COVID-19: Getting Back to Business Roadmap

COVID-Ready Workspace:
The Simplified View

As society prepares to go back to work while the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is still very much active, building owners and operators must become educated to make the safest, most effective, and most cost-effective decisions regarding how to adjust our work environments. Here are the facts:

  • Social distancing works – infection rate data strongly supports this conclusion
  • Killing the pathogen itself – using soap, sterilization, and other means.
  • Humidity levels need to be above 40% RH – Humidity below this causes it to spread much faster. It travels more readily in the air and the human immune system is depressed at lower RH levels.
Interior of the hall with curved glazed walls and a view of the skyscrapers. 3d illustration.

When we look at the mitigation strategies that align with the facts, they fall into three categories.

  • All-things social distancing – from A/B scheduling of employees to elevator car occupancy limits
  • Hygiene – disinfecting surfaces, washing your hands, etc.
  • Infrastructure upgrades – filtration, ventilation, and upgrades that support humidification and indoor air quality

The building industry focuses a lot on the first and second strategies, which is a good first step, but it may also be a result of a low barrier to entry when it comes to understanding these techniques.

When we consider a few more facts, it is shown that as an industry, we are creating indoor environments that may make the problem worse in the future.

  • The CDC recommends increasing ventilation, and as a result, outdoor air dampers are being opened.
  • There is a low chance of global immunization until at least mid-2021.
  • Winter is coming.

Unless you are an expert in psychometrics you may not see the contradiction in what the CDC is recommending, but there is a significant risk in what the industry is opening itself up to in terms of what we are doing to our building right now.

Increasing outside air ventilation without humidification will create an indoor environment with very low humidity levels. As mentioned before, this is exactly what we do not want to happen as humidity should be above 40%. Low humidity decreases the human body’s ability to defend itself – the reason we are more prone to getting sick in the winter. We are on a path to create indoor environments that foster the spread of this virus.

HVAC: Controlling What You Can’t See

As businesses start to reopen, organizations are incorporating safety measures like social distancing, hand sanitizer, touchless faucets, and regular disinfection.

Although these measures are a good start to keeping your building clean, more needs to be done to reduce transmission in the workplace – starting with your HVAC systems. HVAC systems have a major influence on both the direct transmission of the pathogen as well as the body’s ability to defend itself against infection and should be a primary area of focus for your back-to-business preparedness.

The good news is that both air quality and relative humidity are easily controlled with simple enhancements to your HVAC systems. But without the proper plan in place, there can be negative side effects, resulting in increased energy consumption and system inefficiencies.

At Enica, our expert team of engineers will analyze your current energy systems, pinpoint problem areas, and generate solutions to provide a safe building environment while focusing on efficiency and cost control. Coordinating all of this work can be a real headache.

Let the experts at Enica develop a comprehensive COVID-19 Back to Business plan for you.

What Are The Industry Guidelines?

Our COVID-19 Back to Business services are based on industry guidelines, including the following strategic and practical guidance for COVID-19 transmission mitigation, education, and logistical implications to ensure your compliance:

Build a COVID-19 Roadmap and Get Back to Work

Getting Back to Business

When considering government, industry recommendations, the technologies available, their consequences, and the perception of workplace safety by occupants, a purely prescriptive approach can lead to unsafe conditions and hefty overhead costs to reengineer or convert current systems.

As field engineering experts, our custom solutions for HVAC systems in buildings include on-site field investigation, sound engineering, and data collection.

Our engineers will study your building and develop a custom COVID-19 Back to Business Roadmap to ensure identification of the right solution for each facility, including:

  • Humidifier installation, reconfiguration, or recommissioning to minimize transmission capabilities of airborne germicides in low humidity environments by maintaining relative humidity above 30-40% when the building is occupied.
  • UVC lighting will be a viable option for inactivating viruses as well as keeping drains for coil drip pans clean, as stated in a recent ASHRAE Position Paper.
  • Indoor air quality data and monitoring would set a baseline for any enhancements recommended. Minimum readings would be CO, CO2, O3, PM 2.5, TVOC, temperature, and RH.
  • Central air handling unit testing will include air flows, filter differential pressure, supply fan power consumption, ventilation rates, air change rates, and identifying existing filter specifications. Identify any potential filter upgrades along with the potential energy penalty.
  • Positive pressurization of the building to the outside.
  • Custom programming to coordinate and maintain psychrometric conditions with the building as well as control ventilation, filtration effectiveness, and purging.

Download this one-pager to learn more about the technologies within our playbook.

Our team of experienced engineers takes all of your COVID-19 readiness and energy efficiency requirements into account to ensure a solution that fits your specific needs to get you back to your building, safely. Contact us today!

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