’s quick, easy and affordable to clear most ordinary blockages and can fix an apparent damp problem or ‘leak’ in a matter of minutes.

5. Standing water

Water flows down, so if you have a flooded car park or standing water at ground level, it’s worth looking up to diagnose the problem.

Drainage problems including damaged guttering and blocked drainpipes can all prevent rainwater from reaching the sewers – leading to flooding that appears to start from the ground up.

 

If in doubt, call hebs Group on 0151 236 0707. We’re always happy to diagnose a drainage problem, whether it’s a faulty guttering system, broken drainpipe or blocked sewer drain, and we have the tools and expertise to fix them all.

 

What to know about trenchless pipe bursting

A burst pipe is usually not a good thing – but when we carry out trenchless pipe bursting, it’s exactly what our clients are hoping for.

That’s because trenchless pipe bursting is a way to rehabilitate old pipelines, replace them with completely new pipe, and even increase the diameter of the pipeline without having to dig it up.

So how does it work? It’s quite simple, and we have the technology required to ensure a good, clean result every time.

Bursting the old pipe

First, the old pipe needs to be burst. For this, a bursting head essentially drills along the length of the pipeline.

The narrow leading end of the bursting head automatically stays on course, guided by the existing pipeline itself, while the trailing edge is broader and breaks apart the old pipe.

It’s important to stay on course and to ensure the old pipe is thoroughly broken up, which is why we make sure to invest in the latest bursting technology for the job.

Laying the new pipe

The new pipeline is laid as part of the same process. As the bursting head pulverises the old pipe, the new line is simply laid into the cavity left behind.

By using a bursting head wider than the diameter of the original pipe, this cavity can be opened up to allow a new, wider pipeline to be inserted with no excavation required from the surface.

This is why the process is referred to as ‘trenchless’ – because there is no need to dig a channel or trench in order to lay the new pipe.

Benefits of trenchless pipe bursting

Trenchless pipe bursting has several benefits and can be used on a variety of different pipelines, such as water mains, gas supplies, drains and sewers.

It can rehabilitate old pipelines that have become too uneconomical to continually patch up and repair; replace old pipes with new ones that meet modern standards; and widen the diameter of old pipelines in the way described above.

By avoiding the need for surface excavation, trenchless pipe bursting allows work to be carried out faster, with less disruption and reduced cost.

It’s just one of several technologies for repairing pipelines that we use at hebs Trenchless Solutions. Others include UV LED cured-in-place patches, LED-cured pipe liners, directional drilling and laser-guided boring.

 

If you would like to know more, contact hebs Group today on 0151 2360707 and we will be happy to discuss our trenchless pipe bursting technology and other trenchless solutions with you.