Mixed-use buildings are becoming more prevalent in the United States due to their ability to maximize existing infrastructure, address density issues, and capitalize on the building owner’s investment. However, they come with a unique set of challenges, such as rotating tenants and accommodating a variety of usage needs.
An underlying challenge with a mixed-use building is balancing the project. The diversification of the structure means multiple sets of code requirements. Understanding all aspects of the building, including the different functions of each floor, can aid in developing an approach and design to meet all the needs while still being cost-efficient.
Outlined below are the most common challenges—multiple engineering systems to serve various tenants, turnover of tenants and 24/7 tenant usage of building MEP systems—and suggestions on how to manage them.
Mixed-use Buildings Require Custom HVAC and Other Mechanical Systems
Mixed-use buildings require multiple engineering systems, or a combination of systems, to serve the various tenants. To ensure effective mechanical systems, certain elements need to be addressed in the design stage, including the difference in air density, the decision between an individual or central system approach and the choice of systems that do not stack. Depending upon the various tenants in the building, a separate mixed-use approach may be the best option to minimize restrictive provisions applied throughout the building. Other methods, such as zoning and certain system selection, can help eliminate costs. The key is to understand the tenants and the needs of each tenant.
Mixed-use building tenants are rarely permanent, and turnover is frequent. Space once occupied by a retailer could become a restaurant or yoga studio. As such, plans need to be made to increase compensating air, commercial exhaust systems, and higher cooling capabilities. These elements need to be addressed to be able to accommodate tenant changes and should be considered during the initial design of the building.
Continual Tenant Usage of Building MEP Systems
Unlike traditional office towers, a mixed-use building can house occupants 24/7. MEP systems will continually work to serve hotel rooms, residential units or common areas, causing occupant loads to increase as the workday ends. Systems that focus on energy efficiency are more popular due to their ability to help decrease energy bills and energy usage. Energy-efficient lamps and fixtures, building control systems, energy-efficient appliances, and high-performance HVAC systems are valuable choices for mixed-use buildings.