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Breathe Easier: COVID-19 Impacts on HVAC Design

Breathe Easier: COVID-19 Impacts on HVAC Design

Over the last year, the topic of indoor air quality escalated as businesses scrambled to assess the impact of airflow on building occupants during the pandemic. The public health sector has advocated for healthier buildings and work environments for some time, but increased awareness about the impact of our surroundings on our health has many facility owners and engineers taking a closer look at heating, ventilating and air conditions (HVAC) designs. 

From the CDC, to the US EPA and professional engineering organizations like ASHRAE, there are many resources and recommendations for improving indoor air quality. In Virginia, the state’s Department of Labor and Industry voted last month to adopt the nation’s first mandatory workplace safety regulations in response to the pandemic, and at least six other states have adopted versions COVID-19 workplace standards as well. While these parameters were developed with workplace safety during the pandemic in mind, they could also impact standards for healthier facilities in the post-COVID era. 

For many building owners an overhaul of HVAC systems will not be an option. But there are some best practices you can follow to help meet guidelines, improve ventilation and protect against airborne illnesses.  

8 Ways to Optimize Your HVAC 

Ready to Exhale

In Norfolk, Virginia, the building management team at the Wells Fargo Center (WFC) was looking for ways to improve air quality for tenants during the pandemic even though their HVAC system met code and CDC recommendations. With an office in the WFC, B&N’s team was familiar with the facility and provided an assessment of their systems.

B&N suggested integrating Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (BPI) into WFC’s 11 existing air handling units. This technology uses specialized tubs that take oxygen molecules from the air and convert them into charged atoms that cluster around microparticles, surrounding and deactivating harmful substances like mold, bacteria, allergens and viruses. They also attach to expelled breath droplets and dust particles that can transport viruses, enlarging them so they’re more easily caught in filters. 

“As both a Mechanical Engineer and a tenant at WFC, I’m grateful that our building management made a commitment to this technology,” said B&N’s Justin Hunt, PE, LEED AP, CEM. “It goes a long way to help us all feel more comfortable about returning to work in the current environment.”

Need to Clear the Air? We Can Help

B&N’s mechanical engineers can provide a quick facility assessment and summary of recommendations specific to your building use and type of HVAC system. This low cost first step can help you determine a path to creating optimal air quality for your building’s occupants during the pandemic, and beyond. 

Deborah Lohmeier, PE, LEED AP, Director, Southeast Virginia District

Deborah Lohmeier, PE, LEED AP 
Director, Southeast Virginia District