COVID-19 Risk Reduction Strategies and HVAC System Energy Impact

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SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus identified as the cause of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has put a significant strain on all aspects of life, including the closure of many public and commercial buildings. For over a year, building operation specialists have been studying how to reopen buildings safely, given the mounting scientific evidence that aerosol transmission poses a risk and transmission pathway.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of natural disasters, professional organizations have been advocating for the industry to incorporate and design commercial buildings for resiliency. At its core, the concept of resilience is the capacity to adapt, maintain or regain functionality throughout a disturbance or interruption of operations. The organizations supporting this concept include but are not limited to the: The American Institute of Architects (AIA), the Resilient Design Institute (RDI) and the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

This report summarizes the leading institutions’ COVID-19 mitigation recommendations for commercial ventilation systems, including:

1. Evaluates a COVID-19 mitigation strategy of increasing a building’s outdoor air by utilizing mechanical ventilation to reduce viral transmission risk.
2. Evaluates how increasing outdoor air as a strategy impacts the operational energy costs for three types of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, a Very High Efficiency Dedicated Outdoor Air System and two types of conventional mixed-air systems; packaged single zone variable air volume systems and a packaged multi-zone system.
3. Reviews the resiliency benefits of a Very High Efficiency DOAS system in building operations.
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