The impact of COVID-19 on renewable energy

The COVID-19 pandemic has had mixed fortunes for the energy sector and the transition to renewable energy, according to a recently published report from the International Energy Agency.

World Energy Outlook 2020 is the agency’s flagship publication and addresses some of the potential routes ahead from the Coronavirus crisis, including how the pandemic has affected investment into the energy sector, global power demand and carbon emissions.

It includes several headline statistics that demonstrate why, at least in respect of renewable energy, the effects of the virus have been both positive and negative:

  • 18% fall in global energy investment
  • 5% fall in global energy demand
  • 7% fall in global energy-related CO2 emissions

However, it remains to be seen how long these effects will persist, and it is likely that demand will return to pre-pandemic levels at some point during the first half of the coming decade.

How fast will energy demand recover?

Under current policies and expectations, global energy demand would return to, and possibly exceed its pre-pandemic level by 2023. This is the IEA’s Stated Policies Scenario.

However, if the pandemic lasts for longer than currently expected, leading to further national lockdowns, it could be 2025 before energy demand recovers fully – the IEA calls this the Delayed Recovery Scenario.

The report also outlines two further routes beyond the pandemic:

  • the Sustainable Development Scenario, in which uptake of solar and wind power increases more than currently predicted
  • the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Case, a dramatic global effort to eliminate excess carbon emissions by the midpoint of the century

Any of the four scenarios could emerge in the coming years, although the IEA notes that to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, all parts of the energy economy would need to make significant progress, as targets would be too ambitious for failings in one area to be made up elsewhere.

The new king of energy

Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, anticipates that solar energy will emerge as the primary source of renewable energy during the coming years.

“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets. Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022,” he said.

“If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular – and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised significant challenges for humanity worldwide; however, it has also shown the way forwards in areas like remote working and video conferencing, which were perhaps under-utilised in the past, and have the potential to save on business-related energy and emissions.

As we move beyond the pandemic, this could help to control global power demand, while accelerating the transition towards carbon-neutral and renewable energy sources over the next decade.

Outdoor grounds maintenance for residential properties

As the weather turns increasingly towards the cold and damp part of the year, outdoor grounds maintenance for residential properties should be higher on the agenda.

All too often, it’s easy to become distracted by maintaining residential buildings during periods of heavy weather – and while that’s essential, it does not mean you should neglect the grounds.

Winter brings all sorts of hazards, ranging from an increase in standing water, slip hazards due to snow and ice, and even visibility problems on foggy days and in heavy rain.

Keeping on top of outdoor grounds maintenance for residential properties is a way to mitigate those risks, helping to keep tenants safe, secure and comfortable as the weather turns colder.

Maintain safe conditions underfoot

You can’t prevent snowfall or stop ice from forming, but keeping paths and pavements in good condition can reduce hidden trip hazards when the path is buried under snow or fallen leaves.

A well-maintained footpath will drain better, reducing the amount of surface water, and will respond better to grit and salt as a way to prevent ice from forming on sub-zero days.

It’s important to keep drains running freely, as this is the time of year when leaves can block them, and stormy weather is more likely to lead to them becoming silted up or otherwise blocked.

At hebs Group we can take care of your paths, pavements, car parks and the drains, keeping them free from standing water, ensuring your tenants can come and go safely whether by foot or by car.

Overhanging branches and building fabric

Sometimes work on your building fabric has natural benefits for outdoor grounds maintenance, especially if parts of your exterior are damaged, hanging off or showing other signs of weakness.

You definitely don’t want a resident to be hit by a length of falling gutter or drainpipe, or a piece of exterior wall cladding.

Likewise, it’s a good time of year to get your trees checked for weak or rotten branches, and have them removed before any strong winds come along to blow them on to pedestrians or parked vehicles.

hebs Group are committed to helping you keep all your residents safe and secure in the coming months, as well as protecting your property against avoidable weather damage. Get in touch by calling 0151 236 0707 or send us an email at info@hebs-group.co.uk and a member of our team will be happy to help with your enquiry.

The season of leaves – prevent blocked drains this autumn

The blazing colours and silent snow-like rain of falling leaves make autumn many people’s favourite time of year, but if your premises suffer from easily blocked drains, this dreamlike season can quickly become a nightmare.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do ahead of time and during the weeks of peak leaf-fall to keep your drains flowing freely, and avoid a flooded car park or other outdoor grounds.

1. Keep drains clear

It might sound obvious, but if your drains are clear of debris going into autumn, they are more likely to make it through the season without becoming blocked.

That’s important, not only because it means you shouldn’t arrive one day to find your car park underwater, but also because it allows you to schedule planned maintenance to clear your drains when you want, instead of needing to make an emergency call-out.

Get professionals like hebs Flowtech team to remove any silt and other residue, so your drains are as good as new as we move into autumn and winter.

2. Check capacity

If your drains regularly become blocked, make sure they are big enough to handle all the surface run-off from your grounds, especially if you have a lot of hard paving or tarmac.

You might be able to improve drainage by getting gullies and drainage ditches installed, or by having a larger diameter pipe placed where the most water leaves your property.

The hebs Flowtech team can rejuvenate existing drainage pipes without excavation, using trenchless technology to fix collapsed pipes and even to bore through old pipes and install drains with a wider diameter.

3. Prune your trees

A little careful pruning can take off just enough branches to reduce the number of fallen leaves in parts of your premises where drainage is an annual issue.

You could consider planting evergreen trees in those areas, again so that there are fewer leaves falling on the floor in the autumn months.

4. Grates and covers

Make sure your drains are protected by suitable gratings, and ditches/gullies are covered too. This might not stop all the leaves from getting in, but it should reduce the risk of drains becoming clogged up so easily.

Remember, you only need to get through a few weeks of falling leaves, so solutions that take away some of the pressure on your drains can have a huge impact year after year.

5. Get sweeping!

Finally, make sure you clear fallen leaves to an area where they won’t threaten to block your drains.

Some quick groundskeeping with a rake, broad brush or leaf blower can move leaves to a safe location, or allow you to collect them up for recycling.

If you don’t fancy doing it yourself, call hebs to prevent blocked drains this autumn – we can offer leaf clearing as part of your outdoor grounds maintenance all year round, and especially in the peak period of autumn and winter. Contact us on 0151 2360707 to learn more about our maintenance services.

Flowtech gutter clearance for Environment Agency

The Flowtech team recently spent two days on a detailed gutter clearance for the Environment Agency in Warrington, leaving them with free-flowing gutters and downpipes.

Gutter clearance is an essential maintenance task so any rain that falls on the roof is correctly carried away and does not pour on to paths below, or down the side of the building where it can penetrate masonry and lead to damp problems in the long term.

In Warrington we spent two days cleaning about 250 metres of guttering, including the hoppers and drainpipes, leaving the entire roof drainage system was left in as-new condition ready for the autumn and winter months ahead.

  

What we did

The job involved working at high level on a significant length of gutters, as well as the hoppers that collect the water and transfer it from the horizontal guttering into the vertical downpipes.

We used a cherry picker to reach the roof level and jet washed the gutters, removing the silt and other debris that had accumulated over time.

After giving the gutters and pipes a final wash, we left them clean and clear, in time for the rainy months still to come in 2020 and as we move into the winter of 2021.

Flowtech complete their jobs to the highest standard, and in this case we took care to leave the pipes and guttering not only free of any large obstructions, but cleaned of minor dirt too, so it will be a long time before they need any further maintenance work.

Get your gutters checked

Gutter clearance should be a priority at this time of year – it shouldn’t be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ just because you can’t easily see how much dirt and debris is accumulating.

Failing to keep gutters clear can lead to multiple problems that are harder to fix in the long term:

  • Excess rainwater pouring on to the ground below
  • Surface flooding as water is not guided into the drains correctly
  • Masonry damage and internal damp due to penetrating rainwater
  • Damage to guttering due to excess weight of accumulated detritus
  • Severe downpipe blockages due to materials entering from the gutters

 

It’s also likely that leaves will have blown into your gutters during the autumn months, if you see signs of water overflowing your gutters, visible damage, or you just haven’t had them checked in the past year, give the Flowtech team a call on 0151 236 0707 and we can take care of it for you.

The benefits of wearable technology in construction

Miniaturised wireless electronics and the advent of the Internet of Things have both made wearable technology in construction a more common feature of industry workplaces.

What are the benefits of wearable technology in construction workplaces? What has helped to increase adoption of these devices at all levels?

Convenience

Convenience is crucial for widespread adoption. Construction workers need to be able to move around the work site easily without losing any dexterity to bulky smart clothing.

Over time this has improved, and present-day wearable technology is almost indistinguishable from ordinary clothes, especially when it is built into protective equipment.

Wearable techology can be integrated into normal clothing, protective outwear like hard hats and fluorescent vests, clip-on sensors and fobs, and a range of other formats suitable for different construction sites, without being intrusive for the wearer.

Continuous

A big benefit of wearable technology in construction sites is its ability to provide continuous monitoring of variables like worker location or health and safety data.

This means you get complete data, without employees needing to manually check in, and with little to no admin time required.

In addition to the benefits of this per individual user, you also get organisation-wide visibility of data, all reported to the same standard, allowing you to make broad plans and changes in an informed manner.

Responsive

When wearable technology is connected to a wireless network connection, it can provide real-time monitoring and issue an alert if a certain condition is detected.

This allows rapid response to various situations, for example if an employee working alone in a remote location stops transmitting, or if an individual’s wearable sensor detects unsafe environmental conditions.

By combining data from multiple users, you can identify hazardous areas – for example, specific zones where hazardous gases tend to accumulate – using each individual as a data point complete with GPS coordinates.

Versatile

Wearable technology takes many forms, with different applications on construction sites and in other industries.

Examples include:

  • Heart rate monitors and other personal safety devices.
  • Environmental sensors e.g. temperature, oxygen, carbon monoxide.
  • Smart glasses that can transmit exactly what the wearer sees.
  • GPS/location tracking and accelerometers for fall detection.
  • Security fobs that allow contactless entry to restricted areas.

The list of possibilities goes on and on – and if you need to achieve something specific, unusual, or even unique, there may be a form of wearable tech that can be adapted to suit the purpose.

At hebs Group, we cover the full range of contracting sectors and construction project types, delivering the right result for each client and ensuring all key requirements are met. Contact us today on 0151 236 0707 for more information.

Creating the perfect office fit out space

With autumn and winter approaching and many more employees returning to the workplace, it’s a good time to think about creating the perfect office fit out space for the seasons ahead.

It’s impossible to ignore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it has to dominate every design decision you make – in fact there are ways to create a COVID-secure workplace using methods and materials that are already on-trend.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when preparing offices for autumn, especially while keeping Coronavirus workplace precautions in mind.

Transition areas

For the perfect office fit out, it’s sensible to have a transition zone where staff can take off outerwear when they arrive at work.

This doesn’t have to be a large area, but just a space fitted out with coat racks, umbrella stands and so on.

Remember to give people plenty of distance in this area, and have a one-way system in place if necessary, so employees can maintain social distancing at busy times throughout the day.

COVID-19 hygiene stations

Your transition area should include any necessary COVID-secure workplace hygiene precautions, such as:

  • Alcohol hand gel
  • Hand-washing facilities
  • Secure bins for disposable face masks

Consider your local authority or regulatory obligations, as well as what your workforce needs to be safe and secure at work – often some simple additions like wall-mounted hand gel dispensers can make a big difference.

HVAC systems

Don’t neglect your HVAC systems, as we’re coming into the time of year when heating, ventilation and air conditioning will all be in demand.

Make sure your air conditioning filters are cleaned or replaced. There’s not much research about COVID-19 yet but the virus is of a size that should be captured by HEPA filters, around 125 nanometres.

Natural ventilation also helps to disperse the virus to a safe level, to reduce this consider making more use of open windows than you normally would at this time of year.

Seasonal lighting

Workplaces need a minimum level of illumination, but it doesn’t have to come from harsh overhead lighting.

Dimmable task lighting is ideal for autumn-winter, when some staff might be working out of daylight hours, and you can add decorative lighting in the run-up to Christmas too.

Again, give your employees what they need – with a mix of bright lighting when it’s required, and softer individual desk lights for those who prefer them.

On-trend for autumn

If you’re updating some of the smaller fixtures and fittings around your office, consider using copper for an on-trend aesthetic.

Copper has seen huge popularity in recent years and adds subtle colour to workplace interiors, different to the usual mix of black, white and silver metals.

Significantly for autumn-winter 2020, research suggests Coronavirus cells die within a few hours on copper, making it a good choice for fixtures that are used frequently such as door handles and light switches.

Need a new office fit out in time for the winter period? Call the experts at hebs Group today on 0151 236 0707 or send us an email at info@hebs-group.co.uk and we’ll create the perfect office fit out that’s right for you.

What is integrated facilities management (IFM)?

Integrated facilities management (IFM) is exactly as it sounds – bringing all your facilities management contracts under a single service.

IFM can combine hard facilities management, which includes elements of the building fabric, and soft FM like security, cleaning and waste management.

Bringing these different services together under a single contract gives you one point of call for customer service, better coordination between FM services, and consolidated costs to bring everything in under budget.

At hebs Group we provide IFM services to many of our clients, combining the expertise of all our engineers into a single contract that covers everything you need.

Examples of integrated facilities management

We’ve mentioned hard and soft facilities management above. To give more detail, IFM contracts can combine many different elements, including the following:

These are just some examples – in principle, integrated FM can include any and all of the services you need to keep your facilities running smoothly over the long term.

Benefits of integrated facilities management

Integrated facilities management (IFM) is a best-of-both-worlds solution for maintenance, repair and other services you don’t want to carry out in-house.

You gain several benefits from outsourcing facilities management to a single provider:

  • Expert support with services you don’t want to handle yourself.
  • Less admin compared with coordinating multiple service providers.
  • Lower overall cost of contract and easier to keep within budget.

The benefits of integrated facilities management (IFM) increase the more services you need – so if you have a modern workplace with all the technology and amenities that brings, you should consider arranging an integrated FM contract.

Planned and responsive facilities management

Just like individual FM contracts, IFM can incorporate planned maintenance and responsive repairs as required, again giving you a single phone number to call when you need help.

This gives you peace of mind that work – both planned and responsive – will be carried out to the same high standard at all times, meeting all your service-level agreements and other contractual expectations.

At hebs Group we are proud to work on long-term IFM contracts with many very happy clients who put their trust in us to keep their premises operating and to restore continuity quickly in the event of an emergency.

To find out more, contact us today by calling 0151 236 0707 and we can arrange an initial audit of the different types of facilities management you need.

Why it’s important to perform a percolation test for drainage

A percolation test is an important initial inspection before installing new drainage, especially sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) that make use of a soakaway.

The results of a percolation/permeability test tell you how efficiently the surrounding soil can absorb water from the soakaway or from the surface above.

Light sandy soils can take in larger amounts of water quickly, whereas dense clay soils can only absorb small amounts in any one space of time.

This influences SuDS design because, particularly in systems that use a soakaway or similar, you need to be confident that any wastewater will disperse into the soil before the soakaway overflows.

How does a percolation test work?

A percolation test involves pouring water into a hole of standard size and measuring how quickly it is absorbed into the soil.

The hole is typically a 300mm cube and should drain completely within a few hours. For a precise measurement of permeability, the tester records the time taken in seconds for the water level to drop a specific distance.

By dividing that distance by the time taken, a measure of permeability is obtained in mm/s, which can then be used to calculate the size of soakaway needed to avoid any risk of flooding.

Why is a permeability test important?

Hopefully, the benefits of a permeability test are already clear as it’s a relatively easy way to calculate how fast water will soak into the surrounding soil.

This allows you to make an informed decision when installing drainage systems and especially when installing SuDS with soakaways, which must have sufficient capacity to avoid overflowing before the water can naturally percolate away.

Your local authority may also demand a percolation test before they will grant permission for any new SuDS to be installed – so in many cases it is a mandatory part of the process.

Best practice for percolation tests

There are some simple things to remember when carrying out a percolation test:

  • Conduct testing under normal weather conditions, not when the soil is especially dry or already waterlogged.
  • Use a Trial Site Assessment Hole to find the level of the natural water table, as your soakaway will need to be above this.
  • Repeat the test several times and calculate the average percolation rate for a more accurate result.

If you are considering installing a new septic tank, sewage treatment or any kind of SuDS with a soakaway, contact us today on 0151 236 0707 and make sure you get a professional percolation test carried out before you begin any work.

How to identify asbestos in a working environment

Asbestos was used in construction until the end of the 20th century and can be found in homes, schools, factories, offices, hospitals and more.

Health problems arising from exposure to asbestos kill about 5,000 people each year and leave many more with breathing difficulties, so it’s essential to know how to identify asbestos in a working environment to prevent exposure to airborne fibres.

On this page we’ll look at some of the ways to identify asbestos in a working environment and the strict regulations that mean if you suspect asbestos is present, you should call in accredited experts like hebs Compliance Services to handle the analysis.

How to identify asbestos in materials

If you believe a particular material contains asbestos, the only way to know for sure is to analyse a sample.

UKAS (the United Kingdom Accreditation Service) is responsible for accrediting asbestos analysis laboratories, so look for the UKAS Testing logo and only work with professionals like hebs Group.

An accredited analyst can collect a sample safely, without putting your personnel at risk. It needs to be representative of the material as a whole and must be collected without leaving asbestos fibres in the air.

How to detect asbestos in the air

UKAS accredited analysts can monitor for airborne asbestos fibres in cases where the material has already been disturbed. Anyone doing this must be accredited to International Standard ISO/IEC 17025, so leave it to the professionals.

While it’s important to be aware of asbestos in buildings, it’s crucial to know if asbestos fibres are airborne, as even a small quantity can be devastating if inhaled into the lungs.

The 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations make it your duty only to hire accredited analysts and laboratories to conduct airborne asbestos testing, so call hebs Compliance Services if you are concerned.

How to survey for asbestos

An asbestos survey can identify the type and location of hazardous materials on your premises, which can then be used to decide how to work around them or remove them safely.

Working with an accredited asbestos surveyor like hebs Group means you don’t need to carry out any extra enquiries to prove their competence, and you can expect a survey report that meets all your needs, legal duties and regulatory responsibilities.

In cases where asbestos must be removed, we can handle the entire process, including safely encapsulating the fibres and taking them away for destruction so they cannot pose a future health hazard to workers or the building’s occupants.

To find out more, contact hebs Group today by sending us an email at info@hebs-group.co.uk or give us a call on 0151 236 0707 and a member of our team will be happy to discuss your asbestos concerns with you.

hebs Flowtech clear ACO grids by hand at Fulwood

Sometimes if you want a job doing well, you have to get your hands dirty, and that’s exactly what the hebs Flowtech team did during a recent callout to Fulwood station.

ACO grids normally prevent debris from falling into the gutter below, but they must also let water through so it can enter the drain.

Over time, silt and smaller materials can enter along with the wastewater, and occasional maintenance is needed to remove this and maintain free-flowing drainage.

Without clearing out the ACO grilles and the gullies beneath them, water cannot drain, which in turn leads it to back up and can cause surface flooding.

Fulwood’s ACO grids had become blocked, so hebs Flowtech engineers got down to it with hand tools to deliver a good-quality finish.

How to clear blocked ACO grids

(Before)                                                                           (After)

ACO grids are an important part of carrying surface water into the sewers. They cover gutters, which in turn empty into drains that take the water underground – but Fulwood’s ACO gullies were clogged with mud and leaves.

We followed a painstaking process to uncover and remove the accumulated silt and debris in the drainage channels by:

  • Removing the ACO grilles to provide direct access to the gutters.
  • Using hand tools to clean out debris and blockages.
  • Jet-washed the outlet to blast away any remaining surface grime.

This three-step process ensures there’s no dirt or detritus left behind. We not only remove the blockage, but also leave the drains looking as good as new.

It’s not just about getting the wastewater flowing – it’s also about making sure the drains, gutters and ACO grids stay unblocked for as long as possible.

We always impress our customers with our in-depth knowledge of the industry.

No time like the present

At hebs Flowtech we provide industry-leading capabilities in drainage, gutter clearance, sewerage and pipeline maintenance.

There’s never a bad time to get blocked drains cleared. You never know when a summer downpour will leave you with a flooded car park, Autumn will soon be upon us so we can expect more wind and rain.

If you want to keep the rain in the drain, where it belongs, call the dedicated hebs Flowtech team today on 0151 236 0707.