Camfil highlights the value of the World IEQ Forum 2022
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 27 June 2022: One way to protect people from air pollution is to provide clean and healthy air inside of buildings, Camfil said through a Press release, dated June 27. This was the main conclusion at the 6th edition of the World IEQ Forum, held on March 16, in the Sweden Pavilion at the World Expo in Dubai, Camfil added.
The Expo may have concluded, but the topic of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) still remains a mainstream concern that is discussed globally, Camfil said, adding that there were two reasons for the 2022 World IEQ Forum having had an extra focus on IAQ:
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus between people is higher in poorly ventilated indoor settings.
- In September 2021, WHO published the first new version of their global Air Quality Guidelines since 2005.
“New scientific studies place the threshold of air pollution exposure considered harmful to human health 50% lower today compared to 17 years ago, when the previous WHO Air Quality Guidelines were published”, said Tobias Zimmer, Camfil’s Vice President of Global Product Management & International Standards. Tobias was a speaker and panellist at the World IEQ Forum.
Further, a recent WHO study states that 99% of the world’s population lives in areas with too much air pollution, Camfil pointed out. Air pollution that is causing serious human suffering in the form of diseases and millions of premature global deaths yearly and, on top of that, substantial economic costs, Camfil added.
“In the North African and Middle Eastern regions, air pollution is responsible for 270,000 deaths every year at a cost of 141 billion US Dollars, according to the World Bank”, Zimmer said. He went on to point out that most people today spend 90% of their time indoors and that the simplest and best way to achieve protection against harmful airborne particles is to invest in efficient air filtration solutions across all buildings.
“The need for quality air filtration is reflected via the much lower PM2.5 and PM10 threshold levels stated in WHO’s new Air Quality Guidelines,” Zimmer said. “These thresholds also align with Eurovent Guideline 4/23 for the selection of EN ISO 16890-rated air filter classes for general ventilation applications.”
At the same time, Zimmer was careful to emphasise that it is not possible to have a same-solution-fits-all approach to cleaning the indoor air. “Consensus at the World IEQ Forum was that every solution has to be tailored to where the building is located,” he said. “The outside air quality must determine the solution you have inside.” For example, he added, what works in a temperate zone might not be right in regions with high humidity. “The needs can also vary within a region,” he said. “Cities are more afflicted when it comes to air pollution than the countryside. Some cities are more polluted than others.”
According to Camfil, the World IEQ Forum is an opportunity for experts on IAQ, like Zimmer and his colleagues, to engage with, for example, representatives from the Ministry of Health and other influential representatives from various countries. “It is imperative that we continue to raise awareness around the urgent need to protect people from air pollution,” Zimmer said. “When you look at the human and financial costs on a global level, it is evident that we can’t afford not to protect ourselves.”
Zimmer said participants at the World IEQ Forum did not just talk about the importance of healthy IAQ. “We also demonstrated proof of concept by measuring the outside and inside air at the location during the EXPO,” Zimmer said. “Dubai’s outdoor air was 10 times more polluted than the WHO recommendations. The air inside the air-filtrated Sweden Pavilion was well below WHO limits for particle concentration.”
Zimmer said the effect of the clean indoor air in the Sweden Pavilion was visible to the naked eye. “After several hours of listening to me and other speakers, the audience was still fresh and alert,” he said. “So, you could say that we certainly ‘walked the talk’ when it comes to proving the benefits of clean, healthy and productive indoor air.”
JCI: Investments in sustainability have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels
CORK, Ireland, 12 April 2022: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced findings from its 15th annual Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey, which revealed that 62% of organizations surveyed expect to increase investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy or smart building technology in 2022, indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels.
JCI said the latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advised that global scale transformation is urgently needed to combat climate change; however, its Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey found that organizations are still facing challenges to accelerate their sustainability efforts in key areas. Almost two-thirds of survey respondents say they struggle to scale sustainability initiatives across buildings, geographies or business units.
“In the face of the multiple and continuous shock waves of the last two years, it is very encouraging to see that building owners and operators are driving forward the kinds of investments that deliver the resilience needed to grow their business and attract and retain the best talent,” said Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability and External Relations Officer, JCI.
“Whether it is the damage delivered by climate-charged destructive natural events, or the health threat of the pandemic, or now, the stark demonstration of the insecurity of world energy supplies, it is clear that taking action to cut energy demand while decarbonizing and cleaning the air are core strategies for companies, governments and institutions to not only survive but to thrive.
Our innovative technologies in heat pumps and our OpenBlue digital platform, plus our Net Zero as a Service partnership offering, are exactly the right tools at the right time for leaders determined to stay well ahead of challenges and deliver new opportunities for their business or organization.”
JCI said the survey revealed that planned investment in energy generation or storage has grown significantly over five years, likely in response to the global focus on decarbonization, and as part of that effort, electrification.
More than a third of respondents plan to replace fossil fuel heating equipment with heat pump technology in the next year, which is seven per cent more than what was implemented in the year prior, the company said. Notably, thermal energy storage jumped from 27% to 42% in the last five years, the company said. More than half of respondents implemented electric energy storage in the past year, the company added.
JCI said the survey also found that the United States and Europe still lead the way in every metric of green building planning. The United States had the most respondents who had already achieved green building certification and expect to have a net-zero-energy or carbon building in the next 10 years, JCI said.
Europe had the most respondents planning to attain green building certifications and the most respondents who have established public energy or carbon-reduction goals, with United Kingdom leading with 46% established goals, JCI added.
Compared to its global counterparts, significantly more respondents in the United States plan to implement measures, such as building controls improvements, onsite renewable energy and energy management process, such as ISO 50001, JCI said. Of the countries surveyed, the United Kingdom, France and Japan have the most respondents who expect to increase investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy or smart building technology over the next year, the company said. Still, to reach global sustainability and environmental goals, the world must work collectively to plan for a more energy efficient future and make investments today for the generations to come, it added.
Although global-scale transformation is necessary to course-correct on climate change, organisations are facing barriers to pursuing sustainability initiatives, JCI said. Almost half of the respondents surveyed say their top barrier to pursue energy and building technology improvements is either a lack of funding to pay for improvements (25%) or uncertainty in their return-on-investment (23%), the company said.
Additionally, more than half of respondents pointed to a lack of technology as one of the hindrances to scaling sustainability efforts, JCI said.
The pandemic has also prompted organizations to rethink their technology investment decision-making, JCI said. Protecting the health and safety of building occupants during the coronavirus pandemic was the second most significant driver of investments globally, it said. Additionally, 65% of respondents performed an indoor air quality assessment last year, it added.
Respondents to the survey also said improving occupant health and wellness overall and improving life safety and security were important decision-making factors, JCI pointed out. Over the next 12 months, almost 60% of organizations plan to invest in fire and life safety system and security system improvements to their buildings, it said. Long term, more than two-thirds of organizations believe data analytics and cybersecurity will have an extremely or very significant impact on the implementation of smart buildings over the next five years, it added.
The survey revealed that actionable policies are also important for progressing energy efficiency goals, JCI said, adding that 85% and 72% of respondents, respectively, reported that performance benchmarking, certifications and performance standards for energy codes are critical to improving energy efficiency efforts.
JCI said its Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey collected responses from 1,000 participants globally between November and December 2021.
ASHRAE opens registration for its Annual Conference
ATLANTA, Georgia, 24 March 2022: ASHRAE said registration is now open for the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference, from June 25 to 29, at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, Toronto.
According to ASHRAE, the five-day conference includes sessions addressing current trends and technologies in the HVAC&R industry, as well as tours, social events and a keynote message from Fredi Lajvardi, STEM educator and subject of IMAX film, Dream Big.
“ASHRAE’s Annual Conference offers a unique combination of education, technology and networking in an effective format where industry professionals can share best practices, insights and real-world experiences with peers from around the world,” said Mick Schwedler, 2021-22 ASHRAE President. “We’re excited to come together in Toronto – a vibrant city known for innovation – and know the conference will be a worthwhile experience for all in attendance.”
According to ASHRAE, the conference’s technical program comprises eight tracks, with over 70 sessions and over 200 speakers. Topics include decarbonization, environmental health and energy system integration and building performance, the Society said.
According to ASHRAE, tracks include:
- Fundamentals and Applications
- HVAC&R Systems and Equipment
- 9th Annual Research Summit
- IAQ, Energy Use, Comfort and Health of Sustainable Buildings
- Connected Buildings, Connected Communities
- Buildings in the Aftermath of COVID-19
- Professional Development and Education
- Cold Climate Building System Design, Operation and Resilience
ASHRAE said it will also conduct business, committee and technical meetings in the weeks leading up to and during the conference. It said members will be recognized for Society and industry achievements, and Farooq Mehboob, 2022-2023 ASHRAE President, will present the inaugural Society theme address on “Securing Our Future”.
According to ASHRAE, registration includes:
- Access to technical program from Sunday, June 26 to Wednesday, June 29 (seminars, workshops, paper sessions, debates and panels)
- Access to conference proceedings
- Networking opportunities
The ASHRAE Ventilation 2022: 13th International Industrial Ventilation Conference for Contaminant Control will immediately precede the ASHRAE Annual Conference at the same location, from June 22 to 24, the Society said, adding that dual registration opportunities will be available at a discounted rate. It encouraged those interested in attending the events to visit ashrae.org/2022annual and ashrae.org/ventilation2022.
Poppy introduces IT-based IAQ solution at EXPO 2020 seminar
DUBAI, UAE, 21 March 2022: Canada-headquartered Poppy, which calls itself the world’s first biosafety intelligence company, introduced its IT-based IAQ devices to the MENA region during a seminar at the Canada Pavilion, at the World Expo in Dubai.
Opening the seminar, Nader Arafat, Strategic Advisor, MENA Region, Poppy, spoke of the pandemic ushering in a mindset shift towards Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Speaking after him, Mohammed Bin Dasmal, Managing Director, Bin Dasmal Group, called Poppy’s devices as focusing on IAQ as well as on energy savings.
Sam Molyneux, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Poppy, elaborated on Bin Dasmal’s pithy description during his presentation. Saying that the world needs to protect itself from future pandemics, he said it is important to understand indoor safety and the cost of enhancing safety. Making clean air in a cost-effective way is a global priority, he added.
Referring to the high-profile Guangzhou restaurant, the site of the precipitous outbreak of COVID-19, in the period starting from January 26 to February 10, 2020, Molyneux highlighted how a small air conditioning system was able to propagate the virus and raised ventilation concerns. In view of that, he said, in some senses, ventilation is the last stand against COVID-19. Poppy systems, he said, help in making ventilation decisions, including demand-control ventilation, as a means to achieving IAQ goals without compromising on energy efficiency targets.
The devices, Molyneux said, available on subscription basis, detect and identify over 1,000+ pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, using genomic sequencing and molecular assays. They allow the company to collect data related to human breath, which in turn, allow understanding on how human breath moves, which he said is crucial, considering everyone is constantly breathing out particles that contain viruses.
The data, and the understanding of the data, he said, enable the company to validate how air conditioning systems are performing and, broadly speaking, provide insights and a direction for action to protect indoor spaces and occupants.
Molyneux said the company has deployed Poppy systems in 50 sites across North America and Europe, including factories, financial institutions, schools and entertainment venues. He gave the example of Poppy systems at work at the largest investment bank in Manhattan, in New York City, where the company is able to monitor the air quality in the trading floor, among other zones of the building and identify if any zones have high transmission issues that need to be looked into.
He also gave the example of the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts, in Toronto, Canada, where Poppy systems are at work monitoring and providing recommendations, so that the Center is able to run its operas again. “We are able to recommend increasing the ventilation rates in hotspots, which is a localised approach, and reducing ventilation rates globally,” Molyneux said. “So, we are able to achieve energy savings.”
ASHRAE wraps up first hybrid Winter Conference
ATLANTA, Georgia, 4 February 2022: More than 2,800 HVACR industry professionals, building systems engineers, architects, contractors and students gathered in Las Vegas and virtually from January 29 to February 2 for the 2022 ASHRAE Winter Conference, ASHRAE said through a Press release. Registered conference attendees received entry to the co-sponsored AHR Expo, held from January 31 to February 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, ASHRAE added.
“This year’s Conference and Expo marked the first time that the Society has been together for our Winter Conference in two years and the return to the AHR Expo after last year’s cancellation,” said Mick Schwedler, 2021-22 ASHRAE President. “While the numbers are expectedly lower than past conferences, in-person attendance still exceeded our expectations, and our virtual attendees added a welcomed dynamic to our sessions. We are grateful to everyone involved in establishing a comprehensive health and safety plan for our attendees, which included guidance provided by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force.”
According to ASHRAE, the Winter Conference featured over 50 technical sessions, updates from Society leaders, tours, social events and livestreamed sessions for virtual attendees. Top sessions included Introduction of Building Decarbonization, HVAC Design, Control and Operation of Hospitals After COVID-19 Fiasco and CPS 21: Refining ASHRAE COVID Guidelines and Standard 100, ASHRAE said.
According to ASHRAE, the AHR Expo offered a total of 1,573 exhibitors, with 281 international exhibitors, occupying 443,769 square feet of exhibit space in the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 43,000 people pre-registered to attend the show, including 130 media representatives, ASHRAE said.
At the Winter Conference, Schwedler provided updates related to the Society’s current theme, “Personal Growth. Global Impact. Feed the Roots”, ASHRAE said. He focused on personal development and how the Society’s extraordinary global growth and impact to the built environment has nourished the roots of the global HVACR industry, ASHRAE added.
“When we concentrate on our mission and vision and talk about our impacts – we make the world more sustainable and resilient to future changes,” Schwedler said. “We reduce both energy utilization intensity and environmental emissions. We helped mitigate a global pandemic by keeping vaccines cold – and their efficacy high – 40% of the world’s food spoils between the field and consumption. We reduce that. And most importantly, we keep students and staff in schools, and occupants of the built environment safe and healthy.”
During the plenary session of the Conference, Jeff Littleton, Executive Vice President and Secretary, ASHRAE, reported on the Society’s current initiatives, as well as the dedication of ASHRAE volunteers during the pandemic. “A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board subcommittee is focused on proactively driving diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the Society,” Littleton said. “Task groups have been formed to drive Society strategies on decarbonization and on international standards. We’ve released 14 new and 24 revised publications and standards.
Examples of new publications include the ASHRAE Design Guide for Natural Ventilation and the ASHRAE Guide for HVAC in Hazardous Spaces. We’ve even released the children’s book, Lucy’s Engineering Adventure. The commitment of ASHRAE’s entire global membership to the Society’s work has never wavered during the pandemic. I find that truly remarkable. When so much of our professional and personal lives has been disrupted, some 7,000 ASHRAE volunteers at the society, regional and chapter levels continue to drive ASHRAE forward.”
ASHRAE said an honors and awards ceremony, tied to the Conference, was an occasion for recognizing experienced and emerging leaders in the industry. Record-breaking polar explorer, Ann Daniels, closed the plenary session with an inspiring presentation on good leadership, teamwork and self-belief.
The ASHRAE Learning Institute (ALI) offered 17 courses. According to ASHRAE, new courses were as follows: Advanced High-Performance Building Designs: Key Concepts for Lifelong Building Sustainability; V in HVAC – What, Why, Where, How, and How Much (includes Basic Requirements of Standard 62.1-2019); Best Practices for Installing DDC Systems; Save 40% by Complying with Standard 90.1-2019; Principles of Building Commissioning: ASHRAE Guideline 0 and Standard 202; Guideline 36: Best in Class HVAC Control Sequences; Changing Environments and Loads for Data Centers (High Density, Liquid Cooling, Edge Computing); and Health Impacts of Indoor Air Extraction, Ventilation, and Filtration – Same or Different.
ASHRAE said all registered attendees, both in-person and virtual, would have access to the virtual conference environment for 12 months, post-conference. Registration, the Society said, is still open for access to the virtual conference until January 2023 at ashrae.org/2022winter.
ASHRAE said the 2022 ASHRAE Annual Conference will take place from June 25 to June 29 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The 2023 Winter Conference will take place from February 4 to 8, and the AHR Expo, from February 6 to 8, in Atlanta, Georgia.
‘Clean up indoor air, or else expect COVID to surge’
TROY, New York, 21 August 2021: An air quality engineer warned that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end until Americans clean up the indoor air.
“With variants on the rise, all the talk this summer has been about vaccines,” said Jeremy McDonald, Vice President at New York-based firm, Guth DeConzo Consulting. “Now we’re hearing about masks again, which feels like a step back for most of us. But when it comes to preventing the spread of airborne viruses, like COVID-19, we also have to improve the quality of the air in our indoor spaces. As the seasons change, it seems like we’re going back to old, tired strategies that haven’t gotten us out of this mess. It’s time to listen to the engineers: It’s all about the air.”
Mc Donald on July 26 published an essay, titled ‘Moving Beyond COVID-19: It’s Time to Look at the Air We Breathe’, in which he argued that President Joe Biden’s ‘American Jobs Plan’ must include improvements to the indoor air quality (IAQ) infrastructure, if Americans are to finally beat the COVID-19 pandemic and improve defenses against future pandemics and common day-to-day air quality maladies. Toward the end of July, COVID-19 cases began to surge in parts of the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidance to once again recommend that Americans wear masks indoors, even if vaccinated.
McDonald encouraged improvements to ventilation and the use of high-performance air filters and other air purification technologies, where appropriate. Buildings that have deferred maintenance and investment in modern HVAC may require more complicated and expensive solutions, he said.
“Although some buildings may require an expensive investment, we need to weigh this against the cost of our health and well-being,” McDonald wrote in his essay. “Certainly, when considering our health, fixing ‘sick’ buildings is a much better choice than fixing ‘sick’ people.”
Yet, McDonald said, there are plenty of low-cost or no-cost solutions that can drastically improve IAQ, such as cracking a window, which reduces the intensity and quantity of virus particles and their ability to spread to more people, using air purification technologies, and simply ensuring that buildings meet the spirit of building code requirements for minimal fresh air for buildings.
Saying that there is a historical precedent for this common sense strategy, McDonald noted in his essay: “In response to the Pandemic of 1918, when more than 20,000 New Yorkers died, ventilation was seen as one of the key attributes to protect residents from the devastation of the pandemic. Back then, New York City officials dictated that building heating systems were to be designed and sized to operate with all the windows open, since it was recognized that ventilation was key to purge the virus from indoor spaces. If it worked 100 years ago, it will work today.”
One of the main challenges in getting people to pay more attention to poor indoor air quality is that the problem is invisible, an issue McDonald commented on in an original cartoon he commissioned to get his point across. In the first panel of the cartoon, two fish swim in a bowl. One fish says, “I think the poor quality of the water is making us sick.” The other fish asks, “What’s water?” In the second panel, two office workers and an HVAC engineer stand near the same fishbowl. “Glad to be done with masks, sanitizers and social distancing forever!” says one office worker. “If we don’t improve our air quality in our buildings, we will keep getting sick in the future,” the engineer chimes in. “The air looks good to me,” says the other office worker. Beside her, one of the fish in the bowl is floating upside down with Xs for eyes, indicating it has died. The caption below the cartoon reads, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish,” which is a modern proverb attributed to various sources. That saying, McDonald asserted, sums up our own troubled relationship to air quality – because air is so fundamental to our existence, most of us don’t even think about it. But HVAC engineers think about air every day, all day, and it’s time to listen to them in the fight against airborne illness, he added.
“My frustration, which motivates me to write and speak out on the issue of air quality, is that our leaders are not getting it, and they aren’t listening to engineers,” McDonald said. “But the public health officials aren’t really talking about indoor air quality either, so a lot of politicians probably don’t want to go against the narrative.”
McDonald said that some of the anti-vaccine sentiments may stem from incomplete messaging that does not address indoor air quality. “Some of the resistance to masks and vaccines might be because people know in the back of their mind there’s something missing from the common messaging that is ringing hollow 18 months into this pandemic,” McDonald said. “We are constantly hearing, ‘Wash your hands, wear a mask and socially distance, where possible. We need to add simple, yet time-tested, ventilation strategies to our messaging, which we all know implicitly makes sense to folks from all political persuasions.” Perhaps with improved messaging from our leaders and initiatives to fix our broken HVAC systems, we can truly address this pandemic without arguing about the viability of masking and vaccines, he added.
McDonald said he is clear that vaccines are a key tool in beating this pandemic. But, without addressing the fundamental issue of indoor air quality, he said, we may be putting a “BAND-AID” on the current problem, missing out on the opportunity to improve public health for the long term.
Fifty million more people face heat-related risks
VIENNA, Austria, 5 May 2021: In a warming world, access to sustainable cooling is not a luxury. It is essential for productivity, a healthy diet and the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. Today 1.09 billion vulnerable people are at high risk, because they face a range of cooling access challenges. COVID-19 has intensified the situation with those forced into poverty due to the pandemic contributing to the 50 million additional urban and rural poor at high risk in 2021. Meanwhile, another 2.3 billion from the lower-middle income group face a different risk – inefficient cooling and refrigeration options that increase harmful GHG levels. Across 54 high-impact countries, 3.4 billion people face cooling access risks in 2021.
The Chilling Prospects 2021 report released today by Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) analyses the four populations of urban and rural poor, lower-middle income and middle income in 54 high-impact countries, and reveals that global cooling access risks are on the rise. This is due, in part, to the first global poverty increase seen in 20 years, impacting mostly South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 2020 was one of the hottest years on record, with numerous heatwaves recorded causing wildfires that emitted record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO₂).
“Last year was, without a doubt, a challenging one for all of us, and as the pandemic continues, it is essential more than ever to focus our efforts on increasing energy access,” said Francesco Starace, Chair, SEforALL Administration Board; Chief Executive Officer and General Manager, Enel. “Coupled with the effects of climate change, our agendas should prioritise an inclusive energy transition and deliver access to sustainable cooling to support health, economic, and social recovery, especially in areas at high risk. Together, we must tackle the complexity of today’s challenges and commit to achieving with great speed and scale access to clean, sustainable, and affordable energy for everyone throughout the world.”
Challenges, impacts on vulnerable populations
Lack of access to adequate cold chains for life-saving COVID-19 vaccines is one of the most immediate concerns facing developing countries and, indeed, the world. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that 85 poor countries will not have widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines before 2023, including all African economies, except Gabon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa.
ASHRAE supports USGBC IAQ schools survey and report
ATLANTA, Georgia, 29 April 2021: With technical support from ASHRAE, the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) published a new report on indoor air quality (IAQ) measures that schools have taken in response to the pandemic, ASHRAE said through a Press release.
The report, titled “Preparation in the Pandemic: How Schools Implemented Air Quality Measures to Protect Occupants from COVID-19”, presents the survey responses of school districts representing more than 4,000 schools serving over 2.5 million students in 24 states, on the protocols and operations plans implemented to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Maintaining proper ventilation and good indoor air quality are vital in keeping school buildings healthy and operating as energy efficiently as possible,” said 2020-21 ASHRAE President Charles E. Gulledge III. “This report provides a wide-scale, foundational framework to school leaders and lawmakers alike towards the implementation of new building design guidelines and to advance health and sustainability goals, while instilling confidence in the places where people learn.”
According to ASHRAE, the report is the only known national view of air quality measures implemented in schools during the pandemic. It highlights what school districts have prioritized, which actions they have taken, how they have made decisions and what the consequences have been. The results of the survey show that schools have implemented some protective measures to improve IAQ, prioritizing ventilation and filtration to reduce the transmission of the virus, ASHRAE said. However, school districts still have unmet needs and face numerous challenges related to costs and outdated building infrastructure, ASHRAE added.
“Indoor air quality continues to be a critical concern as more teachers and students are returning to the classroom,” said Anisa Heming, Director of the Center for Green Schools, USGBC. “Increasing clean air circulation for our teachers and students is vital to promoting public health and is a key green building strategy for school buildings. Our aim with this report is to inform policymakers and nonprofits that support our schools of the challenges that our education institutions face in combatting the spread of COVID-19, particularly given the deficient state of many school buildings across the country.”
Additional findings from the survey include:
- The most-frequently-cited challenge to implementing protective air quality measures at schools was that school buildings were not designed to support the strategies that were being recommended.
- School districts that have been able to act have leaned heavily on their mechanical systems, such as increasing air supply through HVAC systems or upgrading filters to implement protective air quality measures for students and teachers.
- Only two-thirds of respondents were regularly monitoring IAQ before the pandemic, indicating that providing time, staff and funding for regular monitoring and data collection has not been a priority for many districts in the past.
- Respondents want to continue the measures implemented during the pandemic, citing student and teacher health. Seventy per cent of school districts plan to continue some or all of the strategies they have implemented.
“As schools re-open and develop health and safety plans to mitigate airborne transmission of COVID-19, many are prioritizing and upgrading current HVAC systems to provide the highest indoor air quality for building occupants,” said Corey Metzger, Lead, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Schools Team. “We know that improved indoor air quality has a positive impact on student performance and general well-being, and I’m hopeful that more schools will consider and implement the guidance provided by ASHRAE.”
ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force releases updated airborne transmission guidance
ATLANTA, Georgia, 5 April 2021: The ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force released an updated, unequivocal statement on the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in buildings, ASHRAE said through a Press release.
ASHRAE released the following statement: “Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is significant and should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”
ASHRAE said the statement replaces its April 2020 statement, which said airborne transmission was “sufficiently likely” that airborne precautions should be taken. At that time both, ASHRAE said, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) contended that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 was by droplet and fomite modes, not airborne. Subsequently, both have acknowledged the risk of airborne transmission indoors, ASHRAE added.
“This may seem like a small step, but we feel it is important to leave no doubt about our position, given the muted support for ventilation and filtration as important tools in the effort to stop the pandemic, from some organizations that should be leading more strongly,” said William P Bahnfleth, Chair, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force.
According to ASHRAE, the Task Force has been developing and disseminating guidance for the control of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 since its formation in March 2020. “ASHRAE volunteers have played a huge role in evaluating evidence and developing detailed guidance to improve indoor environmental quality,” Bahnfleth said. “The public, globally, is benefitting from the volunteer efforts of some of the most knowledgeable scientists and engineers in our field and this updated guidance is proof of it.”
To view the complete airborne transmission statement and other COVID-19 resources, ASHRAE suggested visiting ashrae.org/COVID-19.
‘The cost of ignoring much-needed IAQ upgrades is far greater’
Amid the celebratory news of the roll-out of vaccination programs around the globe, we must all remember one of the biggest lessons that COVID-19 taught the world: Buildings – as they are designed, constructed, and operated and maintained – play a significant role in the health and wellbeing of not only their occupants but also the people and communities around them. These include our private commercial office buildings, residential buildings of all sizes, hospitals, entertainment venues, schools, public buildings and more.
We have also learned that infrastructure inequities in cities, states and countries across the globe – including those in transportation, healthcare, agriculture and housing – matter and have a big role to play when it comes to effectively managing a health crisis. And sadly, we learned that much like climate change, a pandemic will also disproportionately affect those with the least amount of resources.
The successful development of a vaccine for COVID-19 does not mean that we do not need to develop new practices when designing the places, spaces and communities around us. Why? Because vaccines are only one component of how we will recover and move forward. This is not a once-in-a-generation crisis. As a global community of sustainability and health professionals, we must embrace the lessons learned about virus transmission and apply them to ensure a permanent recovery and resiliency plan. History cannot repeat itself; the cost to humanity is too great.
This is a point in time when leadership matters. This is a point in time for deep inflection. And this is a point in time for purposeful and forward-looking action. We now have the opportunity – and a moral obligation – to completely re-think how our buildings and spaces should be designed, constructed, operated and maintained. We must turn our buildings and spaces into places that positively contribute to our health and wellbeing. That means that we have to take a fresh and honest look at the inequities in the communities around us and build back better with an eye toward achieving resiliency and equity. Multiple studies, including one just released by Oxfam, have found that the world’s richest people have made significant financial gains during COVID-19, while the world’s poor have fallen even further behind.
At USGBC and GBCI, we believe that better buildings and communities equal better lives. That’s why we are dedicated to continuing to invest in LEED, the world’s most widely used and trusted green building certification program. The success of LEED around the world is a testament to its effectiveness. As of this writing, we have more than 100,600 registered and certified LEED commercial projects, nearly two million registered and certified LEED residential units, projects in 181 countries and territories and nearly 205,000 LEED APs implementing the rating system around the world. Much like LEED’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human health and wellness strategies have been a foundation of the LEED program since its beginning, with over 70% of the rating system’s credits tying back both directly and indirectly to human health and wellness.
We know that addressing the systemic challenges revealed by COVID-19 won’t happen overnight and without significant planning. And while we know that addressing these systemic needs will not come without significant investment, we also know that healthy people, in healthy places and spaces, equal a healthy and robust global economy – and that the price we will pay for not addressing these needs will be far greater than addressing them now.
We can start by focusing our efforts on one of the primary targets of preventing virus spread: Indoor air quality (IAQ). Public health data has shown that buildings are safer to occupy when their mechanical systems, especially HVAC systems, promote good ventilation, air scrubbing and purification and enhanced outside air exchange. While these enhancements alone cannot eliminate the risk of virus transmission, they are a critical component of a larger mitigation strategy. Upgrades to outdated and inefficient HVAC systems in existing buildings across the world have been delayed for decades owing to cost concerns. However, the cost of ignoring these needed upgrades is far greater, as the pandemic has demonstrated in human lives lost, shuttered economies and schools and overburdened healthcare delivery platforms. Now is the time to invest in a resilient future and build back the trust between people and the buildings around them.
One way that USGBC and GBCI have strived to build back trust between people and the buildings around them is through our LEED Safety First Pilot Credit, related to managing IAQ as a component of our LEED green building rating system. The pilot credit builds on existing IAQ credits in LEED and helps building owners and managers ensure that IAQ systems are operating as designed. It also helps determine temporary adjustments to ventilation that may minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic has also called attention to the condition of schools. For well over a decade, USGBC has been advocating for a major and long overdue global investment in school buildings. We have already seen some of the adverse effects of schools being shut down and students being forced to learn from home for nearly a year, and the value placed on schools and in-person education is as high as ever. Now is the time to leverage that goodwill and invest in these facilities on a global scale, so that such disruptions never happen again. We need to ensure that every school across the globe has proper ventilation, air purification equipment, carbon dioxide monitors and proper outdoor air exchange in order to reduce the risk of spreading airborne pathogens as a key component in their back-to-school engagement strategy. Every student needs to have a chance to thrive, and a key component of that is a healthy school building.
These investments alone will not create a strong, healthy and resilient planet. We also need to look at cities and their infrastructures. Despite predictions of an exodus of people leaving dense urban population centers for the suburbs, we did not see the global abandonment of cities during the pandemic. Not everyone has the resources to simply pack up and leave, and many rely on the resources that cities provide. And many of those that did leave their cities simply relocated to other cities.
Cities that set themselves apart through substantial investments in sustainability, health and wellness, resiliency and equity will be the leaders of tomorrow. People by their very nature need to feel confident, comfortable and safe with the community around them. That’s why it is critical to provide a framework that communicates the importance of investing in urban infrastructure.
I am proud of the 114 cities and communities across the globe who have certified through the LEED for Cities and Communities rating systems, including the City of Dubai and the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) project. These rating systems revolutionize the way cities and communities are planned, developed and operated, in order to improve their overall sustainability and quality of life. LEED for Cities and Communities is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and encompasses social, economic and environmental performance indicators and strategies with a clear, data-driven means of benchmarking and communicating progress. The rating system also addresses pandemic-specific challenges with two LEED Safety First Pilot Credits, one addressing the preparedness for pandemic planning and the other ensuring social equity in pandemic planning.
At some point, we will enter a post-pandemic world. However, leaders must not then forget the lessons learned from COVID-19. We must remain focused on letting science, data and the health and wellness of future generations drive each and every decision that we make. Better buildings and communities do lead to better and healthier lives. Let’s make that our collective legacy.
Mahesh Ramanujam is President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE EVOLVING BUILDING-RETROFIT LANDSCAPE
The Middle East’s construction sector remains resilient despite the complexities brought on by 2020. For stakeholders, the resiliency stems from the sector’s ability to withstand difficulties even prior to COVID-19. Providing an example, Majd Fayyad, Technical Manager, Emirates Green Building Council, says that in 2018, the growing oversupply of high-end residential and commercial properties saw investment yields start to fall, way before the pandemic triggered further reductions in construction contract awards in 2020. Fayyad says that though there has been a decline in the value of new contracts in the GCC region – for instance, it went down by 40% to just over USD 4 billion in April 2020 – the outlook for 2021, according to Deloitte, is more optimistic, with the UAE’s GDP set to grow 2.5%.
For Phillipa Grant, Partner and Director of Sustainability, AESG, the construction pipeline is not as dry as people may think. “I think there has been a shift, and Dubai has become a bit more of a regional design hub for the Middle East,” she says. “There is a lot of work being done in Dubai, which covers the wider GCC region, as well as in Africa; so, for the whole MENA region, a lot of new construction is still going on, which is managing to keep the architects and engineers within Dubai busy.”
A more pressing issue affecting project pipelines is the shift in the overall energy intensity in buildings following the onset of COVID-19,with Fayyad pointing out that social distancing measures and teleworking reduced people’s use of commercial buildings, while increasing energy consumption at home. He adds that in the first half of 2020, electricity use in residential buildings in some countries grew by 20-30% while falling by around 10% per cent in commercial building*. “Further, the 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction states that CO2 emissions from the operation of buildings have increased to their highest level in 2019,” he says.
Overall, Fayyad says there is ample opportunity in 2021 to look at the way buildings are utilised. He points out that these factors are increasing focus on implementing green building best practices in upcoming developments and driving momentum for retrofitting practices, which has already been a strong focus in recent years in the move to achieve greater energy efficiency and reduced emissions and costs. Azmi S Aboulhoda, Director, EMergy Consultancy, shares a similar opinion. “In the UAE, attention towards energy retrofitting has been increasing for several years now,” he says. “It is moving in parallel with the new construction. Recently, few steps have been taken in Saudi Arabia to govern the business and establish guidelines and regulations. With the increase in number of people working remotely, a new concern has been raised that will push the retrofit business in the region towards homes.” Aboulhoda points out that retrofitting holds strong opportunity to enhance the value of buildings and that it will need to be considered not just from an energy perspective but also in the way we use spaces.
Ronak Monga, Segment Development Manager – Commercial Building Services, Grundfos, says that the same trend can be seen in Oman and Kuwait, as well. “Many of the buildings you see in these countries have now existed for more than ten years,” he says. “These old buildings present a high energy savings potential. Business sectors that operate their buildings, such as hospitals, schools and hotels, have the highest energy savings opportunity in their existing infrastructure. Not only will retrofit ensure smooth operation and maintenance, but it will also significantly reduce operational expenditure, which then improves their bottom line.” He adds that with the pandemic situation, businesses are focusing on keeping operational expense to a minimum to survive the global economic impact brought by COVID-19.
ENERGY FOR THE PURPOSES OF ROI
To date, a lot of the retrofitting initiatives are directed towards addressing the changes in energy consumption profiles. Fayyad points out that with mass teleworking and eLearning shifting activities to the residential subsector and several major companies allowing their workforce the freedom to work from home, existing commercial and office spaces, undoubtedly, need to be adapted, retrofitted and/or repurposed to cater to occupancy profile, be it partial or full. Aboulhoda says that this is the main concern driving building and business owners towards retrofitting, as they will be paying almost the same amount of utility bills, despite the reduced occupancy.
Grant adds that these trends have a long-term effect on discussions surrounding office spaces and that this will lead to different streams of thoughts from architects and designers. “A lot of building owners are looking more at flexibility and the use of space in different and more innovative ways,” she says. “This is better than having a vacant space, which is a waste of energy, as you will still need to keep it running; and also, there is the cost impact. So, there will be focus on flexibility, looking at how spaces can be used and how we can make the most of existing stock we have with the changing environment.”
Monga adds that this drastic change in occupancy has brought into focus how buildings perform in part-load conditions – and usually, the efficiency during part load is a focus during design – but has not brought much into focus when buildings are in operation. “This drastic change in occupancy in buildings has brought into attention both during new projects and retrofits how various systems operate in part load,” he says. Fayyad says that a lot of the older building stock is not equipped to handle these challenges, as the existing control systems are outdated or, in some cases, not even present. “Building retrofits in these scenarios can allow owners and facility management to respond adequately using demand-controlled control strategies,” he says. “It not only allows them to save energy and water but also gives them the tools necessary to respond to different occupancy levels. They are also able to record the time-of-use and the energy profile throughout the operations to gather data and optimise their controls and operations.”
Fayyad says that in the UAE, there is an enormous potential in the buildings and construction sector to increase resource and material efficiencies, drive carbon emissions reductions and stimulate economic growth. “Based on the EmiratesGBC’s Building Efficiency Accelerator Project Report, the best hotel and hotel apartment performers consume 58% less energy and 65% less water per unit area than the worst performers in the category,” he says. “The best performers among schools consume 61% less energy and 84% less water per unit area compared to the worst. Among malls, the lowest consumer uses 35% less energy and 58% less water per area compared to the highest consumer.” Fayyad points out that this shows the strong potential for savings and operational efficiencies that can be achieved through remedial actions, such as audits, retrofits, energy management and the use of awareness campaigns or trainings to drive changes in behaviour.
Grant says that there has been a lot of push from a sustainability perspective. “That’s only going to increase, because there is going to be more and more pressure to reduce energy consumption, improve efficiency, reduce carbon, and hit international, regional and local targets,” she says. “So, the pressure is going to mount from a sustainability perspective, which is great, because I think it needs to happen. There needs to be that pressure, and we’re still not on track to hit targets, and there is a lot more that needs to be done across all areas.” An area that Grant says has also been gaining better awareness in retrofits is fire and life safety, especially in existing high-rises, which typically face risk from poor cladding.
FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WELLNESS
In addition to energy-related and fire-and-safety-related building performance, retrofits have placed greater emphasis on occupant health. Aboulhoda says that nowadays, the energy-retrofitting projects are being combined with indoor environmental quality (IEQ) measures through projects that can be categorised as retro-commissioning, where energy is not the only or main concern. “This will attract investors looking forward to overcome the financial crisis of the current and any future pandemics,” he says. This move, Fayyad says, is especially evident in the retail and hospitality sectors. “Consumer confidence and spending were influenced, as employers took steps to manage the impact of COVID-19 by reducing salaries and cutting jobs,” he says. “In light of the ease of restrictions, lockdowns and the availability of vaccines, the tourism and retail sectors are slowly picking up.
These sectors are looking to increase customer confidence and, as a result, are following not only social distancing protocols but also the overall efficient operations of their facilities.” Fayyad points to ASHRAE and REHVA, which have released guidance for safe HVAC operations for the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 indoors, and these practices stem from proper IAQ and IEQ practices. “Increased outdoor-to-indoor ventilation and filtration, however, does increase energy consumption, and the only way to mitigate this is through efficient operations and/or retrofits,” he says. “This is not only limited to retail or hospitality but other sectors, as well, such as schools and commercial buildings. In critical times such as this, owners are increasingly aware that their buildings’ operations should not only have minimal costs but also be safe.”
Fayyad adds that the guidance developed by ASHRAE and REHVA rely on the core principles of sustainable and green buildings. “Research has shown that health and wellbeing features have a positive effect on employee retention and mental health as well reduced operational costs. This is a win-win situation for building owners and tenants, as owners do not have to spend as much capital on maintenance and operations,” he says. “Tenants, in turn, enjoy the benefits of a healthier indoor environment and do not have to pay as much on their utilities. Several businesses, especially in hospitality and retail, are now obliged to ensure health and safety in buildings as a top priority. Their business revenue is now more than ever related to how seriously they take actions to ensure the safety of their guests, visitors and occupants.”
AboulHoda echoes this, saying that IEQ has become crucial for a successful retrofit. “COVID-19 has increased the awareness among building and business owners,” he says. “Further, COVID-19 has added another dimension of retrofit measures, such as economisers, which will more efficiently introduce outside air in buildings, and personalised systems, which will avoid running full systems when partial occupancies take place. The measures taken by building and business owners are more focused into concentrated hygiene practices that can be observed by occupants and visitors and can result in some kind of assurance. However, system-wise measures are yet to evolve, since they encounter high capital investments.”
For Grant, there was already a definite shift in mindset toward health and wellness being considered as part of sustainability even before the pandemic. “Buildings are expanding to have that social health and welfare aspect from a design perspective, which is really great to see,” she says. “This was already happening, pre-COVID, and of course, COVID shone a light on health on a global scale to make sure people have healthy and safe spaces to live and work. I would expect additional drivers to that growing area and field. It will shift the way residential design is considered.”
Monga is in agreement, adding that pre-COVID, there was a lot of talk about improvement of employee productivity in relation to IAQ and IEQ “But the safety and health aspect of it has increased even more during the pandemic,” he says. “COVID-19 has also increased the focus on water disinfection – controlling the growth of any micro-organisms, like Legionella, in the water that we use on a day-to-day basis is equally important to stop the spread of communicable diseases.” Grant believes while there has been positive movement, more needs to be done. “I would still say, we are not seeing as much activity in retrofit as we would like to,” she says. “It would be great from a sustainability perspective to see that part of the market incentivised more to promote improvements in the existing buildings stock. I know there are regulations and government incentives coming into play. I should say that would hopefully stimulate more retrofit activities. We are hoping to still see more happen.”
Fayyad agrees. “While the efforts taken by the UAE government in this direction are commendable, we must continue to push the building and construction sector towards greater efficiencies and to lower the carbon emissions,” he says. “We only have a few years to meet the Paris Agreement targets, and now is the right time to start looking at deep retrofits as a key step in this journey.” Fayyad recommends achieving deep buildings retrofits, targeting 50% energy reduction by decreasing energy demand and implementing energy efficiency measures before adding on-site renewables. “In fact, 50% energy reduction is a realistic target for poor performing buildings, as our Deep Retrofit Study identified,” he says. Elaborating more on this study, Fayyad says that all respondents showed a positive position, with a majority agreeing that deep retrofits are achievable in the UAE with an acceptable payback period using the current technologies available in the market. “While most in the private sector agree that retrofits should be mandated, the developers prefer that building rating schemes should be made compulsory, instead, or retrofits made voluntary with more financial incentives developed,” he says. “Developers also agreed that an annual reduction target of 11-20% (in kWh) is adequate, should retrofits be mandated.”
Monga says that possibly having an incentive-based model, where higher commercial value is given to energy-efficient buildings, would be a “dream come true”. “Denmark has a similar concept – where a home or a building that is rated higher in energy efficiency can demand higher rent and selling price,” he says. “Therefore, incentivising the building developers also incentivises the potential tenants or buyers, as it helps them save on energy and heating costs in the long run.” In the region, Fayyad adds that the top three challenges to deep retrofits identified by the respondents were lack of landlord interest, lack of financial incentives and low tariff rates. “The results also showed there is greater need of market awareness of both retrofit projects and the expertise of the retrofit market,” he says. “EmiratesGBC recommends that ESCOs should report their project savings transparently and consistently to build confidence and repertoire within the industry to encourage the public to pursue more retrofits.” Fayyad adds that with the support of regulations and incentives, a decarbonisation roadmap can be realised.
Condair releases whitepaper on healthy buildings
PFÄFFIKON/FREIENBACH, Switzerland, 14 February 2021: Humidity specialist, Condair, which specialises in humidity management solutions in the built-environment, has released a whitepaper, titled Making Buildings Healthier.
Making the announcement through a Press release, Condair said the paper contains information on how building managers can protect occupant health with a holistic approach to controlling their indoor environments.
According to Condair, the pandemic instigated by SARS-CoV-2 has focused public attention on the risks posed by viral transmission in buildings. Contributory factors that have been known about for some time, have now been placed centre stage, emphasising the influence that elements such as fresh air, temperature, minimum relative humidity and even sunlight all have on the spread of viruses.
The aim of the whitepaper is to provide an overview of these factors and promote dialogue amongst facility managers, users, and health and safety officers, enabling the right package of health protection measures to be considered, Condair said. The whitepaper also includes a checklist so that readers can take stock of their building’s current situation, discover the extent to which their premises protects against the spread of infections and identify where improvements could be made, the company added.
Oliver Zimmermann, CEO, Condair Group, said: “The Condair Group is the world’s leading specialist on humidity control, and for years, we’ve collaborated with scientists and healthcare experts to understand and promote the importance of optimal humidity for health. Through this research, we appreciate that humidity control is just one, but a decisive, weapon that can be used in the fight against respiratory infections.
“Upgrading our built-environment to better protect human health from the current COVID-19 and future potential pandemics, whilst not sacrificing the important gains we have made in energy efficiency, is the single largest challenge the HVAC industry will face in our lifetime. To achieve this objective, we must act as a sector to educate, cooperate and implement practical solutions as rapidly as possible. This whitepaper presents a clear and concise overview of the steps building operators can and should be taking to enhance occupant health, using a holistic approach, rather than a one-size-fits-all, to indoor environmental management.”
According to Condair, the whitepaper can be downloaded from www.condair.ae/making-buildings-healthier-whitepaper.
ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force releases updated Building Readiness Guide
ATLANTA, Georgia, 02 February 2021: With the performance of many HVAC systems in buildings still being evaluated, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has updated its reopening guidance for HVAC systems to help mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, ASHRAE said through a Press release.
“The Building Readiness Guide includes additional information and clarifications to assist designers and commissioning providers in performing pre- or post-occupancy flush calculations to reduce the time and energy to clear spaces of contaminants between occupancy periods,” said Wade Conlan, Lead, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Building Readiness team. “New information includes the theory behind the use of equivalent outdoor air supply, method for calculating the performance of filters and air cleaners in series, and filter droplet nuclei efficiency that help evaluate the systems’ ability to flush the building.”
According to ASHRAE, major updates to the building readiness guidance include the following:
- Pre- or post-flushing strategy methodology: The strategy has been updated to include the use of filter droplet nuclei efficiency, which is the overall efficiency of filter, based on viable virus particle sizes in the air, to assist in determining the impact of the filter on the recirculated air on the equivalent outdoor air. This allows the filter efficiency as a function of particle size, using ASHRAE Standard 52.2 test results, to be estimated based on the expected size distribution of virus-containing particles in the air. This calculation is currently based on Influenza A data and will be updated as peer-reviewed research becomes available for the distribution of particle sizes that contain a viable SARS-CoV-2 virus. Additionally, a chart has been added to help determine the time to achieve 90%, 95% or 99% contaminant reduction, if the equivalent outdoor air changes per hour is known.
- Flushing time calculator: There is now a link to a view-only Google Sheet that can be downloaded for use, to help determine the available equivalent outdoor air changes and time to perform the flush. This sheet is based on a typical mixed AHU with filters, cooling coil, with potential for in-AHU air cleaner (UVC is noted in the example), and in-room air cleaning devices. Provided efficiencies of MERV-rated filters are based on the performance of over 200 actual filters from MERV 4 through 16, but the tool also allows users to enter custom characteristics for specific filters.
- The sheet also calculates the filter droplet nuclei efficiency, based on the cited research but allows a user to adjust the anticipated distribution of virus, as desired. It also allows specification of the zone (room) air distribution effectiveness from ASHRAE Standard 62.1 to account for the impact of the HVAC system air delivery method on the degree of mixing. Default calculations assume perfect mixing. Finally, the tool allows for the target air changes to be adjusted if an owner wants to achieve a different per cent removal in lieu of the recommended 95%.
- Heating season guidance: The guide now includes data to consider for heating of outdoor air and the potential impact on pre-heat coils in systems.
- Adjustments to align with Core Recommendations: The Core Recommendations were released in January 2021, and this guidance document needed to be updated to ensure that the information provided aligned with the intent of those recommendations. This included minimum outdoor air supply and filter efficiency requirements and their role in an equivalent outdoor air supply-based risk mitigation strategy.
According to ASHRAE, the guidance still addresses the tactical commissioning and systems analysis needed to develop a Building Readiness Plan, increased filtration, air cleaning strategies, domestic and plumbing water systems, and overall improvements to a system’s ability to mitigate virus transmission.
Building for the “new normal”
As the world continues to grapple with an ever-shifting economic landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the building sector across the GCC region have observed how the pandemic has triggered an evaluation and reassessment of priorities. Ashok Jha, Head FM and Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas, points out that the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted many organisations to take actions they have been putting off for some time, including launching new digital services and evolving their business models, enabling greater flexibility in their working and implementing cost optimisation measures.
However, Jha says, perhaps the most notable trend would be the move towards a greater number of retrofit projects in the region. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil prices plummeted to one of the lowest levels and government revenues went down in the GCC region,” he says. “This has led to reduced spending across all sectors, including new construction, with the current market seeing greater push towards shallow retrofitting, deep retrofitting, energy conservation and reducing the building carbon footprint in the existing buildings to make them more sustainable.” Jha says that since the number of existing buildings in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is very high compared to new buildings, there was also a need to address the physical deterioration of the buildings, due to functional and economic obsolescence, and to make them more sustainable. “Because of this, there is a surge in demand for the retrofitting of the existing buildings across the GCC region,” he says (see sidebar).
Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Reem, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, also believes the region is poised to see a strong pipeline of retrofit projects. “More focus is being put in refurbishing existing buildings, to bring them up-to-speed with the latest best practices in sustainability,” he says. “We see an increase in interest from building owners in retrofit activities, and we expect this interest to further increase throughout 2021 and in the coming years.”
Energy efficiency and sustainability
Another major driver for retrofits is the move towards energy efficient and sustainable practices, which has long been heralded by experts in the sector. Jha points out that because of the detrimental impact of buildings on the environment, with occupied buildings and the construction sector accounting for 36% of the global energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions according to International Energy Agency (IEA), the UAE has begun to actively transition into smart and sustainable cities, which has turned the focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings, specifically existing ones.
In addition to its impact on overall sustainability efforts, much of the move can be attributed to growing awareness on return of investment in terms of reduced operational cost. As Jha points out, retrofitting primarily refers to the measures being taken to replace legacy energy and utility systems with new and energy-efficient technologies. “These technologies not only reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions but also lower maintenance costs, improve safety, enhance productivity, boost property valuations and also prolong the useful life of the assets and the building as a whole,” he says. “In a nutshell, we can say that OPEX of the building reduces and the asset value increases. Hence, it is becoming important day by day to retrofit buildings to not only make them more sustainable for the future but also to derive economical value by reducing the operational cost and, in turn, optimise the rentals and make them more lucrative for the tenants.”
Weighing in, Di Gregorio says that sustainable buildings often result in lower life cycle cost of the building itself. “If sustainability features are carefully selected, operational savings – in terms of energy and water usage and equipment maintenance – typically exceed any incremental investments that those features require,” he says. “For this reason, in a perfect market, where developers are able to fairly monetise their investments in higher quality buildings, we would expect for tenants any rent premiums for more sustainable buildings to be exceeded by the value of operational savings.”
Jha adds that as energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and this is leading to a huge surge in demand for equipment, such as Smart LED lights and motion sensors, air curtains and FAHUs, energy-efficient AHUs, FCUs or split units and VAV systems. This has also led to greater demand for water usage reduction through the use of low-flow fixtures, sensors, waterless urinals and low-flush WCs, and also for photovoltaic panels on rooftops to generate electricity from the solar power, among other solutions.
A renewed focus on IAQ
While the return on investment (ROI) from retrofitting for energy efficiency is becoming clear, stakeholders are hopeful that the new wave of retrofits would also accommodate enhancements of indoor air quality (IAQ), which has been typically overlooked over the past years. Di Gregorio says that he believes this would be the case. “There is increasing interest in IAQ, partly driven by COVID-19 concerns,” he says. “Some awareness and technical barriers are there; nonetheless we foresee development in this area in the future.”
Jha shares a similar opinion. He says: “Fear of pandemic is looming large in the minds of the people, and therefore, while carrying out the retrofitting of their buildings, owners are ensuring that retrofit projects also take into consideration IAQ of the buildings, where people are currently spending more than 90% of their time and also to reduce the chances of contamination through virus, bacteria, moulds and fungi.”
Di Gregorio says there is a lot of focus on safety and security from building owners, particularly in what concerns disinfection of common areas. “This sometimes adds to other measures, like filtration, turning into improved air quality,” he says. Jha adds that some of the measures that building owners are taking include Demand Control Ventilation through C02 sensors, fitting volume control dampers, ultraviolet lamps in AHUs, ultraviolet germicide irradiation and MERV 13/14 filters. He further adds that there has been an increase in the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain humidity in the range of 40-60%, where the microbial and fungal growth is minimal.
Jha also says that the majority of the offices are allowing their staff to work from home and that people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors. “This further necessitates that apt measures are taken by the occupants to ensure proper lux levels, ergonomics and IAQ, as these will have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, impact their productivity,” he says. “Hence, there cannot be a better time than now to address the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) issues, if any.” Jha says these are the factors driving a lot of investment being done by the property owners in the built-environment to retrofit their buildings to ensure proper IAQ against the traditional retrofit, where emphasis was mainly towards energy efficiency.
Making a case for retrofits
Keeping in mind the tangible and intangible benefits of retrofitting, Di Gregorio believes there is more than enough evidence to drive building owners to invest in such initiatives. “If building owners are not thinking about retrofits, they definitely should!” he says. “Retrofit projects tend to have very favourable returns. We are observing that for comprehensive retrofits of commercial buildings in Ras Al Khaimah, the payback time is 3-5 years. And the contracting standards that are being adopted often provide forms of guarantees for the investor on those returns.”
Jha, agreeing, says that in spite of the change in the occupancy profile of buildings, property owners must continue to retrofit within the built-environment. “Retrofitting of existing buildings offers tremendous opportunities for improving asset performance in terms of utilities,” he says. “Retrofitting also offers a potential upside in the overall performance of the building through improved energy efficiency, increased staff productivity, reduced maintenance costs, and better thermal comfort.” Jha believes that such key drivers should serve as a motivation and incentive for building owners, who are on the fence about investing in retrofit projects.
Retrofitting in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE
COVID-19 has had a significant adverse impact on organisations, people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy at large in the GCC region countries, says Ashok Jha, Head, FM & Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas LLC. However, Jha is quick to point out that while the duration and severity of COVID-19’s impact on economies and sectors will undoubtedly vary, companies and governments in the GCC region have done well to set in motion a “look ahead, anticipate, innovate and adjust” roadmap, which has led the construction sector to focus on energy optimisation and retrofitting in existing buildings, which is a key to sustainable construction.
Citing figures from Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, Jha says that Oman’s construction industry contracted sharply in 2020, plummeting by nearly around -10.3%. “The industry is struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, low oil prices, and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. Further compounding the downside risks to the outlook for the industry, the Omani Government has had to rationalise spending.”
Jha adds that given the limited prospects for the government to boost investment in infrastructure and other investment projects, a recovery in the construction sector is expected to be very slow. “Global Data currently expects the construction industry to fall further in 2021, with output contracting by -5.8%,” he says. “The fiscal plan by the Oman Government is intended to reduce public debt, increase the state’s reserves, and diversify revenue away from the oil sector.”
Owing to these factors, Jha believes that new construction spend will be very minimal, and more impetus will be on the retrofitting, deep retrofitting, fit-outs and energy performance optimisation in the built-environment in Oman.
Kuwait has faced similar challenges, Jha says, adding that the construction market shrunk in the year 2020 at about -9.5% approximately, as per Global Data. “The construction industry is struggling with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. “Because of this, focus is more towards existing buildings in Kuwait.”
Jha adds that within the built-environment in Kuwait, residential buildings constitute around 81%, commercial buildings are 11%, whereas government buildings constitute four per cent; the remaining four per cent includes commercial, industrial, agricultural and services. “Also, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption and carbon footprint globally, which further necessitates the retrofitting of the buildings to make them more sustainable,” he says. “All the above factors, along with the economic strain, is forcing Kuwait to focus on energy conservation, deep retrofitting, retrofitting and fit-outs in the built-environment with a very minimal spending on new construction.”
Sharing observations on the UAE market, in particular, Jha says that the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with low oil prices, has led the construction output in the UAE to contract by nearly 4.8% in 2020, but that a rebound is expected in 2021, as per Global Data. “New project opportunities are expected to be minimal in the coming quarters, as the government is consolidating its widening fiscal debt and COVID-19-related force majeure,” he said. “Over the medium- to longer-term, government investment will remain focused on upgrading physical infrastructure and reforming the financing and regulatory environment.”
Jha adds that the UAE has set high targets for building retrofit, which are reflected in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy. “The latter targets an overall 30% reduction in energy and water use by 2030,” he says. “To support this, Etihad ESCO aims to retrofit 30,000 buildings in the next 10 years and generate 1.68TWh energy savings and around 5.64 BIG of water savings by year 2030.”
ASHRAE releases core recommendations for reducing airborne infectious aerosol exposure
ATLANTA, Georgia, 14 January 2021: The ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has released new guidance to address control of airborne infectious aerosol exposure and recommendations for communities of faith buildings, ASHRAE said through a Press release.
An infectious aerosol is a suspension in air of fine particles or droplets containing pathogens, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which can cause infections when inhaled, ASHRAE said. They can be produced by breathing, talking, sneezing and other as well as by flushing toilets and by certain medical and dental procedures, it added.
ASHRAE’s Core Recommendations for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure concisely summarize the main points found in the detailed guidance documents produced by the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, it said. They are based on the concept that ventilation, filtration and air cleaners can be combined flexibly to achieve exposure reduction goals, subject to constraints that may include comfort, energy use and costs, it added.
“This guidance outlines a clear approach for lessening the risk of infectious aerosol exposure for building occupants that can be applied in a wide range of applications, from homes to offices, to mobile environments, such as vehicles and ships,” said William Bahnfleth, Chair, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force. “ASHRAE’s Core Recommendations are based on an equivalent clean air supply approach that allows the effects of filters, air cleaners, and other removal mechanisms to be added together to achieve an exposure reduction target.”
According to ASHRAE, specific recommendations include the following:
- Public health guidance
- Follow all regulatory and statutory requirements and recommendations.
- Ventilation, filtration, air cleaning
- Outdoor airflow rates guidance for ventilation, as specified by applicable codes and standards.
- Recommendations on filters and air cleaners that achieve MERV 13 or better levels of performance.
- The use of air cleaners.
- Control options that provide desired exposure reduction while minimizing associated energy penalties.
- Air distribution.
- Promote the mixing of space air.
- HVAC system operation
- Maintain temperature and humidity design set points.
- Maintain equivalent clean air supply required for design occupancy.
- Operate systems for a time required to achieve three air changes of equivalent clean air supply.
- Limit re-entry of contaminated air.
- System commissioning
- Verify that HVAC systems are functioning as designed.
According to ASHRAE, the task force’s Communities of Faith Buildings guidance offers recommendations on conducting worship services under epidemic conditions.
Rick Karg, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force member, said: “The intent of the Communities of Faith guidance is to offer those who operate and care for buildings used for worship a plan for implementing short- and long-term HVAC strategies to reduce the possibilities of transmission of the SARS-CoV2-2 virus. The document also helps communities move toward a new ‘normal’ operation after this public health emergency nears an end.”
According to ASHRAE, recommendations for Communities of Faith include the following:
- Identify HVAC system characteristics. Compile and review operation and maintenance manuals and schedules.
- Verify HVAC systems are well maintained and operating as intended. For maintenance, follow the requirements of ASHRAE Standard 180 – 2018, Standard Practice for the Inspection and Maintenance of Commercial HVAC Systems.
- Consider PPE when maintaining HVAC systems, including filters, coils and drain pans.
- Operate HVAC systems, if present, with system fan set to run continuously when building is occupied for services or cleaning.
- Operate the system for a time required to achieve three equivalent air changes of outdoor air (effect of outdoor air, filtration and air cleaners) before the first daily occupancy and between occupied periods, if appropriate. Three equivalent air changes can be calculated using ASHRAE’s Building Readiness Guide.
To view the complete ASHRAE Core Recommendations For Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure and Communities of Faith Building guidance, ASHRAE suggested visiting ashrae.org/COVID-19.
Al Salem Johnson Controls offers support to cold stores in Saudi Arabia for holding COVID-19 vaccines
JEDDAH, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 03 January 2021: Al Salem Johnson Controls said it is offering its expertise to support the health sector and pharmaceutical companies in equipping industrial cold stores with the latest technologies, through systems that ensure temperatures set by each COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer.
The company made the announcement against the backdrop of countries the world over, including Saudi Arabia, rolling out vaccination drives, and health and logistics sectors and pharmaceutical companies the world over preparing their cold storage solutions across the chain to ensure safe and efficient transportation and storage of the COVID-19 vaccines at very low temperatures, ranging between -20 and -70 degrees Celsius.
Al Salem Johnson Controls quoted one of the vaccine manufacturers, Moderna as stressing that its vaccine must be kept at a freezing temperature of -20 degrees Celsius for long-term storage (up to six months); the vaccine can be stored for 30 days at a temperature ranging between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. The company quoted Pfizer as saying that its BioNTech vaccine requires to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the preservation and storage temperature of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, ranges between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, the company said.
It said that it has a track record of providing integrated solutions in HVACR, fire, safety & security systems and building management systems in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen, and that it has extensive experience in the field of industrial refrigeration and the implementation of cold store projects, as well as in customising and engineering refrigeration solutions to suit the requirements of each project, depending on the nature and needs of the materials being stored.
The company said it has vast experience in the customisation, design and development of industrial refrigeration projects, and has implemented a number of large projects in several cities across the Kingdom, in various sectors, including logistics centres, refrigeration warehouses, meat and poultry factories, storage facilities for fruits & vegetables, processed food factories, water and beverages factories, and medicine and dairy plants.
It said that among the key industrial refrigeration projects and cold stores it has implemented are Shahini Holding Group in Riyadh, Transmed Distribution Company, Naqel Express, Al Rabie Saudi Foods Company, and three dairy and ice cream factories of the Saudi Dairy and Food Company (SADAFCO).
Industrial refrigeration, the company noted, is not a standard system that can be used for all projects; it requires a thorough study of the project’s facilities, utilisations and nature of work. In manufacturing facilities. It is crucial to determine if the system will be used to cool the facility, the production lines or both, the company said. Therefore, as a first step, its industrial refrigeration engineers visit and study the site from all aspects, then design and develop a system according to its cooling requirements, it added.
Al Salem Johnson Controls stated that its 29 years partnership as a JV with Johnson Controls International enables it to provide its customers with the latest technologies and to transfer the global expertise available to the Kingdom. Recently, Johnson Controls International was part of a team designing, developing and implementing a cold store at the Danish Odense University Hospital, by merging two industrial refrigeration systems that use ammonia and methane, to reach the required cooling of the cold store, spreading across an area of 352 square metres, Al Salem Johnson Controls said. The system, it said, can reach a temperature of -80 degrees Celsius, which is close to the temperature needed to preserve and store COVID-19 vaccines. The system, it added, uses SABROE Chillers, which offers industrial refrigeration solutions, under the umbrella of Johnson Controls International.
UPS delivers Pfizer vaccine in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, 21 December 2020: UPS said it has successfully delivered the first batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia, to support vaccinations of first citizens and expatriates. Making the announcement through a Press release, UPS said Saudi Arabia is the first Arab country to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, marking a breakthrough milestone in the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachid Fergati, UPS Managing Director for Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, said: “UPS has proudly delivered the first batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Saudi Arabia, to support vaccinations of first citizens and expatriates in the country.
“Saudi Arabia is the first country in the Middle East that we are serving, and we are in position to continue delivering what matters to help stamp out the pandemic in the region.
“We have spent months developing new products, agile approaches and new capabilities to ensure we are fully prepared to deliver the vaccine at the right time, at the right temperature to communities all over the world, especially here in the region.
We are honored to work with UPS Healthcare partners in other countries to help deliver what matters in these times.”