high performance office iaq

Healthy Building Discovery Workshop Recap

If you missed R-Zero’s recent workshop on healthy building discovery, here’s a quick recap that covers how to improve building performance, reduce operating costs, and enhance indoor air quality.

The Three Causes of Expensive Ventilation Practices

Building owners and managers face a triple threat of rising ventilation expenses. The three main factors are electricity prices, HVAC system and installation prices, and the demand for higher indoor air quality.

  1. Electricity Costs: Over the past ten years, electricity prices have gone up by about 80%.
  2. HVAC Costs: In the last couple of years, the cost of HVAC equipment has significantly outpaced the overall inflation rate. The cost of equipment is outpacing inflation now by 37% as of November 2023.
  3. Indoor Air Quality Requirements: The requirements themselves are getting stricter. This focus on cleaner indoor air helps buildings ‌establish and maintain healthy environments, but it isn’t free.

These increased costs can be mitigated through smart management practices that work with what you already have in place. Here are three key strategies that work with what’s available to keep your building healthy and happy.

1. Adjust Energy Usage Based on Occupancy

A typical office building spends 30% of its energy budget on space heating, 7% on air conditioning, 12% on lighting, and 20% on ventilation. That adds up to 69% of a building’s energy used in just the HVAC system and lighting. Hospitals spend, on average, about three times as much energy per square foot as an office building. 

The simplest way to save energy is to turn down the HVAC system and lighting when people are not occupying the space. Many buildings are already doing some version of this, but it can be hard to do precisely. To do this accurately, real-time occupancy data is required, which can be obtained with low-cost sensors and smart software, like R-Zero’s real-time sensors, which provide comprehensive data and insights.

2. Increase Your Indoor Air Quality

During times when infection risk is higher – such as cold and flu season, you may want to increase your building’s level of ventilation to gain an extra level of safety for the people in your space. You could increase the amount of outdoor air your building takes in, but then you’ll have to be heating and cooling that air, and pumping more electricity into the ventilation system. This is very costly for building owners. 

Your other option is to increase your building’s indoor air quality with ultraviolet germidical disinfection, UV-C light, which cleans the air directly in each room. Turning on a UV-C light product uses significantly less energy than increasing your usage of the ventilation and heating systems. This will save building owners money while making their space more efficient. 

3. Ventilate As Necessary

When it comes to providing adequate ventilation, it’s possible to go too far. The most common way to figure out how much ventilation your building needs is based on occupancy. Most people use their projected occupancy to calculate their building requirements and never go back to adjust it dynamically. 

However, if you continuously monitor your building’s indoor air quality, you’ll be able to identify times and places where you can turn down the HVAC usage to save on energy costs. Of course, in order to do this, you need to be continuously measuring your indoor air quality, which can be done with a few smart sensors around your building.

A Few Benefits of Monitoring Your Spaces

Real-time monitoring can provide valuable data for smarter space planning and utilization. This not only helps in saving energy, but also in using the available space more effectively and efficiently. For instance, if 1-2 people usually use your conference rooms, you may want to adjust your furniture and space layout to accommodate that pattern.

Knowing your building’s usage patterns allows your environmental services team to practice smarter cleaning. Rather than treating all spaces equally, they can give extra attention to high-volume spaces, where their contributions will make the biggest health difference.

The Major Takeaway

All of the solutions covered in the workshop are accessible for your building. You don’t need to install an entirely new HVAC system or learn how to operate a complicated new air handler. All it takes is low-cost sensing equipment and software to run your building more efficiently. The technology you invest in should enable your team, not frustrate your team.

Additionally, these are the kinds of strategies that build on each other. You can start small by implementing one solution and continue to update your system step-by-step as resources allow.

You can escape the doom cycle of increasing cost into ‌a virtuous cycle where every improvement reduces cost. Contact us today to get set up with the monitoring technology to transform your building into a high-performance building.

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