Camfil introduces Chief Airgonomics Officer Initiative
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 07 September 2022: Camfil introduced the Chief Airgonomics Officer initiative (CAO), which calls on organisations across the globe to take 100% accountability over the indoor air people breathe. Making the announcement through a Press release, Camfil said the brand-new initiative prompts organisations to act by appointing Chief Airgonomics Officers (CAOs), who will be The Voice of Clean Air at their workspace. Inspired by the study of ergonomics, the newly coined term, Airgonomics refers to the burgeoning discipline that seeks to maximise the benefits of healthy air for the protection of people, processes and the planet, Camfil said.
In light of the recent adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution declaring “access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal human right” on July 28, 2022, the CAO initiative seeks to put into practice those actions that need to be taken to ensure that workplaces everywhere ensure access to clean, healthy and sustainable environments through the improvement of indoor air quality (IAQ).
On July 28, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring “access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment a universal human right”. In parallel, the 2021 publication of updated World Health Organization (WHO) Global Air Quality Guidelines concluded that “…the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks, such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognised as the single biggest environmental threat to human health”. The CAO initiative shares the vision of realising universal access to clean, healthy and sustainable environments and is taking its first steps to bring this to life by first tackling IAQ at workplaces, Camfil said. The initiative has a long-term vision of forging a global movement to ensure access to clean indoor air everywhere, Camfil added.
Nearly every facet of operating a company has a person in charge – from the HR director, who drives the talent strategy to the CEO, who provides the overall direction of business operations, Camfil said. Yet, despite the direct impact of air on people’s health, well-being and productivity, IAQ continues to be treated as an afterthought, Camfil said.
According to Camfil, a 2022 survey it carried out confirms this showing that six in 10 either do not know who is in charge of IAQ at their workplace, or their organisation does not have anyone accountable over this invisible issue. Camfil said it is leading the way, having appointed the world’s first global CAO to ensure all Camfil locations worldwide have clean indoor air.
Mark Simmons, CEO, Camfil, said: “With Chief Airgonomics Officers, we will create healthier and happier workplaces by ensuring accountability is taken by qualified individuals with the authority to make real change happen. That’s why I am thrilled that Camfil has its own CAO to ensure that clean indoor air gets the attention it deserves everywhere we operate and also to demonstrate leadership when it comes to creating healthy work environments.
“I strongly encourage every organisation to pay attention to the indoor air quality in their premises. By participating in the CAO initiative, your organisation can ensure that the quality of your indoor air is never overlooked again – for the health and wellbeing of your people.”
Carrier celebrates 100th anniversary of Founder’s invention of centrifugal chiller
DUBAI, UAE, 30 June 2022: On the evening of May 22, 1922, Willis Haviland Carrier invited 300 people to a sheet metal shop in Newark, New Jersey, for a free meal and a boxing match, followed by the unveiling of the first centrifugal chiller technology, Carrier said through a June 30 Press release, adding that it celebrated the 100th anniversary of the invention of the centrifugal chilling machine that in many ways made the modern world possible. Carrier is a part of Carrier Global Corporation.
“[Willis] Carrier’s breakthrough invention opened the door to large-scale comfort air conditioning while improving the effectiveness of process cooling,” said Gaurang Pandya, President, Commercial HVAC, Carrier. “Each day we build on that legacy, innovating with purpose to create what’s next, get ahead of changing requirements, unleash the power of digital technology, run smarter with IoT and help customers deploy commercial HVAC solutions aligned tightly with their business objectives.”
Willis Carrier’s conception to combine a centrifugal refrigeration compressor with a shell, a new type of condenser and a chiller on one frame enhanced process cooling in factories around the world, Carrier said. Following the first installation of three centrifugal chillers at a Philadelphia chocolate factory in 1923, Willis Carrier’s innovation soon provided process cooling to rayon manufacturers in India and cracker factories in Mexico, the company said.
In 1924, Willis Carrier realized his dream of comfort cooling when the owners of a Detroit department store added centrifugal chillers, the company said. The centrifugal technology reliably and affordably delivered comfort air to the public in theaters, stores, restaurants, sports venues, ships, hospitals and office buildings, the company claimed.
A decade later, centrifugal refrigeration had driven process air into more than 200 industries, the company said. Food and beverage production became safer, hospitals were more comfortable and sanitary and new lifesaving drugs, such as penicillin, became possible, the company added.
By providing precise temperature and humidity, centrifugal chiller technology has supported the infrastructure of the modern digital age, including electronics of every type, semi-conductor chips, data centers and robotics, the company said. These new inventions and new technologies couldn’t have existed without it, it added.
Sathya Moorthi, Managing Director, Carrier Middle East, said: “Carrier has evolved over the years from being a manufacturer of cutting-edge equipment to providing solutions that harness the power of variable frequency drives and IoT, ensuring that business-critical activities run at peak effectiveness, and provide operational efficiencies and insights. This demonstrates our commitment to continuously improving energy efficiency while enhancing the comfort levels of the occupants in the harsh Middle East climate conditions.”
Carrier said that while the fundamental physics of centrifugal technology have not changed in a century, its engineers have never stopped driving new advancements in centrifugal chiller technology. Today, the Carrier AquaEdge 19DV water-cooled chiller provides world-class energy efficiency with its unique free cooling and heat recovery options that boost the total energy savings of the system while using ultra-low global warming potential refrigerant, the company added. The AquaEdge 19MV water-cooled chiller offers a wide operating range in a greatly reduced machine size to replace older chillers, the company said, adding that both machines feature its unique EquiDrive two-stage back-to-back compressor technology to dramatically reduce energy consumption.
Johnson Controls launches OpenBlue Pioneers Award
CORK, Ireland, 30 June 2022: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced the first winners of a new buildings’ innovation award, called OpenBlue Pioneers. Making the announcement through a Press release, JCI said each OpenBlue Pioneer has proven instrumental in driving the future of smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, and innovating with Johnson Controls’ AI-enabled OpenBlue technology to transform their spaces, businesses and communities. In recognition, the winners have each been awarded a Blueprint of the Future Industry Award, which recognises outstanding examples of visionary thinking and digital transformation, JCI said.
According to JCI, each OpenBlue Pioneer has proven instrumental in driving the future of smart, healthy and sustainable buildings.
The first recipients of the OpenBlue Pioneers award, JCI said, are:
BEEAH Headquarters, pioneering the path for offices of the future towards one of the world’s smartest workplaces
The BEEAH Headquarters, based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, is a remarkable example of what can be achieved with visionary thinking. Featuring intelligent edge systems and software designed to optimise energy efficiency, the building is the first fully AI-integrated building in the Middle East. It is equipped to be net zero and operates to LEED platinum standards. Employees and visitors experience seamless interaction with the building at all times through OpenBlue Companion. Features include advanced facial recognition for seamless movement between spaces, frictionless access to promote the health and safety of employees, comfort control and intelligent concierge services to support day-to-day tasks. The building and its technologies manifest sustainability and digitalisation, BEEAH Group’s twin pillared strategy to pioneer a sustainable quality of life for all.
Chase Center, which enhances fans’ health, comfort and safety through one intelligent platform
The Chase Center, based in San Francisco, California, in the United States, is a state-of-the-art, future-focused LEED Gold-certified sports and entertainment centre. Partnering with Johnson Controls, the Chase Center optimises the digital capabilities of its equipment, systems and connected technologies through Metasys building automation system, communicating data in real time and powering smart building decisions as well as reducing energy and the arena’s carbon footprint. The connected suite of solutions included in the OpenBlue Healthy Buildings offerings enhance fan health, comfort and safety.
The village of Patchogue, which is setting the gold standard for community revitalisation
The visionary village of Patchogue, located on Long Island, New York, in the United States, is preserving a green tomorrow for future generations with smart environmental solutions. Showcasing a future-focused mindset and a passion to preserve natural resources, improve quality of life, and protect the ecosystem, the village of Patchogue will save USD 8.2 million in the next 25 years through Johnson Controls’ energy-efficient upgrades to HVAC, lighting and temperature control systems.
The Powerhouse Alliance: The world’s northernmost net energy-positive building
Powerhouse Brattørkaia in Trondheim, Norway, is a true model for transformational design and development worldwide. As the most net energy-positive building in the northern hemisphere, it sets a new standard for buildings by focusing on environmental considerations and reducing its carbon footprint. Powerhouse, a Norwegian collaboration set up to drive innovation in energy, collaborated with Johnson Controls to build a net energy-positive smart building – that is, a building that produces more energy than it consumes.
Colorado State University, Pueblo, becomes first campus in Colorado to reach “net zero electricity” with solar power
Through its visionary thinking, Colorado State University, Pueblo, has become greener, more independent and more resilient. This pioneering campus is leading the industry in sustainability and energy consumption and has far exceeded three of the four greening government goals. Powered by a 23-acre solar farm with battery storage that supplies 12M kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, they are the first campus in Colorado to reach net-zero electricity for all the academic facilities. Collaborating with Johnson Controls, they have created the net-zero campus of the future: A sustainable, energy-efficient and healthy environment that minimises energy costs for the next two decades and passes these savings on to their students and the community.
“The recognition of our first OpenBlue Pioneers casts a spotlight on some incredible businesses and organizations demonstrating outstanding leadership in transforming buildings globally,” said Rodney Clark, Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Johnson Controls. “What they prove is that a concerted focus on decarbonization, electrification, efficiency and digitization can deliver net-zero buildings, alongside communities that are smarter, safer, more sustainable and affordable. This first group of OpenBlue Pioneers will be followed by many more as the momentum for the digital transformation of the built environment accelerates. It also proves that doing the right thing can be exactly the same as doing the sensible thing from a business perspective.”
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.”
Camfil Svenska receives Gold from EcoVadis
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, 22 June 2022: Camfil Svenska AB received a sustainability Gold Rating by EcoVadis, the company announced through a Press release. It can be difficult for companies to verify on their own and know for sure how sustainable they actually are. That is where EcoVadis plays a key role, Camfil Svenska said, adding that it decided to partner with EcoVadis to get a professional and independent appraisal of its sustainability level.
According to Camfil Svenska, EcoVadis’ methodology is built on international sustainability standards, including the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the United Nations Global Compact and ISO 26000. Companies all over the world rely on EcoVadis’ powerful technology platform for monitoring and improving their sustainability performance, Camfil Svenska said.
Camfil Svenska said that after a thorough assessment process, EcoVadis awarded it with a Gold Rating in the category, ‘Manufacturer of Special-Purpose Machinery Industry’.
“We are very pleased with the EcoVadis rating, especially since it confirms our commitment to sustainability and that we as a company are developing in the right direction,” said Åsa Lindström, Director Sustainability & Quality, Camfil Svenska.
To arrive at its sustainability ratings, EcoVadis applies a universal scorecard along with a number of performance improvement tools, Camfil Svenska said. “We performed well in the various categories,” Lindström said. “In the overall score, Camfil Svenska AB is in the top one per cent of companies rated by Ecovadis in the Manufacture of special-purpose machinery industry. In the Environment category, Camfil Svenska AB is among the top one per cent of companies rated by Ecovadis in the Manufacture of special-purpose machinery industry.”
According to Camfil Svenska, it is ranked in the top in other categories, as well:
- Among companies in the Manufacture of special-purpose machinery Industry, Camfil Svenska AB is in the top six per cent of companies for Labour and Human Rights category.
- Camfil Svenska AB is in the top six per cent of companies rated by Ecovadis in the Manufacture of special purpose machinery industry for Sustainable Procurement category and in the top four per cent of companies in the for the Ethics category.
Lindström said: “Working with EcoVadis helps us be more sustainable. Working with Ecovadis helps us and our stakeholders be more sustainable. We can share our score cards and improve together. We can share our score cards with stakeholders and improve together.”
Camfil launches virtual city
|STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 7 June 2022: Camfil highlighted how most people, in fact 99% of the world breathes air containing levels of pollutants that exceed WHO guideline limits, for what is considered to be healthy. The occasion was the launch of Camfil City, a virtual world with solutions for air quality challenges.
Camfil said the motivation for launching the City hinged on the need for clean air, considering that people spend 90% of their time indoors and that it is primarily indoors that they can protect themselves from air pollution.
According to Camfil, the City is a virtual world providing information and product solutions for air quality challenges. Camfil said it developed the 3D virtual world as a digital tool for its customers and potential new customers.
Martin Hellsten, Camfil City project lead, said, “Camfil City is an online 3D application inviting people to move around in a virtual urban setting and learn the basics about how Camfil’s air filter solutions can make air clean, safe and healthy.”
Camfil City lies on a hill, surrounded by a green landscape and the blue sea. It comprises several buildings. Customers can explore buildings in industries such as beverage production, data centres, hospitals and clinics, museums, offices, schools and universities, warehouse distribution facilities, restaurants, metalworking units and life sciences, Camfil said, adding that it intends to add more building types. “We know that users would like to have Camfil City load quickly and run smoothly, regardless of where you are in the world, so we designed the application to meet these demands,” Hellsten said.
According to Camfil, particular attention has been given to the user experience to ensure a fun, informative and useful application. On entering Camfil City, the visitor can have a look inside a specific industry environment and, subsequently, can click, drag and spin the city around to reach a range of industry buildings, Camfil said. With another pinch zoom on a mobile device or scroll on a desktop, the visitor can click a hotspot and access the inside of the building and explore air concerns and possible solutions, the company added.
Lori Heck, 3D Artist and Design Manager, Camfil USA, said: “I aimed to create all the 3D artwork for Camfil City at a high-quality, visually appealing level, yet be able to ensure fast load times and a great user experience for Camfil’s current and potential customers. The site is both, fun and educational.”
The hotspots show where the visitor can interact with the city to get more information, Camfil said. In the city overview, the hotspots are placed on buildings that represent industries. By clicking a building hotspot, the visitor travels into that building. In a building, the visitor would get another set of hotspots, situated in the different rooms, representing the application in the industry, Camfil said. By clicking the hotspots, the visitor can read about the different concerns that they might have in the application and what solutions Camfil offers to solve them, the company added.
Hellsten said: “Not all people who purchase our products are experts in air filtration, and they shouldn’t have to be, either. The purpose of Camfil City is to give everyone a chance to learn the basics of what our clean air solutions can do for them. We believe that this is not just for future Camfil customers. We also see this application as a valuable tool for our existing customers to discover what Camfil has to offer in a new and highly accessible way.”
Johnson Controls appoints new VP and Chief Commercial Officer
CORK, Ireland, 26 May 2022: Johnson Controls (JCI) has named Rodney Clark as Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, effective June 1, 2022. Making the announcement through a Press release, JCI said that in this role, Clark will lead global sales excellence efforts across the company, replacing Chief Commercial Officer, Brian Young, who retired at the end of last year. Clark also will take on a portion of the role being transitioned from Michael Ellis, Executive Vice President, Chief Customer and Digital Officer, who will retire at the end of the year.
“I am excited to welcome a proven, strategic leader such as Rodney to Johnson Controls,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “As we deliver on growth platforms, such as decarbonization in smart, healthy buildings, Rodney will build on our progress, collaborating with customers on outcome-based solutions and service offerings through OpenBlue, while expanding our market, building scale, capacity and capability.”
According to JCI, Clark most recently held the role of Corporate Vice President of Global Partner Sales and Channel Chief at Microsoft. In this role, Clark led a team responsible for customer and partner relationships, accelerating growth through the Microsoft partner ecosystem, as well as cross-partner strategy and outcomes through the Microsoft partner network, JCI said. Prior to this, he served as the Corporate Vice President of the Internet of Things (IoT) and mixed reality sales, responsible for building intelligent systems and mixed reality capability, through sales and go-to-market execution, JCI said.
Earlier in his career, Clark held other notable roles at Microsoft, including General Manager, Samsung Alliance; General Manager, Global Operations; and General Manager, Small and Medium Business, JCI said. Additionally, he spent eight years at IBM and has held roles throughout his career in strategy, sales, marketing, mergers and acquisitions, and digital transformation. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from California State University, Fresno.
“I’m delighted to be joining Johnson Controls, they have an incredible team that is driving innovative technology that transforms ordinary buildings into dynamic, healthier, safer spaces for all of us to enjoy,” Clark said.” Adding intelligent cloud and intelligent edge solutions to their traditional offerings creates an enormous opportunity and will help customers address their most critical challenges – including the achievement of sustainability targets with agile, flexible and scalable solutions.”
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.
AprilAire, Airthings announce IAQ-related strategic partnership at AHR Expo
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, 31 January 2022: AprilAire, which supplies Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) solutions for the home, announced a strategic partnership with Airthings, a global technology company that produces IAQ monitors for radon and other dangerous airborne contaminants that impact overall health and wellness.
Making the announcement through a joint Press release, the two companies said the partnership is rooted in addressing a common issue for homeowners everywhere: People spend more than 90% of their time indoors, but most are unaware of their home’s IAQ – and when they identify a problem, they typically do not have the knowledge and expertise to remedy the situation effectively.
The new AprilAire and Airthings partnership, the companies said, is a ground-breaking, full circle integration that combines detection, education and mitigation to offer contractors an intelligent air quality solution tailored specifically to their customer’s lifestyle and living environment.
Airthings’ monitors help people learn about their IAQ and identify problems utilizing the brand’s line of smart air quality sensors to intelligently monitor conditions in the home, the two companies said. AprilAire helps solve air quality problems with the AprilAire Healthy Air System and the complete line of whole-home healthy air solutions and nationwide network of top HVAC experts trained to install them, the companies added.
In partnership, the brands will now provide consumers with a one-stop shop, combining the best in radon and air quality monitoring with the best solutions to manage air purity, humidity, fresh air supply, radon mitigation and temperature, the two companies claimed.
“We are proud to partner with Airthings, a company whose purpose so closely aligns with our own of making homes healthy,” said Dale Philippi, President and CEO, AprilAire. “Together, we will increase awareness of the impact the air we breathe in our homes has on our health and wellbeing and the availability of effective professional solutions to deliver healthy air. Working with Airthings, our network of healthy air experts will be better able to tailor solutions to address homeowner concerns.”
Airthings will integrate its flagship air quality monitor, View Plus, as a core component of the AprilAire partnership solution, the two companies said. View Plus, launched in 2021, is a comprehensive and advanced consumer air quality monitor on the market, tracking seven air quality components, including particulate matter, CO2 and radon, the companies claimed. AprilAire recently added Radon Mitigation Systems to its healthy air solutions portfolio to control radon, the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers, the companies said.
Equipped with hub functionality, View Plus will enable HVAC professionals to remotely monitor air quality in the homes they service while also providing full air quality visibility to the homeowners themselves, the companies said. When problems arise, the professional receives automatic notifications and can take immediate mitigation actions, the companies said. The newly formed alliance between AprilAire and Airthings will help consumers access information on their air quality with more clarity, and expert consultation than ever before, enabling them to make informed decisions, the companies added.
Oyvind Birkenes, CEO, Airthings, said: “Our new partnership with AprilAire helps consumers navigate complex decisions in a convenient way. Indoor air quality can be a real threat to our health and well-being, which is why proactive monitoring is essential. However, when problems arise, the next steps can seem daunting. By teaming up with AprilAire, our hope is that when people encounter indoor air quality issues, they’ll turn to us to evaluate the situation, diagnose the problem, and develop recommendations and solutions to mitigate the situation if necessary – providing peace of mind to people everywhere.”
CriticalAsset to unveil building maintenance automation software at AHR Expo
LAS VEGAS, Nevada, 31 January 2022: CriticalAsset, Inc. (exhibitor booth N11531), announced it will be unveiling its new flagship facilities management platform, CriticalAsset, on Jan 31 at the AHR Expo in Las Vegas. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company also spoke of USD 1.2MM in funding from Tamarisc VC, one of the country’s leading PropTech investors.
CriticalAsset said the platform is a beautiful software that simplifies facilities management, service, maintenance and documentation; lowers operating costs; and improves a building’s environmental footprint. It’s also the first software to offer a truly interactive digital twin, closing the gap between construction handoffs and building stakeholders, the company claimed.
The platform is a next-generation, mobile-first CMMS, which includes a suite of smart features, including:
- Smart Interactive Floorplans, which converts paper plans and assets into interactive digital documents
- Smart Electrical Panels, in which panel schedules, fed-from, fed-to and affected areas will be completely digital
- Smart Maintenance Scheduling, which automates service and maintenance scheduling
- Smart Work Orders, in which work orders with all key asset data can be created effortlessly by anyone and automatically shared with facilities teams, field technicians and others
- Smart Document Storage, in which all building documents, pictures and plans are securely stored in one place and instantly accessible 24/7.
According to the company, it is the first platform to incorporate AI into all critical aspects of facilities management. The platform solves some of the biggest problems facing virtually every building stakeholder, including facility managers, technicians, contractors, engineers and building owners, the company said.
Building information is scattered all over the place, is difficult to find and is inconsistent. Facilities teams still depend on messy plan rooms, paper notes, complicated spreadsheets, incompatible software apps and risky guesswork, and key knowledge often lives in one person’s head, creating single points of failure, the company pointed out.
Without automation, facilities teams are reactive versus proactive, which takes extra time, results in more asset breakdowns, increases operational costs and creates unnecessary safety risks, while worsening their environmental impact, the company pointed out.
Covid forced many facility managers with institutional knowledge into early retirement, leaving building and property stakeholders with knowledge gaps, creating new risks.
The CriticalAsset platform, the company said, solves all these problems with a single platform for facilities managers and all building stakeholders, offering instant, 24×7 remote access to all building information and tools needed to keep buildings healthy and operational.
“CriticalAsset makes it effortless for facilities managers, contractors and commercial property stakeholders to run their buildings remotely,” said Stewart Padveen, CEO, CriticalAsset. “It lowers operational costs and improves the safety of all occupants in buildings and facilities. There is nothing that compares to CriticalAsset’s simplicity.”
New global study supports healthy buildings as a critical public health strategy
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida, 9 September 2021: For the first time on a global scale, new research has found that healthy buildings with enhanced ventilation can improve the cognitive function and health of occupants, suggesting that ventilation and filtration are pre-eminent healthy building strategies, Carrier Global Corporation said through a Press release. Primary support for the study came from Carrier.
The study, COGfx Study 3: Global Buildings, was led by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as part of the renowned COGfx Study series, which examines the impact of indoor air quality on how people think and feel, Carrier said.
The latest study supports the prior studies’ lab and US findings and further supports that indoor air quality is not only good for people’s health and safety, it’s good for the bottom line, as well – through increased productivity, fewer sick days and better cognitive function, Carrier said.
“As more people move toward returning to offices, schools and recreational activities, the health, safety and intelligence of indoor environments have come into greater focus,” said Dave Gitlin, Chairman & CEO, Carrier. “The COGfx Study continues to demonstrate that proper ventilation and filtration of indoor environments plays an important role across the globe in fostering a proactive health strategy. At Carrier, we are focused on delivering innovative solutions and services that positively impact the health, productivity and cognitive performance of occupants of all buildings.”
The COGfx Study 3: Global Buildings examined the impact of indoor air quality on the cognitive function of office workers across six countries – China, India, Mexico, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The research found that cognitive function declines as the levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon dioxide (CO2) increase, Carrier said, referencing the study. Higher CO2 can be an indicator of poor ventilation in buildings, the company added.
Importantly, mechanical ventilation, such as an HVAC system with efficient filtration, can help to protect building occupants from the negative cognitive effects of PM2.5 and CO2, Carrier said. In addition to acute impacts on cognitive function, reducing exposure to PM2.5 is associated with many other health benefits, including reductions in cardiovascular disease, asthma attacks and premature death.
While the research focused on office employees in commercial buildings, the takeaways are applicable for all indoor environments, Carrier said, adding that as a company it offers numerous products and services that optimize indoor air quality, including a suite of advanced solutions through Carrier’s Healthy Buildings Program that serves key verticals including, healthcare, hospitality, education, retail and marine.
This latest research builds on previous COGfx studies that demonstrated better thinking and better health can be found inside healthier buildings. The first study found cognitive function test scores doubled when study participants were in simulated green building environments with enhanced ventilation as opposed to conventional building environments. The COGfx Study 2 examined real-world building environments in the United Stayes and showed that employees in green-certified buildings showed 26% higher cognitive function test scores and 30% fewer sick building symptoms versus buildings that were not green-certified.
According to Carrier, the COGfx Study 3 can be found at www.theCOGfxStudy.com.
ASHRAE opens registration for Building Performance Analysis Conference
ATLANTA, Georgia, 15 July 2021: ASHRAE opened registration for the 2021 ASHRAE Building Performance Analysis Conference, between November 10 and 12 in Denver, Colorado.
Making the announcement through a Press release, ASHRAE said it will be its first ever hybrid conference, where virtual attendees will have access to live sessions, participate in speaker Q&A as well as interact with virtual and in-person conference attendees. The theme of the conference, “Design and Operation for Resilient and Healthy Buildings,” focuses on the practices of energy modeling and building performance simulation using existing simulation tools, software development, and future simulation research and applications, ASHRAE said.
“The past year has brought forward new challenges for the design and operation of new and existing buildings, in particular challenges related to the health and well-being of occupants,” said John Bynum, Conference Chair. “This conference will provide an opportunity for building professionals across disciplines to share and learn about these topics and many others, as we continue to work towards a better built environment.”
According to ASHRAE, conference attendees will learn from more than 60 presentations by leading industry practitioners and academic researchers on topic such as machine learning, exascale computing, data visualization and zero-carbon initiatives, along with advanced techniques, innovative workflows and future trends in building performance modeling.
The conference will also feature the 7th annual ASHRAE LowDown Showdown modeling competition, ASHRAE said, adding that 10 teams, with members from across the globe, have signed on to compete in this year’s competition. Teams comprise building analysts, designers, architects, engineers and other participants. and will be responsible for creating the architectural design and a performance analysis model based on model building data, ASHRAE said. The teams may use any software, or a combination of software, to complete their projects. The 2021 competition will ask teams to expand their comfort zone and take on the challenges of a tropical climate with particular challenges for resiliency and “near net zero” design, ASHRAE said.
HMS launches new IR-based air conditioning interface
HALMS, Sweden, 17 June 2021: HMS Networks has launched an IR-based Intesis AC interface, which the company said enables integration of any air conditioning unit, regardless of brand, into Modbus or BACnet building automation systems.
Saying that HVAC systems are usually the largest consumers of energy in a building, HMS said it is crucial for building owners to monitor and control these systems to save costs and energy. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it increasingly important to find new ways of installing and using AC units, as ventilation and “clean air” have become a major concern, the company said. The air conditioning market is growing fast with new brands and different types of AC units constantly emerging, the company said. This, it added, makes it challenging for building owners to integrate AC-units into their specific Building Management System (BMS).
The Intesis offering, the company said, includes the most comprehensive portfolio of AC interfaces on the market, enabling monitoring and control of air conditioning units from any home or building automation system. The portfolio, it claimed, is now further strengthened through the launch of a universal IR-based Intesis AC interface for integrating AC units to Modbus- or BACnet-based automation systems. The new interface connects to the AC unit via the IR link, which is already used by most AC units to communicate with their remote control, it said. The Intesis IR-based AC Interface is already compatible with more than 100 IR remote controllers and their associated AC units, it added.
The new AC interface solution, the company said, is configured using the Intesis MAPS tool, which brings many advantages for the system integrator. With a project-based configuration, all the interfaces installed can be configured in a single MAPS template, making it easy to copy device configurations and set up new projects, it said. Thanks to the diagnostics function, it added, the commissioning process and any post-installation assistance is also simplified.
DriSteem to host webinar on humidification systems for laboratories
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minnesota, 16 June 2021: DriSteem said it will be hosting a free webinar, which will focus on humidification systems for laboratories. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company said the webinar is scheduled for June 22 at 10.30 am CST. David Baird, Senior Applications Manager, DriSteem, will make the presentation, it added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all working environments, DriSteem said. Maintaining precise conditions in laboratories is crucial in protecting research integrity as well as keeping them clean and safe, and this includes controlling the relative humidity within this complex environment, it said. Properly controlled laboratories will generate more accurate test results, prevent contamination and promote a healthier environment for staff, it said. Studies show that maintaining the indoor relative humidity level between 40% and 60% RH creates a healthier environment, decreasing the amount and infectivity of viruses in the air, resulting in fewer respiratory infections among building occupants, it added.
“Researchers are keenly aware of how critical the temperature and humidification levels are in a laboratory setting,” said Valerie Bradt, Communications Manager, DriSteem. “Too much fluctuation of temperature or humidification in either direction can disrupt critical testing or interfere with results. This webinar is to help facilities directors and laboratory personnel be proactive and educated in their decisions for controlling humidity levels in their labs.”
According to DriSteem, the webinar will address the role of humidity in achieving accurate test results and employing humidification to reduce contamination. Topics that will be covered are:
- Why humidification is important
- The role of humidity in reducing airborne contaminants
- Preserving equipment
- Promoting wellness of staff
- Employing humidification in a laboratory
- Practical considerations for controlling humidity
Registration for the webinar is free of charge, DriSteem said, adding that those interested in attending could register at https://attend.zoho.com/juht
Camfil donates air purifiers to Pertini
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, 15th June 2021: Camfil Italy in Cinisello Balsamo donated air purifiers to the municipality for the Il Pertini Cultural Center, Camfil said through a Press release, adding that it was a gesture of generosity and attention to the city, in which it has been operating for the last 46 years. The air purifiers, the company said, have been placed in the study room in one of the buildings, which has become an important step as many young students and professionals spend hours studying there.
Following an inspection, Camfil proposed the installation of three air purifiers in the study room. The clean air solutions, capable of purifying the air from pollen, bacteria, viruses, particulate matter, ozone, chemicals and other harmful contaminants, are also the same adopted by the French and Spanish regional authorities in the canteens, laboratories, and study rooms of their schools, Camfil said. Silent and with very low energy consumption, the City M air purification systems will guarantee about 16 changes per day of purified air, thanks to HEPA H14 filters, with a certified filtration efficiency of 99.995% even on the smallest particles in the air, it added.
Luciano Rogato, Managing Director, Camfil Italy, said: “We are humbled to have donated three air purifiers to the reading room of the Pertini Cultural Center, which plays a central role in promoting culture, socialization, and creativity in the Cinisello Balsamo community. It is an important contribution, as the local communities and public places have remained under strict restrictions due to the pandemic. Our clean air solutions ensure a healthy and safe indoor environment.”
Mayor Giacomo Ghilardi, said: “I thank Camfil for this donation to our city library, which is a hub for so many young people for studying, reading, and as a meeting place. Due to the health emergency, which is still ongoing, the Pertini was closed for some time, and we know how much discomfort this has created for many students and young professionals. The installation of these machines will allow more comfortable and healthy use of the indoor environments.”
Carrier launches Abound
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida, 27 April 2021: Carrier Global Corporation on April 26 launched Abound, which it described in a Press release as a new cloud-native platform, as part of its growing investment in digital solutions designed to give people confidence in the health and safety of their indoor environments. Abound is an open-technology platform that aggregates data from different systems and sensors and provides building owners, operators and occupants transparency into relevant and contextual insights about air quality, thermal comfort and other performance data, the company said.
“Abound will transform a building owner’s ability to optimize the indoor environment, boosting the confidence of each visitor and occupant,” said Dave Gitlin, Chairman & CEO, Carrier. “The access to real-time actionable data for indoor air quality and other building systems and sensors embodies the future of building health and performance for customers around the globe. With this launch, we are moving closer to establishing industry standards that will provide owners, operators and occupants greater confidence in their indoor spaces.”
According to Carrier, Abound is a cloud-native offering that uses advanced technology to make building environments more intelligent, efficient and responsive. It connects directly to existing building systems and sensors with no need for upgrades, retrofitting or replacements. And, unlike other building management platforms, Abound is designed to easily work with all systems regardless of manufacturer, to unlock and unite siloed data to provide more powerful, actionable insights, Carrier claimed. The platform can be rapidly installed and scaled and showcases data on a single pane of glass and via remote readings, the company added.
According to Carrier, a hallmark feature of the platform is the ability for building operators to benchmark building performance related to air quality, ventilation and humidity against the thresholds identified by certain air features within the WELL Building Standard (WELL) from the International WELL Building Institute, which works for achieving healthy buildings. Building owners will have the ability to display real-time information and messaging about a building’s health through the Abound application programming interface (API), which can be used to create digital wallboards and support mobile experiences, Carrier said.
“We’re proud that the thresholds in the Abound platform are based on the WELL Building Standard’s air quality features, helping Carrier to make something as invisible as air quality more visible and actionable,” said Rachel Hodgdon, IWBI’s President and CEO. “This platform will help streamline pathways for customers to measure, communicate and report their progress toward WELL Certification, advancing IWBI’s overall mission to advance people first places around the world.”
According to Carrier, Abound is currently being piloted across the United States, with customers in the commercial building, K-12 education and sports and entertainment industries, including Trust Park, home to the Atlanta Braves. It is also operating at Carrier’s world headquarters and building technology showcase, the Center for Intelligent Buildings in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“We are thrilled to participate in the pilot of the Abound platform to give fans a safer and more informed spectator experience,” said Jim Allen, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Premium Partnerships for the Atlanta Braves. “The visual displays strategically placed throughout the stadium will provide our guests a real-time look at how our systems are working together to improve air quality. Sports bring people together, and the game just isn’t the same without our incredible fans here at the ballpark and we’re excited to welcome them back.”
While a tool for building owners, Abound was designed with building occupants and the general public in mind, Carrier said. It will make the invisible – air quality – visible through a smart, simple interface, and using its API and responsive display generators, building owners can communicate building health strategies, health performance metrics or the live indoor air quality summary through in-building digital displays, mobile applications or existing digital experiences.
“The launch of Abound underscores Carrier’s leadership in digital innovation and ability to move quickly to exceed our customers’ needs,” said Bobby George, Senior Vice President & Chief Digital Officer, Carrier. “The platform came together in a fraction of a year, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team. Abound’s platform architecture was designed around open standards and modern cloud native technologies and can quickly adapt to a wide range of integration and connectivity and scaling needs. The platform is comprehensive and delivers value to our customers through the complete integration of software, hardware and digital analytics.”
Johnson Controls releases 2021 Sustainability Report
CORK, Ireland, 10 April 2021: Johnson Controls on April 9 published its 2021 Sustainability Report, highlighting its new environmental, social and governance commitments and progress towards the company’s sustainability goals, the company said through a Press release.
George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls, said: “At Johnson Controls, sustainability is our business. This year saw us continue to pioneer new and important paths to sustainability, including our issuance of a green bond in the U.S. capital markets – among the very first industrials to do so.
“We welcome and embrace the enhanced attention and urgency around tackling climate change and making gains across environmental, social and governance pillars. We are determined to strengthen and further build our culture of diversity and inclusion.
“Our bold new sustainability commitments demonstrate we are all-in to help drive healthy buildings, healthy people and a healthy planet for our employees, shareholders, customers and all of our stakeholders.”
According to Johnson Controls, highlights of the report include:
- New ambitious sustainability commitments that outline the company’s priority to make positive changes in lowering its company footprint, such as achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2040.
- Its first-ever Sustainability Report that includes and fully integrates its first-ever diversity and inclusion report, highlighting its D&I commitment, mission, vision, pillars and progress.
- Its goal to double its customers’ emission reductions through implementation of its OpenBlue digitally enabled solutions by 2030.
- Its intention to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States over the next five years.
- Its green financing initiatives, including a green bond – one of the first industrial companies to issue a green bond in U.S. debt capital markets – and a senior revolving credit facility tied to specific sustainability metrics
- Executive compensation that is linked to sustainability and diversity performance goals
- The appointment of the company’s first Chief Sustainability Officer and the formation of a Governance and Sustainability board of directors’ committee
- Performance contracting projects that have helped its customers avoid more than 30.6 million metric tons CO2e and save USD 6.6 billion through energy and operational savings since January 2000.
- Greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction of more than 70% since 2002.
- Our commitment to The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, to reach net-zero
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.
A complete 180
In view of the shifting political landscape, how will the new administration affect the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation?
It’s going to be a complete 180 from the [Donald] Trump administration. In [Joe] Biden’s plan, he mentions “a historic investment” in upgrading four million commercial buildings to return almost a quarter of the savings from retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. Specifically, it says that he will “mobilize a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly”.
Given our focus on energy savings, I think that this will be great for business as well as for building owners. Some suggest that large rebates may be involved to directly incentivise businesses and make it affordable to pursue these upgrades.
That being said, although the Trump administration was not at all focused on energy conservation, I found that individual building owners and managers were still pursuing these measures during the Trump administration. Most organisations in the US are interested in conserving energy and saving money. With government focus and incentives, it will just accelerate the demand.
In view of COVID-19, do you see a greater uptake of IAQ equipment throughout the country?
Yes, for sure. However, these things come with a cost, and with COVID destroying the economy, there is going to have to be some kind of funding or incentives given to get these types of retrofits in place. I will give you an example. Two of our clients in the US requested ultraviolet lighting proposals to be retrofitted into their air handlers and FCUs. We put together the proposals and delivered them; however, neither has been approved yet due to the difficulties these buildings are facing financially due to delinquent tenant rent payments and occupancy.
Another interesting fact is that most of these IAQ retrofits are not intended to deliver energy savings. That is another hurdle to getting these projects approved. One last point – and I don’t think this is limited to the US – customers in the UAE have also asked for ultraviolet lighting to be installed, and it is still difficult to get the approval here, for the same reasons mentioned earlier.
Has there been a heavier-than-usual concentration on the air side of things from building owners, tenants and manufacturers?
The EPA has recommended that guidance provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for managing IAQ during the current pandemic be followed. ASHRAE’s statement is as follows: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”
The two solutions we have seen implemented in the buildings we service in the USA are AHU filter upgrades and increasing the intake of outside air into the building. Both of these changes are very effective and relatively easy to implement as well as low cost.
How has the change in occupancy profile thrown everything into a state of chaos in terms of commercial and residential property requirements? Will this be a driving force towards more retrofit projects?
In terms of energy conservation measures, this has thrown everything into a state of chaos. One, the commercial buildings are hardly occupied, which has led to energy bills dropping dramatically. However, with less occupancy comes less rent, thus less money to invest in retrofit projects. In addition, building owners, who are still looking for energy savings, are hesitant to move forward, because they are not sure if and when tenants will be returning to the buildings, so to be honest, unless it’s a well-funded customer, this could actually slow the conservation efforts.
Residential buildings face the same issue. People are leaving the dense, populated cities, preferring the suburbs right now, leaving residential multi-family buildings unoccupied and no rents being paid. Until we get herd immunity with the vaccine, and people are comfortable returning to the cities to work and live, this will continue to be challenging.
How have these trends potentially influenced building owners?
As I stated earlier, most building owners are hesitant even if they want to move forward on new projects, given the current situation. However, some forward thinkers, with ability and the confidence that things will return to normal, are taking this time to invest in conservation efforts, so that when the buildings are occupied, they can take advantage of the maximum savings.
Have there been efforts to retrofit among specialised facilities such as healthcare?
At the moment, it is difficult to even get a meeting with a healthcare facility in the US. They are overwhelmed and have overcapacity with COVID patients and are focused on saving lives before anything else. Their priority right now is the conservation of life.
Has the pandemic finally trained the spotlight on the importance of having a balance between energy efficiency and IAQ?
I think that yes, people will be investing in IAQ, or at least investigating their options, especially healthcare facilities and the like. However, in my experience, to be honest, it’s a tough sale, unless there’s a Return on Investment (ROI) in the project. Having said that, UV lighting does have some energy-saving benefits, so maybe a combination of IAQ and energy savings should be highlighted to the building owners in the presentation of these retrofit solutions.
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.”