Guidance for Building Operations During Coronavirus Part 1

Woman and son wear masks at airport

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 includes several different methods including social distancing and alterations to HVAC systems.

As we all do our part to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone also recognizes the importance of educating ourselves. EEI’s commissioning expertise that focuses on optimizing the built environment. We can’t tell you more than you probably already heard, read, or discussed regarding social distancing. However, EEI cares about the health and safety of our staff, clients, and all of you reading this. So, our newsroom will cover pertinent topics regarding infection control, remote monitoring of systems, and engineering advances related to facilities.

ASHRAE Article Explained

Today, we would like to share the recent ASHRAE Journal article and offer our thoughts on the Association’s recommendations. Entitled Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the article outlines HVAC and non-HVAC considerations to address in buildings that must remain open as the pandemic continues to affect our daily routines. Regarding ventilation, ASHRAE recommends increasing outdoor ventilation by disabling Demand-Control Ventilation (DCV) or further opening outdoor minimum air dampers. They also recommend improving central air filtration to the MERV-13 and sealing around air filters. (click on the link provided for a full list of recommendations).

Our Series on Ventilation

In Part 1 of this 2-part series on the ASHRAE article, our staff would like to share our thoughts specific to ventilation in the facilities that must remain open during the pandemic. This includes facilities such as grocery stores, labs, etc.

  • Disabling the D.C.V.: An energy saving / indoor air quality practice that reduces outdoor air ventilation when CO2 levels are low. We most commonly use this practice in rooms with wide variations in occupancy like classrooms, conference rooms, and auditoriums. CO2 levels increase in rooms with many occupants, so it allows ventilation to increase and decrease based on the needs of the space.  Disabling DCV increases the ventilation rate to the minimum level that ASHRAE Standard 62 required at the design phase.
  • Further Opening Minimum Air Dampers: Enabling additional outside air up to 100% from the minimum required reduces recirculation of air and provides greater dilution of air filtered to minimum commercial standards.  Make sure to carefully evaluate the implementation of this. The effects range from building pressure, energy consumption, overcooling, or overheating the zone served.
  • Improving Central Air Filtration to the MERV-13 and Sealing Air Filters: Many facility operators use improved filtration to filter out viruses, but this technique may not work for every system. Most systems are not designed to handle the added pressure drop of higher efficiency filters.

Next week, we will cover our thoughts on ventilation in hospitals, so stay tuned!