Energy and Smart Building Industry Blog

Energy and Smart Building Industry Blog

How To Get Buildings Ready To Reopen Following COVID Closures

Monday June 22, 2020
By: Phoenix Energy Technologies

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Buildings are not designed to be shut down for months. When reopening any building to employees and customers, facility managers need to follow ASHRAE, government, and state guidance on how to prepare and maintain buildings for the immediate future. 


ASHRAE Air Quality & Water Recommendations

Over the last few months, ASHRAE has put out a number of COVID-19 resources on the safe operation of HVAC and building water management systems.

ASHRAE's detailed list includes advice such as:

  • Establish a reopening plan that focuses on occupants' health and well-being, with PPE, communications, and safety measures outlined
  • Follow HVAC guidance of flushing two hours before and after a building is occupied, which includes operating exhaust fans and opening outside air dampers. 
    • Make use of windows to flush air for two hours before occupancy, where a building cannot treat large quantities of outside air.
  • Follow EPA and CDC guidelines to disinfect touchpoints (system controls, on/off switches, thermostats, etc.) and the inside of refrigeration devices where the virus may survive for longer periods.
  • Run building systems on minimum outside air when vacant.
  • Run garage exhaust for two hours before being occupied.     
  • Develop a water management plan to reduce risks of waterborne pathogens 
  • Follow guidance by ASHRAE's Epidemic Task Force.
  • Follow ASHRAE's Position Document on “Infectious Aerosols” and advice in their Emerging Issues Brief.

More resources and strategies on reopening buildings can be found at ashrae.org/COVID19.

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CDC Recommendations

The CDC has advised on keeping occupants (employees, maintenance workers, visitors, etc.) safe as buildings reopen. Their Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers outlines practical health checks, tips, and PPE gear employers need to use to ensure the health of employees. 

The CDC encourages facility managers to make checks before opening according to ASHRAE's Standard 180-2018 and warns that when considering opening windows and doors, potential safety issues should be considered, such as leaving doors open around children.  

The CDC advises that building mechanical and life systems should be checked before reopening to catch any hazards due to prolonged shutdowns, such as mold, rodents/pests, and stagnant water issues.

Finally, the CDC provides guidance on a number of worker-safety issues, to include:

  • Protecting workers from COVID exposure by developing a hazard assessment and implementing plans based on that assessment
  • Reducing exposure via office layouts (furniture, workstations, employing barriers, etc.)
  • Increasing air filtration to a level that will not diminish airflow (MERV 13 or 14)
  • Employing portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) systems in high-risk areas
  • Developing administrative changes in how people work to minimize infection
    • Roster changes to stagnant how many people come together and spacing 
    • Encourage sick employees to follow CDC recommendations
    • Generally stay on top of potential health issues with consistent health checks, disinfection, and social distancing 

More CDC resource links and OSHA links they recommend can be found here


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EPA Recommendations

The EPA has issued joint guidance along with the CDC to clean and disinfect all spaces, whether home, small business, schools, or commercial buildings. They have also released information on maintaining or restoring water quality in buildings with low or no use, which includes such advice as:

  • Review and inspect plumbing configuration and water usage 
  • Reach out to the applicable water utility to check on water quality in the distribution area
  • Maintain all water treatment and hot water systems
  • Flush plumbing system regularly
  • Maintain all non-drinking water systems in the building
  • Develop a water management plan as per the CDC's toolkit


How Phoenix Can Help 

We conduct audits through automated building control systems that will keep you up to date to answer building occupant questions on air quality. We can assess the condition of your air conditioning units through checking Delta T, CO2, and temperatures in your buildings. And if you are adding any connectable new pieces of equipment, we can monitor those through our system as well. 

Please reach out to us below if you would like an evaluation on how we can assist during these times.

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Additional Resources

Managing Associate and Customer Comfort in Retail's New Normal
Challenges Facing Facility Managers As Social Distancing Is Relaxed And Doors Reopen
How To Test The Quality Of Your Preventative Maintenance
Don't Wait For Building Upgrades To Save Money On Energy

Posted in: Building Management, Equipment Maintenance