Entering a new year with the coronavirus pandemic, facility managers have distilled best practices for health and safety from the hard-learned lessons of 2020. All kinds of buildings, from offices to hospitals to universities, have been radically changed to accommodate new ways of both doing business and providing a safe workplace. Before the pandemic, building managers were most interested in keeping costs down while delivering comfort to building occupants. Now, they are keen on ensuring cleanliness and safety and alleviating people’s fear and anxiety about returning to work.
HVAC front and center
Air-handling and HVAC systems are a primary area where improvements are being made. Facility managers are following the guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ASHRAE in retooling HVAC systems, which include doubling the amount of outside air coming into a building, according to Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of facilities management at Western Michigan University. Such practices cost more money, since a facility will then need to spend more on air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. “It’s cold outside in southwest Michigan,” Strazdas says, “so we are using a lot more energy to heat buildings. We are increasing outside fresh air in spaces and will do so through the pandemic.