In an ASHRAE-sponsored public session held at the AHR Expo on January 22, 2008, attendees were presented the kind of knowledge that can save lives. HVAC Design for Security and Sustainability focused on preventing and dealing with attacks involving chemical and/or biological agents (CBA), and provided attendees with information that with any luck, they’ll never need. However, as the presenters said, the time to plan for such a catastrophic event is certainly not after the event has occurred.

Offering practical tips on what precautions can be taken, along with plenty of resources, this session explained what CBAs are, possible scenarios of their release, how they may be detected, how buildings may be “immunized” against such threats, and more.

Moderated by Harmohinder Singh, Ph.D., North Carolina A & T State University, Greensboro, NC, the session was broken down into four sessions:

“Emergency Planning and Response: State, Local, Facility and HVAC Level,” presented by Leroy Mickelsen, P.E., U.S. EPA, Washington. Mickelsen provided details on the support systems in place to plan for and respond to such events, and encouraged building professionals to have a written plan, make contact with and get involved with their local support systems, including their Local Emergency Planning Committee (
“CB Protection of Facilities,” presented by Dale Herron, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Champaign, IL. Herron provided an overview of CBAs and detailed results that were obtained via trials on a sample building last year. Using many different scenarios, the trials revealed that preventive measures (such as protecting air intakes, etc.) are essential and that when facing a CBA event, HVAC systems don’t typically operate as designed. Dedicated systems for mail rooms and dock areas, fully filtered dedicated outdoor air systems and high MERV filters were among other recommendations offered.  

“Remediation of Anthrax Contaminated Buildings,” presented by Neil Norrell, U.S. EPA, Washington, DC. This session delved into two recent Anthrax events that occurred in the last couple years (both events resulted from the substance being transmitted by hides used for making African drums) and the extensive remediation efforts that ensued.  

“HVAC System Design and Operating Issues for Chemical and Biological Attack,” presented by James Jones, Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Blacksburg, VA. This session provided some hands on real-life tips on how design and operation can prevent or at least mitigate CBA attacks.

Attendees received two New York-approved PDHs, and the presenters hoped they left better prepared to plan for and prevent CBA events at their facilities. As Herron said in response to a request for a list of books and resources on CBA protection, reading all the books and documents you can find on the subject won’t help you sleep better at night, but at least if you’ve planned and done everything you can, you might rest a bit easier.