NAVIGATING THE "NEW NORMAL" AMID COVID-19

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HVAC Resilience for COVID and Beyond

HVAC Resilience for COVID and Beyond
July 29, 2020 Lily Backer

Recently, we partnered with Facility Executive to bring together three masters in energy management to discuss the key strategies behind operating an asset in the New Normal. Dan Mestas, VP and Engineering Manager of Bank of Hawaii, Gregg Fischer of Fischer Energy Partners, and our very own Matt Ganser, EVP of Engineering and Technology all weighed in on how proptech plays a unique role in balancing building safety with the financial and operational goals of the asset. 

We kicked off the conversation with a poll to gauge where the audience stood, and nearly unanimously, 96% of the 350+ attendees agreed that it’s time for commercial buildings to be modernized with new technologies. Mestas, who took his background in industrial energy management to Bank of Hawaii’s portfolio, the challenges brought on by COVID. He reflected, “I was in a situation where some of my building’s weren’t as modernized and I was depending on qualitative observations, which showed the need for more data to see what’s going on my buildings as well as control what’s going on.” 

Bank of Hawaii is not only an operator, but also a tenant, so as shelter in place began, Mestas played a unique role as both, working hand in hand with his landlords to meet CDC and ASHRAE guidelines while making sure his own portfolio achieved the same. Commenting on his own portfolio, “…I had to manage energy savings while thinking about tenant safety.”

And Mestas is not alone. With ASHRAE and the CDC recommending aggressive, energy consumptive measures, many operators are asking, “what’s the most responsible route to take?” Ganser reflected that the smartest road is pairing COVID-19 measures “down the middle.” He painted the picture of how technology and data insights can help, “In a 100,000 square foot office building, if you implement the ASHRAE COVID measures bluntly, your energy bill would balloon by seventy-five percent to $400,000. But we believe you can implement the same level of safety and comfort, and only hit $250,000.” 

Ganser noted that buildings had plenty of excess consumption before, this is only being exacerbated by the implementation of new measures with a lack of data and controls. “We believe conservatism is warranted from a risk perspective, but our view is that some of these measures are going to be expensive up front and operationally. Outdoor and HEPA filtration is reasonable, but we think there are ways to achieve this without the high expense,” Ganser said. 

With great data comes great responsibility. But as Fischer called out, that data must first be captured – enter advanced sensors. When measuring anything from standard comfort, indoor air quality, particulate matter, or occupancy, sensors capture key data that help operators gain important visibility. However, the data captured can feel overwhelming without the right AI-enabled technologies to turn those insights into actionable strategies. “Imagine looking at 100,000 columns on a spreadsheet that are updating every fifteen minutes. No human can crank through that raw data. We need informed solutions to help us course-correct.”

Our patented AI platform CLUES® was designed from the beginning to deliver actionable energy efficiency measures to our clients. Now, we apply the same data and analytics to help preserve tenant safety while minimizing the potential unnecessary impact to asset energy use and expenses. As Fischer commented, “Time of uncertainty gives way to amazing things. I’ve noticed that technology can really help us all.” 

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