IAQ has increasingly become a focal point for our industry. As people begin to reoccupy buildings, companies are scrambling to provide healthy indoor environments. But what actions should they take, and what is your role as a design or consulting engineer?
As far as control strategies are concerned, there appears to be three primary strategies.
ASHRAE recommends optimizing a building’s airflow. This is achieved by increasing air change rates and the amount of outdoor air introduced into the building. However, this increased airflow and outdoor air will boost the demand on the system. As more air is introduced, the fan, heating, and cooling loads increase. This forces customers to re-evaluate set points and how they stage equipment.
This creates an engineering opportunity to recommend set point and sequence of operations changes for your customers.
CONTROL TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY
Some studies have shown that temperature and humidity can be used to reduce a building’s viral loads. It’s your responsibility to educate customers on how they can better control temperature and humidity in their buildings.
For some customers, this will be achieved through retrofits to their existing building automation systems (BASs), and, for other customers, this may be the introduction of a BAS to a previously uncontrolled building.
OPTIMIZATION AND BUILDING FLUSHES
When considering modified occupancy, we also have to look at how we adjust the scheduling and sequence of a system’s purge ventilation modes. This is done in response to the potential presence of those who may be ill as well as the need to “air out” the building.
ASHRAE recommends implementing a purge mode that ventilates the building at the end of the day and prior to the start of each day.
All of these strategies require sequence changes and potential retrofits to existing BASs. This is a primary reason I firmly believe the industry is now entering a retrofit market.
While the measurement and verification of IAQ data has not yet been required, I do believe that is coming. This brings to the forefront the need for strategies that involve data normalization, data standardization, and the logging and collecting of data. A time will come, very soon, when it is required by law for us to report the IAQ data within our buildings.
This will lead to a boosted retrofit market, as owners struggle to gather data from buildings with little or no data-tracking capabilities at all. Owners will be looking for guidance on how they can implement these strategies. They will become even more concerned once IAQ data reporting is required by law.
This is a prime opportunity for you to begin working with your customers to create a modernization plan for their building systems.