Have you found yourself hesitating as you reach for a door handle of a public building lately? Are you picturing microscopic creepy crawlies swarming over surfaces, or floating in the air like dust particles in the sun? The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way buildings and indoor spaces are viewed by many who never gave it much thought in the past. Building designers and management have focused on the occupant experience inside their spaces as they design and renovate, so this is not a new topic in their world. But now the average citizen has become awakened to healthy building measures and this will make management practices face closer scrutiny than ever before.
As the stay-at-home mandates lift and people start filtering back into their places of work, building managers will have to be able to answer for the indoor air quality of their building and their healthy management practices. Public focus on workplace health measures will continue and buildings that have incorporated healthy building measures into their design and management will be at the head of their market. Occupants will select buildings to rent and work in that provide quality indoor environments over those that have not developed better management of these critical elements. What can a building manager do to increase their building’s health value? Just as you would maintain your own body’s health, you need to get your building a checkup.
Buildings change over time and their systems wear and degrade. The performance of building systems should be tested to make sure they are functioning at optimal levels to produce the desired environment in building spaces. This testing is referred to as commissioning. Commissioning is the process of making sure building systems are performing as designed. The commissioning authority is specially trained to prepare a plan that incorporates the building goals and targets and to carry out functional testing procedures and measurements to verify equipment performance. Recommissioning systems (testing and adjusting systems that have already been commissioned) on a regular basis ensures the systems continue to perform at their best.
Retro-commissioning the systems in an existing building before problems occur helps to catch things early and leads to savings in maintenance and replacement costs. Commissioning newly installed equipment and new construction buildings ensures that you are getting the performance you paid and planned for. Systems that can be included in the commissioning process are building envelopes, building security, controls, co-generation, electrical, fire/life safety, interior systems, mechanical (HVAC), plumbing, utility plants, wastewater, and sustainable systems.
What Commissioning Can Tell You
In reference to the Coronavirus, the factors that affect indoor environmental quality are ventilation, air quality, temperature, relative humidity, and building security. It is obvious that fresh air is better than recirculated and possibly contaminated air. The commissioning agent can test the building’s ventilation strategy to find out the rate of air exchange within the building. They can also test the relative humidity of the building spaces. There are published recommended relative humidity levels that will reduce the survival of the virus. Testing of the HVAC systems output and performance will show if the desired relative humidity is being maintained.
The importance of building security systems and measures will be heightened as occupants will want to know who is coming into the building as well as what they are carrying with them into the building. Building managers will be able to use the information from the commissioning report to adjust controls to meet new, more stringent requirements dictated by the post quarantine environment.
People will have increased awareness of the quality of the spaces they occupy. They will be more selective, choosing living and working spaces that provide healthy environments. The pandemic has made building performance top priority and the building manager that takes definitive action to show occupants that they are delivering the healthiest environment possible will be the most successful in weathering this storm.
An excellent time to have a building checkup is before the workforce returns to the building. And if it hasn’t been done recently, the best time is sooner rather than later. Albireo Energy provides commissioning services that can identify underperforming systems. Albireo can provide solutions and recommendations to improve existing conditions and inform building managers so that when the occupants start asking, the building manager will have the answers.