GPD engineers Brandon Marzley, PE and Greg Lavriha, PE have been working hard to spread awareness about improving HVAC systems amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides hosting webinars for the Ohio Schools Council (OSC) and writing an article for Chain Store Age, our mechanical engineers continue to help clients make the right decision for their unique facility’s needs and capabilities.
With the increase in concern over indoor air quality in existing buildings, every facility owner should consider three important factors when making decisions.
The first is to perform an assessment of the current facility to locate the high-risk areas. Risks can be determined by looking into a building’s occupancy type and overall usage.
Secondly, it is important to consider the maintenance implications and the capital and operating budget constraints of making changes. While some newer buildings may have more advanced HVAC systems requiring limited changes to maintenance, buildings with an older HVAC system might not be equipped or have the budget for large-scale modifications to its system.
The final decision is whether the facility needs a temporary or permanent control measure.
Temporary control measures are designed for limited use and focus on a singular pandemic or viral outbreak. These options emphasize diluting the air, increasing air flow, and getting more fresh air into the building. Options such as portable disinfectors, portable air purifiers and humidifiers, operable windows, and having the existing system operate for 24 hours a day have significant impacts on the air quality of a small area. Temporary control measures are ideal for facilities that are unable to or are not seeking to make larger changes to their existing HVAC systems
On the other hand, permanent control measures make a lasting impact by permanently improving overall air quality and helping with future viruses such as annual cold and flu outbreaks. Some options for permanent change include improved ventilation, enhanced filtration systems, bipolar ionization, and adding germicidal ultraviolet light to the airstream. Often, these solutions require a larger impact to a facility’s existing HVAC system and a higher initial cost but provide long-term results.
No matter the control measure option chosen, Marzley and Lavriha want decision makers to remember that it is important to seek help from an architectural and engineering firm that remains independent of manufacturers and contractors to ensure unbiased recommendations.
It is also important to follow the CDC’s guidelines for COVID-19 and to adhere to the standards laid out by experts including the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), state and local health departments, and the EPA.
To learn more, check out Marzley and Lavriha’s webinars: “COVID-19 Impacts on HVAC Systems in Buildings” and “COVID-19 Impacts on HVAC Systems in Retail Structures.” You can also read their article from Chain Store Age here.