Ventilating the air in buildings has taken on increased importance in the wake of the pandemic. Elizabeth Lyon, key account manager at Hemlow, offers important focus points to deliver better quality air.
As buildings reopen and personnel numbers on site begin to increase, facilities managers will need to deliver excellent indoor air quality to be compliant and to provide a healthier and safer workplace for end users.
In a recent IWFM webinar entitled ‘Understanding Building Compliance’, which was hosted by the IWFM Midlands Region, Elizabeth Lyon, key account manager at Hemlow, advised listeners to reconsider maintenance of ventilation systems.
1. Disable all air recirculation systems
The belief is air can contain particulate matter and potentially Covid-19 even after passing through the filtering process. The worry, then, is that the contaminated air spreads through the building. Lyon’s advice is to disable all recirculation systems so that the air entering the building is fresh and all the outgoing air is “extracted straight into the atmosphere and not recirculated into the office”.
An unfortunate consequence of such an approach is a likely increase in energy consumption and costs. Lyon says that while companies are looking to future-proof their energy management, right now, the protocol should be followed.
Additionally, Lyon advises that:
- All windows that can be opened are opened, despite the outside temperatures; and
- Mechanical ventilation supply and speed are increased.
2. Run ventilation systems run for longer periods
Where the speed of ventilation systems cannot be increased, the guidance from Lyon is to turn on the systems for at least two hours before building users arrive on site, keep them running throughout occupancy hours and leave them on for at least two hours after everyone has left. This should be carried out in all areas of the building, even the toilets via an extraction system.
Lyon says to record when people arrive and leave the building to adjust the ventilation operating times accordingly. Toilet ventilation should run constantly.
Even in empty buildings, BESA guidance is to keep ventilation systems running at reduced speed.
3. Chemically clean your ductwork
“Prior to reintroducing the workforce into the office, the air filters and ductwork will need additional inspections for cleanliness,” Lyon warns.
“If there's a large amount of dust or debris, it would normally be cleaned by means of a blowing out system using compressed gas. But this is obviously not the best way to move forward at the moment so the guidance is to avoid that because the virus, if in the ductwork, will become airborne.”
A better approach is to chemically clean the system, including the AHU, coil and filtrated ductwork.
4. Consider technology
It behoves FMs to consider the available technology to help them with building maintenance. Iot-powered sensors are an obvious starting point as they provide information on air quality, CO2 levels, temperature, humidity levels and the amount of particulate matter and volatile organic chemicals in the air. “So that’s great for ticking the health and wellbeing box.”
Additionally, IoT sensors predict maintenance needs effectively, detecting when filters need replacing, for example. “It can also produce information on identifying patterns of air flow and areas that are going to be more contaminated during peak times so you can then strategically look at changing routes and processes around a building in direct response to the quality and condition that you are getting feedback from.
“With this data, we can help our clients build strategic value into their organisation by monitoring and improving performance and environmental monitoring records.”
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