Written By: Brian Keller
It’s safe to say that everyone is doing their best to adjust to the “new normal”in the wake of COVID -19–or at least trying. While professionals work from home to help combat the pandemic, commercial real estate (CRE) managers and owners are evaluating strategic property improvements in preparation for their return. Two primary areas of focus for CRE and utilities are virtual facility assessments and emerging technologies to ensure tenants are safe and healthy inside buildings.
Given that the pandemic has limited our ability to have face-to-face interactions,it has become challenging to take advantage of traditional on-site energy assessments offered through utility incentive programs. To adapt, utilities are leveraging virtual assessments, allowing them to transition an “in-person” service to a no-contact, remote offering.To conduct a virtual assessment, on-site engineers will walk through a facility with their laptop or phone. The utility program representative will be on the other end, asking questions and discussing facility priorities just like an in-person energy audit (but much safer for both parties). Videoconferencing has come a long way in recent years –high-quality video platforms have made it possible to conduct audits without sacrificing the quality of the results.
The Waypoint team has been conducting virtual assessments to ensure program continuity for our clients and partners. We analyze the main building systems, such as lighting, HVAC, and controls, as well as the operating behaviors of the building,to identify potential energy efficiency projects. If additional details are needed, we’ll request photographs of the equipment. Once the necessary information is collected, a summary and business case for energy saving projects is presented, highlighting the energy and cost savings alongside the available utility incentives.
The most obvious benefit of virtual assessments is the ability to limit in-person interactions while still providing a valuable service to customers –a road map for energy efficiency improvements and cost-savings at a time when businesses need it most.The energy insights and financial metrics provided in the report support capital budget planning for current year surpluses and the following calendar year. Plus, most assessments identify operational savings,which can be implemented at low or no-cost, resulting in immediate energy savings.
New and Existing Technologies
Over the past few months of this global pandemic new (and existing) building technologies and building controls strategies have been implemented by CRE firms in hopes of creating a safer environment for tenants when they eventually return to the office.
Engineers have explored several options to reduce the presence of COVID-19 in indoor environments, including:
UV-C LED lighting: LED lighting that uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria on surfaces, in the air, and in water. Implementing this lighting can disinfect work surfaces in the office during unoccupied hours.
Bipolar Ionization (BPI) Technology: A technology that can be retrofitted to an existing HVAC system that ionizes the air to allow small particles to combine with each other to create larger particles that then get collected in the HVAC filtration system, improving the indoor air quality of the building. Ionizing the air also breaks down and removes bacteria and viruses from the air.
HEPA Filtration: High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration is a type of air filter that can trap 99.7% of large, small, and ultra fine particles in the air. Implementing this filtration system in high-risk areas helps enhance air cleaning.
Building Pressurization: Adjusting zone supply and exhaust flow rates to create negative and positive pressure zones. Have the building staff work in the positive pressure areas and designate higher risk areas,such as visitor reception,in the negative pressure zones. This arrangement will prevent potentially contaminated air from the high-risk area from flowing into the building staff’s working environment.
Increased Use of Outdoor Air: Increase the percentage of outdoor air, as high as 100% if possible, to increase air turnover and improve airflow in the work areas. Disabling the demand control ventilation system is also recommended to ensure an increased supply of outdoor air even with low occupancy in the building.
Duct Cleaning and Sealing: Sealing ducts will ensure that ducts designated for exhausting indoor air and ducts designated for supplying outdoor air to remain independent of one another. This will help prevent potentially contaminated air from mixing with fresh, outdoor air. Regularly cleaning ducts to disinfect the system can be an added measure to keep building staff safe and healthy.
You can also check out additional building readiness guidelines provided by ASHRAE.
Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on these new technologies or COVID-19 processes.
Stay safe out there!