Many commercial buildings that were almost vacant during the pandemic are now welcoming back employees and patrons, while facility managers are focusing on ways to optimize indoor air quality to reduce the spread of illnesses like COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), increasing outside air inside a facility helps flush out contaminants that may be inside buildings.

“Outside air is essential to maintaining air quality indoors,” said Justin Farnsworth, general manager with the Muller Co. and past president of the Utah Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA Utah). “But anytime that you increase outside air intake into a building during a hot summer day, it will decrease efficiency of your central cooling systems.”

While improving occupant comfort and air quality in buildings can often create added cost, the key to avoiding budget challenges is maintaining energy efficiency. Farnsworth said he was able to reduce energy use at Canyon Park Technology Center in Orem by more than 6 million kilowatt hours per year through efficiency upgrades and practices. He said better energy efficiency often means better building performance.

“When building owners are paying close attention to their systems while pursuing energy efficiency, we find that many aspects of that system operate better — specifically, indoor air quality and tenant comfort,” said Farnsworth.

Other measures the CDC suggests for workplace health include increasing total airflow supply to occupied spaces, ensuring exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied and using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement to help inactivate viruses.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Wattsmart Business program offers a number of incentives to help building managers continue to leverage and maintain energy efficiency as they take steps to improve indoor air quality and make buildings healthier for workers. Details are at Wattsmart.com.

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