A.G. Coombs Advisory Notes are a longstanding information service developed to keep our valued customers and colleagues better informed and up to date on building issues, particularly in the changing areas of regulatory and industry standards.

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April 30, 2024 in Advisory Notes

Navigating Heat Pump Retrofits - A Guide for Facility Managers

A lot has changed since A.G. Coombs released our first Advisory Note on heat pumps back in 2018. Increasingly, asset owners are no longer asking if heat pumps should be installed to replace fossil fuel-fired heating technology, but instead are asking when – and how.

March 12, 2024 in Advisory Notes

Legislative change is coming — Do you have a Building Fire Safety Systems Manual

Building owners and facility managers often don’t have access to a full set of accurate documentation for of their buildings to support effective and safe ongoing operation, maintenance and modifications. This limits the ability to manage a building over its lifecycle and ensure occupant safety and regulatory compliance.

October 4, 2023 in Advisory Notes

The Importance of Data Classification and Structure

As the construction and property sectors continue to develop and embrace new technologies including digital twins, cognitive buildings, artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is a need to ensure that data systems are suitable to maximise the potential value and return on investment. 

July 18, 2023 in Advisory Notes

Safe Working Around Electrical Equipment

In response to the identification of potential risks to workers from electric shock and arc flash, an Australian Standard (AS4836) has been updated to provide new guidelines for the principles for safe working.

June 1, 2023 in Advisory Notes

Decommissioning Trigeneration Systems

Soaring gas prices, uncertainty around the validity of carbon offsets and updates to the National Greenhouse Accounts emissions factors are just some of the reasons that building owners are switching off their trigeneration and cogeneration plants.

April 13, 2023 in Advisory Notes

EV Charging In Buildings

With the increasing demand for electric vehicles, particularly in urban centres, provision of suitable charging infrastructure must be considered within buildings.

March 2, 2023 in Advisory Notes

Net Zero 101 for Facility Management

The concept of “net-zero” is pivotal to any discussion regarding sustainability in the built environment. Despite its widespread use, there remains confusion about what exactly it means, what actions are required to get there, and what the practical implications are for building owners and facility managers.

November 25, 2022 in Advisory Notes

Getting the most from Building Tuning

As more and more building owners commit to net zero emissions, there has never been a stronger focus on reducing emissions. Building Tuning is a cost-effective method of improving energy efficiency as well as increasing occupant satisfaction, reducing operating costs, extending the operating life of equipment, and increasing the capital value of the building asset.

February 21, 2022 in Advisory Notes

The Future of Refrigerants

As the world grapples with rising temperatures caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, refrigerants are under renewed scrutiny, as common refrigerants are classified as greenhouse gases which can be hundreds or even thousand times worse from a Global Warming Potential (GWP) versus the equivalent volume of natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

October 29, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Supporting Resilient Tenant IT Systems

During COVID-19 many buildings experienced a significant reduction in the number of occupants. With the move to remote working, the reliance on tenant IT systems (often supported by base building electrical and cooling systems and fire protection infrastructure) has become fundamental for business continuity.

September 30, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Modifying HVAC Systems to Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

Aerosol transmission has emerged as a viable COVID-19 infection mechanism – very small particles carrying the virus – emitted by infected people breathing – hanging in the air possibly for hours – being pushed around by air flows in rooms – potentially being drawn into recirculating HVAC systems – possibly being reintroduced into occupied areas.

September 2, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation for HVAC Applications

Appropriate use of ultraviolet germicidal irradiation in HVAC systems has been proven as an effective inactivation method for mould, bacteria and viruses, reducing the source of Healthcare Associated Infections and a reduction of airborne microorganisms.

July 27, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Operational Analytics and Facility Outcomes

Over the last 10 years we have seen the emergence of automated analytics in just about every aspect of our daily lives. This includes the use of analytics in the day-to-day operation and maintenance of the buildings around us including commercial office towers, educational facilities, infrastructure, and health care. How we collect and store this operational data and the analysis applied has evolved significantly as facility owners, managers, and service providers alike embrace this new technology.

July 23, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Post COVID-19 Occupant Access and Building Security

With the return of people to buildings after the COVID19 period, a new way of thinking will need to be adopted to ensure building access control systems align to occupant health while continuing to maintain building security.

June 24, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Changes to Wiring and Switchboard Standards for Buildings

AS/NZS 3000 specifies the electrical installation safety requirements for all premises in Australia and New Zealand. Following a 5-year transition period from 2016, the release of ‘AS/NZS 3000 Amendment 2’ mandates from May 2021 the AS/NZS 61439 series of standards for switchboard assemblies, superseding AS/NZS 3439. This change will impact the design and modification of electrical distribution, mechanical services, and other switchboards in buildings.

May 27, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Returning to Operation from COVID-19

In the COVID-19 situation many buildings experienced significantly reduced occupancy with some completely being vacated. Building services systems have seen reduced operation and some have been turned off. Ramping up or starting systems after a protracted shutdown, especially those that are large, or complex and interdependent, can be challenging.

May 6, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Harnessing the Potential of Existing Asset Information Sets

Building owners & facility managers rely on accurate information for planning and to keep equipment and system assets operating effectively. This information is accumulated throughout the asset’s lifecycle. The rise of digital engineering and digital building management technology has led to an increase in the amount of information created and in the number of systems that hold data. How do you manage these potentially disparate information sets and harness the information to better achieve facility objectives?

April 16, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Cooling Tower Systems during COVID-19

Many buildings are experiencing significantly reduced occupancy in the COVID-19 situation and building operators are seeking opportunities to minimise costs during this period. Reducing operation or shutting down HVAC systems is an option that can be considered. Many HVAC systems rely upon Cooling Tower Systems for heat rejection.

April 9, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Humidity Control – Using HVAC to Help Reduce Infection Spread

COVID-19’s substantial impact on our lives has caused us to reconsider how building HVAC systems can assist reduce airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria. Humidity levels in indoor environments can play a key role in infection control.

April 9, 2021 in Advisory Notes

Building Services Operation & Maintenance in COVID-19

In the COVID-19 situation many buildings are experiencing significantly reduced occupancy and in some instances being vacated. Building owners are questioning; can the HVAC systems run at reduced levels or be shut down for an extended period to save running costs? Can Mechanical, Fire services and Electrical maintenance be reduced or stopped? How to keep buildings compliant? What are the important issues to consider and what should be done?

March 18, 2021 in Advisory Notes


There is considerable interest in the role that HVAC may play in the transmission of COVID-19. This Advisory Note provides an overview on viral transmission, how HVAC systems work, and the practical HVAC operational measures that can be considered along with possible design changes to reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading.

June 30, 2020 in Advisory Notes

NABERS and COVID-19 | Updated June 2020

NABERS have released information to assessors and building owners on how NABERS ratings will be affected by COVID-19. We have developed this information into a readily accessible FAQ format to assist building owners, facility managers and NABERS Assessors.

June 24, 2020 in Advisory Notes

HVAC&R Maintenance and the Revision to AIRAH DA19

Maintenance of Heating Ventilating, Air-conditioning Ventilation & Refrigeration services is carried out to reduce the occurrence of system failures, optimise the performance of systems, and to extend the service life of plant. Maintenance is necessary to ensure safety, reliability and comfort, as well as manage operational costs and environmental ratings. Some maintenance is required by legislation.

February 20, 2020 in Advisory Notes

Managing Building Services Systems and Bushfire Smoke

In December 2019 bushfire smoke was so thick across towns and cities in eastern Australia that air quality exceeded "hazardous" levels on numerous occasions with the smoke permeating buildings, affecting indoor air quality and occupant health, and setting off fire detection systems forcing building evacuations.

August 1, 2019 in Advisory Notes

Are you in control of your BMCS?

In modern buildings, Building Management and Control Systems (BMCS) are responsible for the operation of critical systems including air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, backup power supplies and, often, building security and access. These critical systems can be let down by a substandard computer, communications and power supply infrastructure, or by poor management and maintenance practices.

October 30, 2018 in Advisory Notes

New Wiring Rules AS/NZS 3000 – Are you ready for the change?

It’s been over ten years since the previous version of AS/NZS3000 was released to the industry. The recently published Wiring Rules considered a number of technology changes namely relating to direct current (d.c.) installations such as solar and electric vehicle charging and the emergence of LED lighting.

October 5, 2018 in Advisory Notes

New Cooling Tower Management Regulations for NSW

Significant new requirements for the management of cooling towers are now in place in NSW. The amended Public Health Regulation requires a performance-based risk management approach to managing cooling water systems. This approach allows each system to be managed according to its risk of Legionella contamination.

July 10, 2018 in Advisory Notes

Heat Pumps for Carbon Neutral Heating

Heat pumps are a well-established technology that can provide a pathway toward on-site carbon neutrality not possible in buildings that rely on gas for heating. Electricity used to drive heat pumps can be sourced from renewable or Carbon neutral sources. In some parts of Europe heat pumps are the most popular form of heating.

June 20, 2018 in Advisory Notes

Improving Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiencies

Computer performance continues to increase significantly as does the demand on cooling and power supply infrastructure. Data Centres have been identified as significant users of energy and responsible for the associated Carbon emissions. Many data centres use up to around 45% of their energy consumption on support infrastructure services with cooling and power supply system’s the majority users.

May 24, 2018 in Advisory Notes

Condensing Boilers - Tips for Trouble-free Operation and Long Service Life

Condensing water heaters or boilers are now commonly specified for their higher efficiency, both for new installations and as plant replacements with typical efficiencies of 90%+ compared with 70 – 80% for conventional heaters. However, their design, installation and operation need to be carefully considered for trouble-free operation and to ensure the expected service life.

November 29, 2017 in Advisory Notes

EC Fans - Why the Hype?

EC fans are a hot topic in energy efficient air movement technology, with options available for almost every application in a HVAC system. These ‘new technology’ fans use significantly less energy compared to conventional fan designs and in existing commercial buildings their retrofitting could result in reductions of up to 10% in overall building energy consumption

November 21, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Managing Resilient Buildings - Preparing for Heat Waves

Heat waves are a regular extreme weather event in Australia. With respect to building air conditioning systems this is commonly thought of as two or more days when the ambient temperature exceeds the maximum temperature that the building and its systems were designed for.

September 6, 2017 in Advisory Notes

New IoT Energy Valves to Reduce HVAC Energy

Energy valves are new Internet of Things (IoT) devices to help reduce air conditioning energy usage by better controlling chilled water and heating hot water flows, reducing chiller, boiler, pumping and fan energy.

June 30, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Changes to the Commercial Building Disclosure Program

From 1 July 2017, the mandatory disclosure threshold on commercial office space will be lowered from 2000 square metres to 1000 square metres. The effect of this change is that owners and lessors of smaller commercial office buildings may need to disclose the building’s energy efficiency when they sell or lease their property after this date.

May 18, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Replacing R22 Plant can require additional cooling water

An increase in tenant condenser water requirement when replacing a R22 Plant can have significant implications when applied across an existing tenant's condenser water system, particularly if the system is already at or near the limit of its capacity.

April 18, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Building Information Models for Facility Information Systems

Building information modelling is now well adopted in the construction industry. Designers and builders can realise significant benefits through the application of this technology, to date models have generally been tailored to design and construction as their primary purpose.

March 22, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Managing Electrical Systems in Buildings

Modern buildings depend on resilient electrical infrastructure to support reliable and safe operation. Changes to system loads and operation during the life of a building, and the lack of regular review and structured electrical maintenance can compromise the ability of electrical systems to perform as required. This can lead to unexpected failures that cause business disruption and building safety issues.

February 27, 2017 in Advisory Notes

Safety-in-Design Responsibility

Building Operators have the onus to manage the residual risks from Safety-in-Design decisions and, as such, should be actively engage in both the initial “Safety-in-Design” process and ongoing management of workplace safety.

December 6, 2016 in Advisory Notes

Managing Cooling Tower Risks in a Changing Environment

The potential risks to public health associated with cooling tower systems and Legionella are well publicised. The regulatory requirements for the management of cooling tower systems are different across the States and Territories and some are also currently under review. As such, it is important to understand both the regulatory requirements as well as what a best practice risk management framework is for these systems.

November 17, 2016 in Advisory Notes

Protecting Your Building Management and Control System from Cyberattack

A Building Management and Control System (BMCS) connected to a company intranet or the outside world via the internet offers the benefits of remote building systems management; monitoring, issue diagnosis, and control, but can also expose a building and its systems to significant operational risks from external attacks including: destructive viruses, phishing attacks, and Trojan horse attacks.

September 16, 2016 in Advisory Notes

A Design Approach to Fire Protection in Data Facilities

Across all industries, Data Centre facilities large and small underpin the operation of business applications and processes. Maintaining reliable and continuous operation is critical. Disruptions due to fire events, whether damage is caused by the fire or the fire suppression systems, can cause very significant business interruption with substantial commercial effects.

August 23, 2016 in Advisory Notes

Using Analytics for Improving Building Performance

Advances in digital technology are providing valuable information to help improve the operation and maintenance of installed building systems including HVAC, electrical and lighting systems, and lifts and escalators.

June 7, 2016 in Advisory Notes

Integrated Fire Mode Testing

Modern fire protection systems are now often integrated into other building systems and require a comprehensive testing approach to assure they will operate when required.

September 28, 2015 in Advisory Notes

Green Star Performance Portfolio Certification

Portfolio Certification is suitable for buildings that exist in a common ownership portfolio or are managed centrally. It is particularly relevant to owners or operators...

July 10, 2015 in Advisory Notes

Safe Access for Building Services Maintenance

State and Territory laws require building owners and occupiers to provide a safe environment for all building occupants, whether they are employees, visitors or service...

April 10, 2015 in Advisory Notes

Managing Resilient Buildings for a Changing Climate

As the effects of climate change become more evident, it is apparent that facilities and their operation need to adapt. Built environments must become more resilient and whilst designers are increasingly focused on this issue.

June 1, 2014 in Advisory Notes

LED Lighting Explained

In recent years, LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting has promised substantial reductions in lighting energy usage and significant improvements in lamp life. However, until recently,...

December 1, 2013 in Advisory Notes

Improving Data Centre Infrastructure Efficiencies

Computer performance continues to increase significantly as does the demand on cooling and power supply infrastructure. Data Centres have been identified as significant users of...

June 8, 2013 in Advisory Notes

Legionella and Warm Water Systems

Legionnaires' disease is a sometimes fatal form of pneumonia contracted by inhaling fine droplets of water containing the Legionella bacteria. These droplets can be emitted by infected cooling towers and also domestic warm or hot water systems. In water systems the source of the droplets is usually from shower outlets or tap aerators. Correct design and careful operation and maintenance of these systems are required to ensure they do not pose a health risk.