M. Thompson: Well good afternoon and good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining our webinar: “Beyond HVAC: Indoor Air Quality and COVID-19.” Before I introduce our panel, we welcome your questions as we discuss what is a very timely topic, for sure, as all of our workplaces prepare to reopen. There is a place to type in and submit your questions in the chat box on the right hand portion of your screen. If you direct those questions to Flagship Facility Services, we will make sure that we try to address them at the end of the webinar; we have time allotted to answer questions.
M. Thompson: Let me begin today by introducing our panel. Michelle Kleiber is the National Account Director for Flagship’s largest IFM client and leads Flagship’s center of excellence for engineering. She is steeped in reliability maintenance and practices like Six Sigma and Lean, she led facility operations for biotech and automotive clients among others, and she has partnered with Newcomb and Boyd to lead Flagship’s efforts to bring indoor air quality processes and expertise to our clients. Michelle holds a bachelor’s and master’s in mechanical engineering along with an MBA. Thank you, Michelle for joining us today.
M. Thompson: Next let me introduce our panelists from Newcomb and Boyd. Up first, Adam Bare; he’s been with Newcomb and Boyd for a number of years as a partner with them, was named such in 2017, and has more than 25 years of experience in mechanical engineering design project management. and as partner in charge, responsibilities for more than 330 projects with an emphasis on health care and academic campuses. He has presented and published on health care and scientific research topics, especially noting the complexities of HVAC system planning and design in such environments. Through listening to the needs of clients and owners, keeping an eye on the big picture, and maintaining open communication, Adam provides sound advice and delivers on his promises to his clients. Adam, thank you for joining us today.
M. Thompson: Danna Richey has 11 years of experience as a mechanical engineer and consultant for sustainable and healthy buildings. Danna is knowledgeable in energy modeling, ventilation, indoor air quality, and more. Danna is a WELL AP, a Fitwell ambassador, and a RESET AP, and is proficient in the requirements for health and wellness related building certifications and ASHRAE standards. Danna had the distinct honor of being selected as one of Engineered Systems Magazine’s top 20 to watch women in HVAC in 2020. Danna, thank you very much for joining us today.
M. Thompson: Jenna Grygier has more than eight years of experience as a mechanical engineer is passionate about the sustainable design of buildings and the impact of indoor air quality. She has presented and published on topics such as indoor air quality, ventilation, energy modeling, building monitoring, and more. In addition to being a professional engineer Jenna is a RESET quality assurance designee and a certified building analyst by the Building Performance Institute.
M. Thompson: So welcome esteemed guests and we thank you for your time today. I’m Mike Thompson, I’m the president of Flagship’s Integrated Facility Management business. I’m here to moderate, let the experts talk shop, and hopefully guide our discussions to touch on critical points that are important to all of you who are attending today’s call. On the next slide you’ll see what we’re going to attempt to cover today: the importance of a multi-prong approach to indoor air quality, ASHRAE’s guidelines and how they might apply to your workplace, some realistic indoor air quality strategies that consider your building’s current conditions, and facility certifications and what they mean to your building and to your occupants. So we have a lot of ground to cover. Let’s dive right in.
M. Thompson: On the next slide, Adam, there’s been a lot of discussion around ASHRAE and COVID and indoor air quality. Can you give us an overview of what ASHRAE is saying about it?
A. Bare: Yeah definitely. So let me start off by saying that, right at the onset of the pandemic, and if anybody doesn’t know who ASHRAE is actually I’m mechanical engineer so they’re the kind of mothership for people like me, but they’re the national organization that provides all the guidance and works on mostly all the codes and standards, everything related to HVAC design that affects building design; so at the onset of the pandemic last spring they came out immediately with statements and they formed what they call their epidemic task force or the ETF, and that ETF pulled together basically many of the leaders from ASHRAE and they pulled in leaders from others across the world to assist with investigating and researching as much as we could and basically come out with information for all of us as quickly as possible so that we knew what to do because we knew a lot of the facility owners and a lot of the designs so we were going to be having to answer a lot of questions. So people like me, and I’m actually part of the ETF, but we spent a lot of time trying to keep in touch with what ASHRAE was finding. It was changing quickly as you can imagine, throughout last year and even there have been changes earlier this year which we’ll cover today. One of the main things was, we were trying to keep up with the knowledge of what we had about COVID-19. It was rapidly evolving and still evolving, you may have heard the term airborne infectious disease that is a still a question is whether it’s really categorized as that but the prevailing theory right now is that it does get aerosolized in some way in small particles and thus long-range transmission is possible. That is a theory, it’s not proven but that is the belief, and so based on that is why we’re here today because that means that the room design, indoor air quality can have a direct effect on the infectivity of the room, and good design and good measures for these buildings can help reduce airborne exposures.
A. Bare: So ASHRAE’s focus was more of a holistic approach. You’re going to hear this quite a bit today that there’s not a fits all, there are many different strategies. The main thing was to educate building operators, design teams, owners with the best information available at the time so that they can make the right decisions. Of course everything’s going to come back to cost, right? So the main thing was to help folks go through all the different strategies you might want to consider for your building and figure out the right thing for you. One caveat here is ASHRAE’s not saying that if you do these things, if you do any or all of them, all of a sudden your building is quote unquote safe, but the other part on the flip side is that most of the strategies we’re going to cover today that you’ve probably heard about, filtration, increased ventilation, these sorts of things aren’t new strategies; we’ve been talking about this for decades and we’ve known for many years that indoor in good indoor air quality has a direct tie with indoor health and safety and so it’s always a great idea. So that what that means is that what we’re talking about strategies to help with COVID-19 or lo and behold a future infectious disease like this that the idea is not that you would implement them and all of a sudden when COVID-19 hopefully is gone you just take all the stuff out of your building; that’s not the idea. All these strategies we’re talking about, we feel like are good strategies for your building, for good indoor air quality, COVID-19 or not; this just kind of accelerates the need. So the type of guidance that ASHRAE’s provided and the link here on the screen if you go to ASHRAE’s website you’ll find all sorts of different links for the different FAQ’s and answers to questions so what we’ve done and I think most of the others in the industry what they’ve done is they’ve tried to boil these things down into categories and to nail it down to what is the prevailing theories and what is the process. So we’ve kind of put these strategies into buckets: there’s procedural type strategies, such as risk assessments and looking at your building in terms of how does it encourage physical distancing, that sort of thing; obviously HVAC, which we’re going to cover a lot today; in the healthcare environment, in some cases for healthcare looking at what spaces are under negative pressure is a big focus point; disinfection and not just for as far as how you disinfect surfaces in the rooms but also disinfection type strategies that are out there for the mechanical systems or for the air in the space; there’s all sorts of technologies coming out there, you’ve probably seen lots of advertisements about different equipment or systems that would help improve your space and their indoor air quality with respect to COVID; and then lastly, this is one that’s in the healthcare environment but also in the corporate world, is temporary or surge provisions of what do you do if there’s an event.
A. Bare: So ASHRAE came out with the guidance pretty early last year. Their first statements came out April-ish, the first letter they came out with was in April and they continue to update that guidance as they go so they’re now calling this their core recommendations. Their initial guidance was very conservative. So for example, they suggested that you increase your ventilation or your outside air as much as you can, that you increase your filtration level as much as you can, that you disable certain things in your building that might reduce your outside air such as demand control ventilation, things like that. Since then, ASHRAE has come back on that. They basically focus more on ‘okay well it’s more about how much money can you spend knowing that cost is an issue, none of this is necessarily going to make your building safe, it’s just making it better and improving the indoor air quality’ and with the focus on trying to reduce your exposure, the idea is people getting right information to spend the money where they want to spend it. Now this middle bullet point we have here that says they said the core recommendations are near mature; that’s ASHRAE’s words, we put that here because I actually don’t know if that’s true. I think we still have a lot to learn but I would say hopefully that’s true. There’s still a lot of research going on and as you’ve probably heard, there’s just a lot to learn about this disease. The last bullet point with respect to equivalent clean air supply, that’s a new approach that ASHRAE has come out with that kind of ties into this idea of spending your money in the right ways. So we’re going to talk about that more today and we can explain what that is but the clean air supply approach is essentially figuring out the right mix between filtration and increasing ventilation and not necessarily doing both or all of both.
M. Thompson: Great, Adam, thanks very much. So Jenna lots of stuff as Adam just raised, relative to ASHRAE; if there are say a handful of things that every FM, every facility manager should do to fulfill ASHRAE’s recommendations what would some of those things be?
J. Grygier: So I think the first thing that FM’s should do is go into gathering your resources, get into that mode where you’re finding your plans for the building whether that’s the original design plans or maybe there’s been some renovations since the original design. So gathering plans, figuring out has any sort of test and balance efforts been completed since the original build out or has there not been a recent test and balance? Digging into that, similar to that is figuring out, has any sort of retro commissioning efforts taken place; out of all of these tests and efforts, were there any sort of issues identified during those processes that were remediated or are there still some things that are hanging loose that we need to remediate? So the first step is gather resources, get into the information collection mode, document what you have, and you can start looking at the design values for outdoor air; do those match up with what you’re seeing on the building automation system? That’s a really great place to start if you do have a building automation system. And also documenting, what are the concerns that you’re aware of, the complaints that you receive or controls that constantly go wrong, so sort of just documenting that as part of this effort, especially as it relates to ventilation and filtration.
J. Grygier: Then the next thing to do after you kind of get a baseline of what’s going on would be to look into conducting an indoor air quality assessment, having a professional come out to your building and do an assessment hyper focused on outdoor air infiltration, looking at all of your air handling units to take a deeper dive into some of these issues. So great question, and that leads us into the ASHRAE core recommendations that Adam mentioned. ASHRAE is also a great place to start; if you’re looking for somewhere to start, maybe start with these five core recommendations from ASHRAE. They came out in January of this year so relatively recently and it’s all a big focus on what we can do to impact risk. So we’re looking to reduce risk, as far as infectious aerosols or viruses are concerned. These five recommendations start with public health guidance – the first line of defense is human behavior and that can go for a lot of things other than just COVID-19; so follow the public health guidance. Secondly that’s when we want to start looking at ventilation filtration and air cleaning. So this is where you get the bulk of your efforts or the greatest results with these three things. So that would be the next place to start looking.
J. Grygier: As far as outdoor air, as Adam mentioned ASHRAE originally was being very conservative with their approach, saying maximize outdoor air, maximize filtration. I think now we’re taking a step back and saying, we at least need to provide minimum outdoor airflow as the building was originally designed. That’s the first step here is, provide at least the minimum amount of outdoor airflow. If you’re looking at an HVAC schedule, it’ll be the outdoor air value there; make sure that we’re providing that while the building is occupied. So that’s even if there might be cleaning crews or a handful of different types of trades coming in after regular business hours, like maybe they’ll come in at like 6 pm, so that’s including those hours. It’s making sure when anybody is in the building to provide that minimum amount of air. Increasing air beyond the design values is possible but we need to look at that with a careful approach before just cranking up the outdoor air as high as you can. That’s for a lot of reasons, one of the main ones is cooling coil capacities; we don’t want to create any sort of humidity problems, the central plant may not be able to handle it so there’s a lot of different parts that need to be evaluated before just turning up your air as high as you can. If you already have enhanced controls in your building, then that might be a great opportunity to make sure they’re working properly; things such as supply air temperature reset or economize economizer control, these are things that may help increase outdoor air in the future but you want to make sure they’re working properly first. I do want to mention if any sort of control schemes are modified, it’s important to save the schemes that you have in place currently so that you can go back to those in the future during like a post-pandemic condition. So that’s that touches on number two.
J. Grygier: For number three here, air distribution – I want to just briefly mention this one. Typical office spaces are designed to have well-mixed air. This is in contrast with some systems that try to displace air such as displacement ventilation systems. It’s recommended to promote good mixing in the space if it was designed that way. You can verify this several ways: a test and balance report can help you verify if you’re getting the air in the places that you need, supply and return. This is because good mixing decreases the risk per person. We want to avoid any sort of strong air currents that blow air across people horizontally because that could increase direct transmission from person to person. So this is what number three is accounting for here.
J. Grygier: For number four, one of the biggest differences here is, in the original guidance from ASHRAE they were recommending to everybody to consider humidifying up to 40 percent during the winter. in general the recommendation is to stay between 40 to 60 percent; in order to do that a lot of buildings would need to humidify in the winter. 4.1 here says maintain temperature and humidity design set points; so it’s important to rather than attempting to add humidification to your building, which is a huge capital cost that may end up having some negative side effects, instead let’s focus on maintaining the design set points that we have. I even asked ASHRAE, why did we go back on this, there’s lots of research about low relative humidity possibly making an impact on virus transmission and they said it’s a benefit to cost decision that we don’t want to cause any issues if the building wasn’t designed for humidification. There’s a lot of things that need to go into consideration, like the building envelope and controls, stuff like that.
A. Bare: Jenna can I come in there?
J. Grygier: Yes.
A. Bare: On the humidification side another downside of adding humidification is for facility maintenance. Folks, you’ll know that is a common maintenance problem and it can actually be an infection control hazard, depending on the maintenance issue. So that was another factor in ASHRAE backing off on recommending to add it.
J. Grygier: Right. Yeah just a few more points here. I wanted to talk about the equivalent clean air supply that Adam mentioned in the beginning. So this concept stemmed from, it’s been around for a while, at least the concept has been – it stems from something called the Wells Riley equation, which is in the risk reduction world very well known it provides a quick and simple way of assessing like the infection risk of certain diseases. So ASHRAE realized, ‘okay this is applicable to our situation, let’s apply it here,’ so the equivalent clean air calculation uses a combination of how much outdoor air you have in your building, what type of filtration or air cleaning technologies do you have for recirculated air, and what type of air cleaning technologies do you have in the space. You take all of those into consideration for this calculation and it comes up with, what is your equivalent clean air. So the main takeaway here is that clean air doesn’t have to come from outside. We all know outdoor air is likely free of the virus and that’s great, but things like enhanced filtration and air cleaning technologies can also provide clean air. So if we look at this as a combination of all of those things, that’s why we’re able to not everybody go to 100% outdoor air, let’s look at some of these other ways that we can make our buildings better and do things like a pre and post occupancy flush out. I’m just going to highlight this example: ASHRAE recommends a pre and post occupancy flush out and they’ve targeted about three air changes for that flush out, because with those three air changes in one hour it’s estimated you get about a 95% reduction in risk; with two hours it’s closer to about a 99% reduction in risk. So ASHRAE recommends to do a flush out for two hours prior to occupancy and in two hours post occupancy. However if you go through these equivalent clean air calculations and take credit for your filters and any sort of UV or portable air cleaners you have, you can get that four hour total flush out down to about a half hour flush out so this dramatically helps us save energy and helps this be more practical rather than running our systems for 24-7 or doing you know four to five hours worth of flush out. So that’s where the equivalent clean air concept really comes in and helps us.
M. Thompson: So Jenna boy there’s a lot in there, we talked a little bit about ventilation and filtration and some of the other things. Is there a logical order of what a facility manager should really address first?
J. Grygier: Yeah that’s a great question and we can go to the next slide, that kind of leads us into what I was going to talk about next. So for ventilation and filtration, for example, we wouldn’t want to just look at one or the other, we really want to look at these at the same time. Everything works as a system, one impacts the other. For example, if you have a 100% outdoor air system you’re likely going to need pre-filters and then main filters. Alternatively, if you have enhanced filters in an existing system you might decrease your airflow. So everything kind of works together so looking at a system is the best is the best approach there. And to keep on this, the concept of equivalent clean air – this is one way to look at why we can do that, why that’s beneficial.
J. Grygier: So this graph does a really good job at comparing ventilation versus filtration. The y-axis is relative risk of infection so as you go down the graph on the y-axis that means that your risk is lower. So you’ll see with MERV 13, 14, 16, all the way to HEPA filtration your risk kind of flattens out; on the right hand side of the graph with all those colorful lines you’ll see four different locations and that represents outdoor air. So as you’ve just traveled to the right of the graph that would be 100% outdoor air, to the left would be closer to zero or maybe a minimum amount. So as you travel down this curve here MERV 13 really takes a turn. So as soon as you go from a MERV 4 or MERV 7, 11 to a MERV 13 you really take that turn there as far as risk reduction. When you compare that with something like 100 percent outdoor air it’s it looks like a MERV 16 is about equivalent to 100% outdoor air so we see here that a good filter can also provide good benefits for air quality. That’s the main takeaway here: as the air goes through the filters again and again as long as there’s no introduced viral, load the air should get cleaner every single time. So that’s the concept here.
J. Grygier: Thank you, so some more talk about filters. So when you’re first looking at what you have in your building, here’s kind of like a train of thought that you could follow to kind of get your mind going on, can I can I get MERV 13, do I have MERV 13? So the first thing you want to do is determine what you have: do you have flat panel filters or do you have bag filters as shown here? Maybe you have a V-Bank configuration. Then you want to figure out what your MERV rating of the filters are, and I want to say that sometimes this requires a little bit of research and investigation. Sometimes it’s printed on the filter and sometimes it’s not and you need to look up a model number and do some digging online. One thing to point out here is that sometimes filters are sold as MERV 13 filters and they are tested to be MERV 13 filters – there’s a technology out there where filters can be charged or treated – and those are a certain type of filter that allows you to get a lower pressure drop and usually a about a two inch filter and still get a MERV 13. Usually MERV 13’s will be four inch standard but if you have a charged or treated filter media, you can get down to a two inch and still have your MERV 13. The one thing about these filters is that they lose their charge over time, and it’s kind of an unknown amount of time. It could lose charge after two weeks or it could be after two months. So if you have a filter like this it’s great, especially if it’s a MERV 13, but I would say let’s do some more digging and see what that MERV Rating drops down to after some time. One way we can do that is requesting a MERV A Rating from the manufacturer. So just keep in mind, MERV A is an optional test that manufacturers can put their filters through to see, ‘okay we tested MERV 13 in the beginning and after some time it drops down to a MERV 8’ and that’s very common but it’s good to verify that.
J. Grygier: If you have less than a MERV 13 filter, one of the first things you want to figure out is, do you have a recent test and balance report available? If you do, that test and balance report should be able to tell you if you have any sort of static pressure availability. If the systems were maxed out when they were tested then they likely don’t, but that’s kind of one thing you can look to see where you are. Another thing is, there’s physically space available to increase the filter thickness or increase the filter depth. One good option is the bag filters that are shown on this page, and those take up about 12 inches of depth. So if you have space for that, you can retrofit your existing filter racks and put these in. If you have static pressure available the bag filters usually have lower pressure drops, which is why this is a great option. Lastly you want to look at what your maintenance protocol looks like now and what it may look like in the future if you did upgrade your filters. Usually with like a MERV 13 filter higher in an existing system, you’ll need to replace it more often and you’ll want to just make sure to have procedure for that. A lot of times, there are filter alarms on building automation system which is very useful but a lot of times those are overwritten you know so that they’re not going off all the time, but in this case especially if we’re upgrading our filters we want to make sure those filter alarms are working since we’ll likely need to be changing them more often. Lastly here when you’re looking at your existing system, a good bang for your buck is to identify any sort of filter bypass or gaps that you have and I’ll talk about this more on the next slide. So the reason why filter gaps are so important, is because even if it’s just a small gap it dramatically reduces your MERV rating. In this case a properly installed MERV 11 is better than a poorly installed MERV 15. You can see that because a properly installed MERV 11 has a MERV 11 rating whereas a poorly installed 15 is closer to an 8 so if you’re going to pay for a MERV 15 filter or MERV 13 filter you want to make sure you’re getting your filter. So in this research that was conducted, a 10 millimeter gap which is less than half an inch, takes a MERV 15 down to a MERV 8. This just highlights why this is important and on the image here on the slide you’ll see that one thing we’ve found before is, a good way to seal up those gaps is just adding some tape in between the seams; that way, there’s no air bypassing in between those small cracks between the filters.
M. Thompson: It’s good to see that even in something as important as indoor air quality, that a facility manager can still rely on duct tape. That’s always a good thing, right? And clearly the quality of the installation matters, right, so having trained professionals who know what they’re doing really makes a difference, as you’ve shown here in the illustration, thanks.
J. Grygier: Yeah it does make a bit of a big difference. Filter gaskets too can be utilized, and you’d have to go get that rather than using some tape you have laying around, but even if it’s a short-term solution adding this tape will make a dramatic difference. Okay next slide.
J. Grygier: So this is our last deep dive here on the on the subject of air cleaners I wanted to bring this up because there’s a lot of products out there and I just wanted to call attention to some things you should keep your eyes out for. A direct quote from ASHRAE in the core recommendations is, only use air cleaners for which evidence of effectiveness and safety is clear. So we don’t want to for example, install an air cleaner in a conference room and then have the air cleaner emitting ozone as a byproduct of the cleaning process. So that’s what we mean by the safety is clear part. There’s two resources you can use to look for air cleaners that have under undergone some form of ozone testing, and that’s the California air review board website, as well as the UL 2998 Rating System. The UL 2998 is for zero ozone emissions, so just know that that exists and to look for that; they have searchable directories online so if a product comes to you with an air cleaner that they think is a great solution just reference that list and just make sure it’s safe.
J. Grygier: Some other specs to consider for air cleaners: you want to make sure that they’re not noisy. If you have a noisy air cleaner, then the occupants will just likely turn them off, so we want to make sure that the air cleaner is running at a nice, comfortable level with noise. You also want to make sure that the manufacturer provides a clean air delivery rate for the air cleaner; this will tell you what the airflow and CFM is of the air cleaner. This will tell you how much air is coming out of it. The one thing about clean air delivery rate is that it’s specified in different sizes of particulate matter, so the one that accounts for the smallest particulate matter sizes is smoke. They also have clean air delivery rates for pollen and dust, so smoke is the smaller particle sizes. So we want to try to maximize that clean air delivery rate for smoke. Look out for that. Usually products with a fan work better than products that don’t have a fan. Lastly, you just want to make sure that you are sizing these properly. You can have a professional help you, ASHRAE has a lot of good guidance on this now on their website, and you also want to make sure you take into account any sort of maintenance requirements. if there’s UV bulbs, how often are you gonna have to change those. If there’s filters, are they washable or do you need to replace them every quarter. Just things like that to keep in mind that are important when looking at air cleaners.
M. Thompson: Great, Jenna that was a lot of great information. Thanks very much for sharing it. A lot of stuff kind of happening as part of this, right: increasing fresh air, upgrading filters, making sure that a building automation system is really operating as designed, maybe even going through some kind of retro commissioning. What’s the meaning and what’s the significance of some of the new certifications and what are they; if I get them what do I tell the people who are occupying my workplace? Danna can you talk us through some of the certifications?
D. Richey: Yeah absolutely. We could go to the next slide I’ll show you what those look like. There it is, all right. There are several different certifications and many of them developed kind of a sub certification in direct response to the pandemic. So up on the screen here you see Fitwel, WELL, and Reset, which you may be familiar with. In response to the pandemic they came out with Fitwel viral response module, WELL health-safety rating, and RESET Index. So I want to talk about in the time that we have where each of these can be applied, some of the key objectives and strategies associated with these rating systems, and look at the cost and level of effort required. All of these have very minimal capital cost, I’m sorry, the WELL and Fitwel have very minimal capital costs. There’s a relatively easy and quick path to certification, we’re looking at about 12 weeks. You can compare that to a typical timeline for the full certifications for full WELL or Fitwel of about 12 months, and they’re focused largely on facilities operations and management so there’s very little capital cost as I mentioned associated with these. RESET’s a little bit different because there are indoor air quality monitors that would be installed but that would be the only capital cost associated with that. So the idea behind these rating systems is that they’re providing occupants confidence to let them know that you’re thinking about their health and steps are being taken with occupant health in mind. So on the next slide, I want to talk about WELL health-safety rating. This was introduced by the international WELL Building Institute, there are six categories and 26 strategies within this rating system and compliance with at least 15 of them is required to achieve this rating. As you can see in the little image here, there would be a seal of certification placed on the entry door to your building once it’s achieved. As I mentioned earlier, this is something that would provide the tenants and the occupants in the building confidence to let them know you’re thinking about their health and actions are being taken. So looking really quickly at these six categories, cleaning and sanitization procedures – we’ve all been doing that for over a year now, things like supporting hand washing, reducing surface contact with hands-free equipment, looking at your cleaning practices and products, and minimizing respiratory particle exposure with one-way signage and limiting the number of people that go in certain rooms. Then there’s emergency preparedness programs; health service resources, looking at sick leave, health benefits, smoking policies; air and water quality management, so that goes into assessing your ventilation systems and your filtration and air treatment systems, a lot of what Jenna talked about earlier. So you would hire a professional to come into your building and make these assessments and provide guidance as to what things could be done for your specific building. I think it’s important to reiterate that it’s really critical to have a professional come in and complete this assessment, because every system is different, not every system can take MERV 13 filtration, not every system can have the ventilation be increased, so it’s really important to understand what your system is capable of so you can optimize it for your building. Also looking at air and water quality monitoring, which I’ll get into a little bit deeper with RESET, and then communicating all of these things to the building occupants to let them know what you’re doing in their space to help with their health in mind. On the next slide is Fitwel Viral Response Module, and this is very similar to WELL Health-Safety Rating with a few differences. This rating system has 21 strategies within three categories and it requires compliance with 70% of the strategies; there are also eight prerequisites so different from WELL Health-Safety which had no prerequisites, you could pick any 15 strategies that you wanted to. This one has eight prerequisites, two of those can be a cost or operational challenge, and I want to talk about that in a minute, but in general a lot of this is very similar to WELL Health-Safety. You’re looking at the same policies and procedures related to cleaning, hand hygiene, PPE Guidelines, etc. So the cost and operational challenges here associated with the prerequisites are, the ventilation prerequisite requires that your ventilation system provides 30 percent more ventilation than is required by code. As Jenna mentioned, this can be a challenge with some of your existing buildings with older infrastructure; perhaps the system wasn’t designed to have 30 percent increase ventilation, and it would require significant capital cost, you’re looking at equipment replacement and possibly ductwork replacement. So that can be a sticking point in older buildings. Then the sick leave prerequisite, it requires 53 hours of paid sick leave separate from your PTO; that could be a sticking point for some companies as well.
D. Richey: So in the next slide I want to talk about RESET Air Index. RESET was actually developed well before the pandemic in 2014 but in response to the pandemic they came out with RESET Air Index. I want to first say RESET is not a rating system like WELL Health-Safety Rating or Fitwel Viral Response Module. It’s a standard related to indoor air quality monitoring, so we’re looking at monitoring the temperature, particulate matter, VOC’s, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide within your space, and relative humidity. What they did with RESET Air Index is, they took all of those elements that you’re monitoring in your building and they combined that with some scientific data related to virus health, how easily viruses can be transmitted in the building, and several other things, and came up with an infection potential. So on the next slide I want to show you what that looks like.
D. Richey: So here you can see the RESET Air Index and basically they’ve taken all that data and based on the relative humidity temperature, particulate matter, VOC’s, and the scientific data that they’ve looked at, they’re saying that this building is 98% optimized for human health. Again, this is based on the data that’s available and out there, but the idea is that this can help provide your occupants with confidence about the air quality within your space. So on the next slide I want to look at costs for all of these. We talked about the WELL Health-Safety Rating, the Fitwel Viral Response Module, and RESET Air. The cost for WELL Health-Safety and Fitwel Viral Response is quite low all around, looking at registration certification and capital costs; so our registration and certification is five thousand dollars or less and capital costs could be as low as zero, it could be up to 30 if you’re looking at capital improvements to increase your ventilation but I think it’s important to note that it could be as low as zero and this could easily be determined by a preliminary ventilation assessment. RESET has a much higher capital cost because you’re looking at adding indoor air quality monitors throughout your space. In this example here, we’ve said a 200,000 gross square foot building with a thousand employees is going to be about $100,000 capital cost, could be much less depending on the size of your space. Then lastly this slide here is to show the WELL Health-Safety Rating and Fitwel Viral Response Module has pricing that is scalable, so you can see that instead of $4,200 per building to achieve WELL Health-Safety Rating, if you have 10 buildings it would be $10,000 total. Fitwel VRM is very similar; instead of $5000 per building, if you have ten buildings you’re looking at $6800. So this is a great thing to be able to apply on a large scale for an entire portfolio.
M. Thompson: Great, Danna, thanks very much. So we have about 11 minutes remaining and we do have some questions coming in. So I’d like to do the best we can to get those answered the first question that came in is this, and that is what type of inspection reports can be used by a building manager? I’d open that up to the panel.
A. Bare: Are we talking about for the certification process or just for the IAQ portion of work?
M. Thompson: Let’s assume that it means for the IAQ.
A. Bare: Okay well I would certainly say a test and balance report is very useful. Really everything existing that you might have as far as the existing equipment would be useful for anybody doing an assessment. I’m not sure if I answered the question but more information would help.
M. Thompson: Okay we’ll see if any more of that comes in. Another question, and Danna I think this is for you, is, does it make sense for an FM to pursue one certification more than another?
D. Richey: Yeah that’s a really good question. I think it’s very dependent upon the building owner or tenant goals and also dependent upon the condition of their existing systems. As I mentioned earlier, Fitwel Viral Response Module has a prerequisite to increase ventilation by 30 percent. So if you have an older building with a system that wasn’t designed to do that, that can be quite difficult and have a large capital cost so that might rule out that option. In that case WELL Health-Safety Rating would be a better fit. Then if you’re more interested in monitoring indoor air quality in your space and reporting that information to the occupants, RESET Air Index or RESET Air would be a really good choice. It’s really dependent upon the goals of the owner and you can always achieve more than one.
M. Thompson: Great Danna thanks very much. Another question that has come in: if we’re planning to reopen in September when should we start and really what should be step one?
A. Bare: September, so that’s five months. I would say start as soon as you can. I say that only because you don’t know what you’re gonna find, so it wouldn’t hurt to start sooner rather than later and if you don’t find much and you can implement the strategies easily that’s great, but if you find out you need to do more work, it gives you more breathing room to get the work done.
M. Thompson: Yeah and assuming start means, hey step one should really be bring in a qualified team to perform an indoor air quality study. Is that a correct assumption Adam?
A. Bare: Yes.
M. Thompson: Okay great, thank you.
J. Grygier: I also want to add one thing, during these special times we’re in there’s long lead times for a lot of the pieces like filters, any sort of air cleaning devices. So keep that in mind too that lead times can really dictate your time schedule right now.
M. Thompson: Great insight, Jenna thanks very much. A couple of other questions that are coming in so thanks very much for sending these in folks. if we’re considering replacing an HVAC system in one of our buildings what design enhancements should we be considering?
A. Bare: Yeah I can take that one. Well like we said before, it’s not a one size fits all, really depends on the building and the age of the systems and also the type of spaces. One thing I think we didn’t get a chance to really talk through is the IAQ assessment work and how that might go, but another part of that would be performing a risk assessment and providing a tailored response to identify the high-risk areas. So if you’re going to replace the mechanical system, you’ve identified you have a problem with the mechanical system, like we said before would be a holistic approach. You really ought to be thinking about, okay well it’s not just the mechanical system, it’s not just the air handler or the RTU and the ductwork, it’s about the space and the occupants and the controls. The controls is a big piece of it so we would suggest taking a step back and saying, ‘okay well what are the available funds to replace the system and how much can we get with that?’ For example, you might even consider putting in a different type of system. Jenna mentioned earlier that most of the applications in these existing buildings are mixed air systems but depending on the space type, maybe that’s not the right thing for you. Overhead mixing is common but depending on the spacing and social distancing and all that, you might decide that underfloor air distribution or displacement ventilation is better. Then back to the controls and that is typically a building-wide issue, but depending on type of control system you have you might decide to go ahead and replace the controls at the same time, and if you can or if you have a good control system already, putting in some enhanced system controls. Jenna mentioned earlier about how you control your outside air, that’s a really important thing, and these are cheap things to employ if you have somewhat of a sophisticated control system. Duct pressure reset, demand control ventilation, all these areas into having an automatic building flush post and before occupancy so that it’s all automatic, I think it would be better. The other part would be energy recovery so let’s say you decide that one of the strategies you want to employ would be, let’s go ahead and bump up our outside air some, then you might consider putting an energy recovery on from the exhaust side, if it’s convenient and you have the money. We would also suggest doing a detailed review; we talked about the filtration a lot today, obviously that’s something to focus on and try to get at least MERV 13 filters in your air equipment. Then two more points: one would be looking at the air distribution to the spaces especially the high risk spaces, and try to increase your air distribution effectiveness as much as you can to get air into all corners of the room. Lastly look at air cleaning strategies, so Jenna talked earlier about on the room side, if you have room side air cleaners for high risk areas, that’s a good strategy on the air side that’s back into the clean air calculation and whether that’s more cost effective than increasing your outside air or your filtration.
M. Kleiber: I think if I can make one comment on that. We need really before you start, because Adam’s brought up a lot of different ideas, it’s really important that owner’s performance requirements document what are we trying to achieve in that space with that HVAC, step back and really define those requirements so the right system can be identified with all that stuff that Adam just talked about.
M. Thompson: Good point, thanks Michelle, thanks Adam. A clarification to the earlier question, the inspection report that they’re interested in finding out what’s most applicable, are those that can be done by say an on-site maintenance tech. Right, what kind of stuff could they be doing that would give an indication of the condition of the HVAC system? Does that help?
A. Bare: That does help, yeah, definitely. We spent a lot of time today talking about the filters, definitely doing a detailed assessment of that, taking pictures. If you’re going to hire a consultant to help you that’s great, but you can do a lot of the work that Jenna described with the maintenance staff. I would say a lot of this investigation doesn’t necessarily have to be done by an engineer.
M. Thompson: Okay great, thank you for that. One last question and will probably be our last question as we’re coming up on time: what is upper room UVGI? So obviously I don’t know what that is; what type of applications are good candidates for employing that strategy? I think that’s a question for the Newcomb and Boyd team.
A. Bare: Yes well let me describe what upper room UVGI is. I actually should have said earlier, we’ve got room side disinfection and we have system side disinfection, and we’ve been careful today to talk about these air cleaning strategies because these are really two entirely different strategies. So this is on the room side, and what that would mean is if you have a high risk area that is going to be densely occupied with people, maybe like a dining area or a fitness room or a training room where people are going to be sitting close to each other and not be physical distancing and maybe not wearing masks with COVID, but even beyond COVID those are good applications for it. What it is, it’s a ceiling fan or a whole bunch of ceiling fans with UV up high in the room and it creates a kill zone up high in the room. So it effectively cleans the room, much like the portable air cleaners you’ve seen but more effectively, so that if you are concerned about a very high risk area it’s a great application. On the downside it costs money and there’s the aesthetic side, so that’s why we’re saying it’s typically a good fit for dining areas or fitness rooms or training rooms with high ceilings because you’re going to have ceiling fans.
M. Thompson: Okay, very helpful Adam, thanks very much. We are coming right up on time, so I want to say thank you again to our panel and thank you to all of you who attended the webinar today. If you have questions and we haven’t been able to answer them for you, please send it to the email address you see there: [email protected]. If you’d like a copy of the presentation, you can request it at the same email and we will get it out to you. Again, I want to thank our panel, I really appreciate your time and preparation, and I want to thank all of you who attended and give you a reminder that our next webinar will be in June. Stay tuned, we look forward to you joining us again. Thanks very much, everyone.