Ventilation specialists air their views

Servicing firms can now benefit from BESA’s ventilation cleaning courses.

The average kitchen worker may not give it a second thought, but ventilation equipment remains the unsung hero of the catering operation by providing a means to remove excess steam, water vapour, heat, grease, smoke, odour and flue gas by-products.

And operationally, as dealers know only too well, it needs to be easy to clean in order to prevent the build-up of fat residues and blocked air inlets, which can lead to a loss of efficiency and increased risk of fire.

“There is a continuous need for risk assessment with kitchen ventilation design and implementation that requires continued training and maintenance programmes,” says David Bedford, director at Swift Ventilation Services.

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Customer trends and aesthetics are certainly inspiring suppliers and designers to innovate in what is becoming a more crowded market place. Ventilated ceilings as opposed to conventional canopies are said to be gaining popularity, while systems that operate within the kitchen and clean the air without requiring extraction to the outside of the building are also reportedly on the rise.

Pete Tucker, sales director at Exair DPL Kitchen Ventilation Solutions, says: “While the basic principles of a ventilation system have not changed over time, influences such as style decisions and a move towards front-of-house or open kitchen requirements have emphasised the need for an effective solution that also has an aesthetic element to it and fits with the interior design of the site and carries its own design purpose.”

Arun Sahajpal, managing director of Corsair Engineering, concurs that the visual appearance of ventilation systems and canopies carries far more significance than it used to.

“There are an increasing number of front-of-house operations and open kitchens where the canopy becomes a focal point and thus needs to reflect the brand aspirations of the operator more than a back-of-house offering would. Different shapes or finishes such as copper are part of that trend,” he says.

Nicola Pedrette, designer at Target Design Studio, which is part of Gloucester-based Target Catering Equipment, suggests the adoption of more energy efficient cooking methods, such as induction technology, at the expense of gas has actually meant the role of ventilation for many operations is purely about comfort cooling and the containment of grease and odour.

“This has resulted in quieter cooler more energy efficient kitchens and, in some cases, with clever design, passive stack ventilation can provide sufficient ventilation in kitchens,” she says.

With many restaurants also looking to reduce the footprint of their kitchens to maximise covers, ventilation designers are having to be creative to fit solutions into smaller spaces and ensure they work just as well.

“The market is becoming more and more complex, with everyone looking for the next trend that will give them the edge in the market place,” says Ian Levin, managing director at Britannia Kitchen Ventilation. “The use of solid-fuel equipment has become more popular over the last couple of years, which is less controllable than gas or electric and often continues to cool down overnight when the extract system has long been switched off.”

His colleague Steve Cheese, Britannia’s UK sales manager, said one of the main challenges was a lack of education around just how important it is to deploy ventilation properly.

“One big issue we face is catering equipment not being used as per the manufacturer handbook, and expecting a kitchen canopy to deal with the issue just because it sits over a piece of equipment,” he said, adding that the failure of some manufacturers to test and provide the correct information on how a piece of equipment should be ventilated or how much air it should be expected to extract was also an ongoing problem.

Cheese insists the emergence of ‘canopies in a box’ being sold over the internet was a concern, too. “While the product looks good on the outside and works to a degree in that it provides air changes to the room, there is much more to the design of this ‘box on the ceiling’ than the overhangs,” he says.

What might not be immediately obvious with a boxed solution is what volume of air the filters can deal with, whether there is the correct number of filters in the canopy to handle the volume, what resistance the filter adds to the system and the balance and velocity of extract air and supply air.

Corsair’s Arun Sahajpal warns that there is a growing trend for even the most prestigious jobs to be value-engineered, an issue borne out of the over-specification of ventilation that has taken place in the past decade, driven by a limited number
of manufacturers.

He adds: “One of the biggest challenges facing professional suppliers in the market place is the willingness of some operators to engage in a box-ticking exercise and thus ignore the health and safety aspects of DW172 and its constituent parts. The number of manufacturers delivering non-compliant systems is shocking and they are supported by some ill-informed operators.”

On an equipment design level, Robert Terry, director of Kent-based Nationwide Ventilation, cites the reduction of odours from the cooking process as a major issue today. He says that more stringent conditions are being placed on restaurants by local councils, which want to ensure that neighbouring residential properties are not affected by cooking odours.

“The good old days of putting inline carbon filters to remove odours are gone. Relatively complex systems, containing electrostatic preceptors to remove grease and smoke, coupled with new ozone producing technologies such as UV-c lighting within the ductwork, are being used to ensure these conditions are being met,” he says.

“A high number of new opening restaurants are in town centres, which often means they are taking over existing buildings. Trying to fit all of this technology in place within a building can be a challenge as often the odour control equipment can fill a room by itself.”

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Technical specifications remain an important talking point in the ventilation equipment industry, and most companies have one eye on how these might evolve in future.

“The ventilation market is driven by gas safety regulations and the need for systems that comply with planning consents and conditions that enable change of use or properties not normally considered suitable for hot food use to be used, such as listed buildings or buildings in conservation areas,” says Target Design Studio’s Nicola Pedrette.

“New fan regulations governing motor control power and efficiency are coming into play as well as the introduction of wood burning, charcoal and solid-fuel appliances in kitchens as USPs in the foodservice industry that need particular flueing and ventilation requirements.”

The ‘HVCA DW/172 Specification for Kitchen Ventilation Systems’, published by B&ES, is the technical document that ventilation equipment installers will be most familiar with.

“The development of DW172 has gone a long way to providing a firm basis on which an effective system could be specified and built,” explains Keith Warren, director at CESA. “While this is only a code of practice, which need not be adhered to, it has become the reference source for design and specification.”

The key requirement of DW172 is that extraction rates should be based on the kW load of equipment under the canopy, so fundamentally speaking a large appliance requiring a greater volume of air to be extracted would need a large canopy. DW172 states that the ‘thermal convection method’ of calculation should be the only formula used, although other methods of calculation are stated in the guide for use only when insufficient information is available at the design state.

While the catering industry follows the principles of DW172, there are those who insist it no longer accurately reflects developments in the market.

“DW172 is open to interpretation and is now eight-years-old, so has not kept pace with modern equipment, techniques and technology and is in need of updating,” argues Steve Cheese at Britannia Kitchen Ventilation.

CEDA’s director of technical support, Peter Kay, notes that while DW172 is intended to provide adequate extraction rates to remove cooking odours and steam, it does not relate to the removal of products of combustion from gas equipment. While in most cases these are removed safely, it does not guarantee this, he says.

“I and others from our industry have been working with the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) on a standard that is to replace Gas Safe Register Technical Bulletin 140 relating to the application of interlocks in commercial catering installations,” adds Kay. “This is almost finalised, however while there will be clarification on a number of issues, there will not be any significant changes to much of the content of TB140.”

Meanwhile, there is also a European standard in the pipeline. CESA and its company members have been working within a European technical group to develop this, although it has proved complex and difficult as there are many national standards and requirements that will often take precedence.

However, CESA’s Keith Warren insists it is a good first step towards achieving the goal of a European standard. “Work starts this year to revise BS6173, the standard for The Installation of Gas Fired Catering Appliances, which includes the operation and maintenance of the gas interlocking mechanism,” he explains. “CESA technical consultant Bryan Whittaker is the chair of the BSI committee responsible for this work.”

Ultimately, everything from design to price to aesthetics is poised to shape the direction of the market moving forward. Swift’s David Bedford has no doubts as to what he sees leading the agenda. “The most significant trend which continues to shape the kitchen ventilation market is environmental issues,” he says. “The trend towards products that are becoming more energy efficient dictates customer demand and manufacturers continue to develop ‘greener’ concepts.”

Nationwide Ventilation’s Robert Terry agrees, noting that the use of LED lighting and more efficient classes of fan motors reflects the pressure on ventilation manufacturers to help operators lower energy costs.

“New on-demand systems can monitor the amount of heat, smoke or moisture with a kitchen canopy and then automatically adjust the level of extraction to cope with the levels. It means that fans which can run at anything up to 4-5kW or more are only used when required, which saves money,” he says.

Exoair DPL’s Tucker believes the obvious challenge for the market is dealing with clients whose cost expectations have been severely revised by the recession. “As budgets are cut and come under increasing control and scrutiny, it becomes more of a challenge to provide the best ventilation system a site requires, particularly when so often they have to be bespoke to fit the individual location, negating the benefits of mass production,” he concludes.

10 ventilation trends for 2014

Top trends that kitchen ventilation experts predict for 2014:

1) Stricter enforcement of current standards through health and safety monitoring and litigation.

2) Development of existing DW172 standard to keep up with demand for environmentally-friendly designs.

3) Further development of European standard for kitchen ventilation.

4) Likely launch of DW144 ductwork standard.

5) Better methods of hood and canopy construction to provide cleaner lines, free from dirt traps and with improved aesthetics.

6) R&D investment on creating systems with more robust build quality but made of lighter materials.

7) Greater acceptance and use of re-circulating or ‘ventless’ technology for environmental and cost reasons.

8) Need for ventilation systems to take on a more architectural role to satisfy growth in front-of-house cooking and open kitchens.

9) Growth in ‘intelligent’ demand-controlled ventilation systems.

10) Emphasis on higher levels of extraction due to growing adoption of solid-fuel appliances in kitchens.

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