Global sustainable building technology society ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force released guidance in recent weeks on mitigating potential health risks during reopening of buildings closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems.
ASHRAE’s recommendations for building readiness and reopening include the following:
- Create a strategic plan prior to opening a building. The plan should include measures to make occupants feel safer, ensuring supply chain for critical items such as filters and communication plans for building support and safety measures for occupants.
- If the building opening takes place when Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements are still in place, ASHRAE’s Occupancy Guides can be referenced to deal with functioning buildings during the epidemic.
- Review HVAC programming to provide flushing two hours before and post occupancies. This includes operating the exhaust fans as well as opening the outside air dampers. For buildings without the capacity to treat large quantities of outside air and when outside air conditions are moderate, open all windows for a minimum of two hours before reoccupation.
- Ensure that custodial scope includes proper cleaning procedures built from EPA and CDC guidance on approved products and methods:
- Disinfect high-touch areas of HVAC and other building service systems (e.g. on/off switches, thermostats)
- Disinfect the interior of refrigerated devices, e.g. refrigerators, where the virus can potentially survive for long periods of time.
- Run the system on minimum outside air when unoccupied.
- Garage exhaust, if any, should run two hours before occupancy.
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