The reopening of businesses means buildings are being used at greater frequencies once more. With this comes a whole swathe of questions: How do we reopen safely? What are some changes that may need to be implemented to protect our tenants, and to what degree should we implement them? Luckily, ASHRAE has released new guidelines for building operators with the answers we need. They explain how to make sure our buildings are up to snuff and ready for the return of occupants.
Of course, any adjustment you make will have an impact on your budget. Occupant and tenant safety always comes first, and it’s important to make sure your budget is prepared to allow you to provide that. To help you do so, we’ll let you know what changes to expect and where in your budget you might see them come into play.
What You Need to Know
To take precautions against a potentially airborne virus like COVID-19, you’ll want to make certain your building is in no way speeding up or aiding the spread of pathogens. With a name like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, it’s no surprise ASHRAE’s guidelines for doing just that center around your HVAC system. They suggest increasing outdoor air ventilation, upgrading filtration systems, and additional fixes involving exhaust fan operations. MERV-rated filters coupled with UV lights, for instance, will approach the HEPA effectiveness needed to help control the passage of certain particulates in your ventilation. Increasing outdoor ventilation, as well, will lessen the amount of recirculated air in your building, further decreasing transmission risks.
Every change will affect the overall system, so what does this mean for your building? In general, you may expect your cooling and heating systems to face a greater load and run into difficulties maintaining the relative humidity. Higher pressure drops across filters, larger quantities of outdoor air requiring conditioning, and extended hours of operation all lead to increases in energy consumption. As always, monitoring is essential to see how your building will specifically be affected.
How Does This Impact You?
You need a good picture of the energy and financial changes you’ll face during implementation so you can reforecast your 2020 budget to account for all the non-routine adjustments, and this comes from the tracking and reporting you’ll have to do to properly monitor them. Your bottom line will be affected, and while that cost depends on a variety of factors, it can also be broken down into estimates by region. For example, Los Angeles is predicted to face a $0.022 increase in cost per square foot due to the extended hours. On top of that, it will likely see a $0.015 increase toward the filtration upgrades, namely MERV-13 filters. In contrast, NYC is looking at an estimated $0.025 increase, and Houston might be seeing $0.010!
Because every building is unique, your costs may differ from the region average just as regions differ from one another. In order to best plan for how you’ll be affected, you’ll want to have a thorough understanding of your HVAC system and its operations alongside your building and indoor/outdoor environments. It is also important to be aware of building control sequences, commissioning reports, sensor calibrations, alarms, and many other adjustments.
We understand this can be a lot to handle. Don’t worry, though! That’s why we’ll be going over all of this and more in our free webinar. We want to help you understand the guidelines and their effect on your building and budget so you can prepare and have your tenants easily transition into a safe working environment ready to face the coming months.