Owners, operators, facility managers and other professionals who oversee the built environment are experiencing unprecedented challenges for buildings and their occupants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As many public facilities remain empty because of shelter-in-place orders across the country, buildings deemed essential in the fight against the pandemic, such as hospitals and clinics, must prepare for record numbers of patients and establish and implement isolation units. Patients with non-life-threatening conditions are being transferred elsewhere to create hospital space for an influx of COVID-19 patients.
Industry organizations such as ASHRAE and the American Society for Health Care Engineering are responding to the pandemic. On March 31, ASHRAE announced the establishment of its Epidemic Task Force (ETF), which has these goals:
- Provide information on how the operations of common building types, such as residential, commercial, educational, transportation and healthcare, are affected by the pandemic.
- Provide guidance on the operations of existing buildings, reviving abandoned buildings, and shuttering buildings because of a lack of occupancy.
- Analyze the filtration and disinfection methods that buildings could use.
- Review and publish clear summaries of the most relevant information available to the built environment. This information includes research papers on infectious diseases and airborne pathogens published by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ASHRAE and other organizations have long played a leading role in the built environment, including healthcare, including establishing standards for the equipment and processes needed for clean environments, providing segregated ventilation systems for isolation units and providing treatment and filtration processes to minimize the propagation of infectious agents, including viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.
Wade Conlan, P.E., CxA, CPMP, LEED AP® BD+C, Hanson’s commissioning discipline manager, is the chair of ASHRAE’s Environmental Health Committee and one of five ETF corresponding members. Through Wade’s expertise and direct involvement with ASHRAE and the ETF, Hanson is on the front lines regarding the impacts of the pandemic and providing vital information to our clients as their “trusted adviser.” We are available to answer your questions and offer guidance. You can email your questions directly to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send them to the ETF for responses, then compile and send the responses to you with other updated information from the ETF.
Hanson’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) experts review building characteristics and requirements for items such as isolation areas when we provide facility condition assessments, commissioning and retro-commissioning services to our clients. Our team is adept at working with you to adjust your building systems to mitigate transmission or to help you take the correct steps to make your building unoccupied for the duration of a stay-at-home order to reduce energy consumption while still protecting it. We can also help you restart your building and tactically commission the systems to check operation and the systems’ efficiency and verify that the systems and equipment operate correctly after being shut down. Our team of engineers can also assist with the design of new isolation areas and temporary field hospitals and clinics or retrofit facilities to accomplish isolation or create negative pressure enclosures. These services can help in the nationwide effort to flatten the curve and minimize exposure to our brave, front-line healthcare workers. We will work closely with our clients to assist them with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus so they can maintain their buildings to help minimize the pandemic and decrease the likelihood of future outbreaks.
As more data is collected on how to combat the transmission of the coronavirus, Hanson will relay this crucial information to our clients so we can all help slow the spread of this disease. Please visit www.ashrae.org/COVID19 for regular updates and contact us at COVID-19MEPanswers@hanson-inc.com more information.