In BOMA Canada’s first webinar of 2022, Ainsworth’s own VP Business Development, Steve Horwood, presented HVAC Operation & Omicron – What landlords and tenants need to know about potential risks and mitigation measures with Luke Leung, Team Leader, “Commercial Buildings” for the ASHRAE COVID-19 Task Force.
Participants were updated on the latest research into airborne transmission of COVID-19 through HVAC systems and were equipped with strategies to help.
For Horwood, and the team at Ainsworth, the most important thing is giving clear guidance to clients amid a growing number of new claims and instructions that may be confusing and overwhelming.
“As building service providers our role is to help make sense of this information for our customers, so they can make the most informed decisions,” he said.
While moving through the pandemic, Horwood explains that we’ve had many “stages” of guidance during the pandemic, including focus on touch, social distancing, masks, and finally airborne transmission.
Now, with Omicron bringing airborne transmission to the forefront even further, Horwood and Leung believe Indoor Air Quality will be here to stay long past COVID-19.
Ainsworth’s smartIAQ program has been guiding clients on indoor air quality best practices since its launch in 2020, with its main components of ventilation, filtration, environmental conditions, and occupancy management remaining as the pillars of good indoor air quality in buildings.
As HVAC wellness becomes the new normal, Horwood and Leung discussed balancing Indoor Air Quality needs based on cost vs. risk.
While UVC systems and portable air cleaners can improve indoor air quality if you’re using the right products, Leung stresses that the best and most cost-effective technique is upgrading to a MERV 13 filter.
Not all filters are made equal though, and your services provider will need to ensure there are no gaps – but Leung assures that MERV 13 does not normally contribute to a significant pressure drop or cost difference.
It can be difficult to decide what strategies meet a building’s needs, which is why Ainsworth has created a free and easy online calculator to demonstrate the benefits of using MERV 13 or other devices within your space, navigating ASHRAE’s formula for outdoor air equivalency.
“You just need nominal knowledge about HVAC systems,” said Horwood. “You can slot in your square footage, height, what MERV filter you are using, if you’re using UVC, if you’re using HEPA.”
Looking to the future, Ainsworth has begun a partnership with Poppy, a contaminant detection technology company with the capability of measuring the presence of contaminants and pathogens in the space or in the return of supply air.
“This technology gives us the opportunity to measure the effectiveness of our IAQ measures,” said Horwood.
In the end, Horwood stresses that there are two types of readiness we all need when it comes to buildings: technical, and emotional.
While technical readiness is all about having the mechanical features one needs for a healthy building, emotional readiness means instilling confidence in tenants and clients by having good communication and clear guidance.
“It is not just about being safe, it’s about feeling safe,” Horwood says.