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WSJ: Why Covid-19 Makes It Harder for Cities to Fight Climate Change

Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal
Article by Konrad Putzier, July 21, 2020

The Wall Street Journal asked our co-founder Brenden Millstein how landlords and property managers can avoid a surge in office-building energy costs — and carbon emissions — as they pump in more outside air to keep workers safe in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Making real estate more energy-efficient is considered crucial to slowing down global warming. But as cities try to reduce carbon emissions at office buildings, that goal is now colliding with efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Amid fears of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, some building owners find that they face a choice between lowering their energy use and keeping tenants safer from infection.

Buildings and construction account for 39% of all energy-related carbon emissions, according to a 2019 report by the United Nations Environment Programme. Some states and cities have adopted aggressive targets to reduce building emissions, along with fines for landlords who overshoot the cap.

Studies show that the new coronavirus is airborne and can linger in indoor spaces, putting office workers at risk — so the trade group ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) urged property managers in April to consider keeping HVAC systems running for 24 hours a day and bringing in more outside air.

But because outside air typically has to be heated in the winter or cooled in the summer, it uses up more energy than merely recirculating indoor air.

Following the most extreme air-safety measures would increase the carbon emissions for a typical office building by about 50%, says Millstein.

Some states and cities have adopted aggressive targets to reduce building emissions — and they’re issuing fines for landlords who overshoot the cap.

But property owners can achieve a balance by installing more advanced filters or adjusting HVAC system settings when buildings are empty to make the air cleaner.

Read the full article here.

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