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COVID HVAC Safety Measures Can Raise Energy Spend by 70% Without Proper Visibility

As we learn more about how COVID spreads indoors, beyond masks, social distancing and surface cleaning, commercial real estate owners are thinking critically about the role that HVAC safety plays in our “New Normal”.

Aside from the CDC, ASHRAE has been a key stakeholder in defining COVID building ventilation requirements — and it’s no question that the guidelines are conservative, but if blindly implemented, energy costs will skyrocket.

Consider the average 115,000 sq. ft. office building in Los Angeles. It likely has a central plant with air handler units and an annual baseline energy expense of $230,000.

ASHRAE COVID guidelines include:

  • Installing ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI)
  • Replacing HVAC air filters with MERV 13 filters
  • Increasing air changes per hour (ASHRAE)
  • Disabling demand control ventilation (DCV)
  • Bringing in 100% outdoor air 24 hours a day

If that building bluntly implements all ASHRAE measures, we estimate utility spend will balloon to $370,000, nearly 70% higher.

However, if that building implemented a more science- and data-backed approach — with real estate software and proptech that inform more strategic energy efficiency measures — it can achieve the same level of safety and comfort while only seeing energy expenses rise to $260,000, closer to 13%. 

Excessive building energy consumption is nothing new.

Prior to COVID, inadequate building controls and a lack of data to manage those controls left operating teams without visibility into daily operations. 

The typical building owner doesn’t have access to trained engineers and scientists — those who can analyze myriad research reports to dial in the most efficient ways to implement COVID measures for HVAC resilience. On top of that, building owners have different liability needs and expectations for tenant HVAC safety.

But with the right partners — using proptech like AI for real estate and HVAC analytics — the rise of COVID becomes a unique opportunity to provide safer work environments while also investing in the right mix of technologies that minimize its financial impact.

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