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Strategies for a Safer and More Humane Built Environment

The great news is that we have the technology to make our buildings safer and adaptable in order to minimise transmission of COVID-19
Philip JuneauPhilip R. Juneau
Chief Commercial Officer
Automated Technology Company (ATC),
Vice President

KNX USA National Group

This article excerpt appears courtesy of KNXtoday.com

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This article excerpt appears courtesy of KNXtoday.com

Thanks to COVID-19, we are experiencing change in so many ways, which has left us feeling uneasy, to say the least. As we very cautiously enter back into social and business environments, we are not sure what our future interactions will be like. With so much information being thrown our way, deciphering it all in order to adjust our lifestyles can be daunting.

Despite all of this, the great news is that we have the technology to make our buildings safer and adaptable in order to minimise transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses; my previous articles demonstrate how KNX and its peer protocols and standards can achieve this. To properly implement the technology, we need to move towards a performance-based solutions approach, as opposed to solely technology based on a first-cost approach. This is where value-engineering must come into focus.

For a safer environment, we need to implement strategies within the design, implementation and operation of our buildings, as follows:

      -  Enforcement of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
   -  Building technology adaptation to spatial dynamics.
   -  'Green-up' to augment technology with biophilia.    

I believe that all three strategies, when implemented together, can combat future pandemics by reducing viral transmission and allowing flexibility of occupancy.

Enforcement of IAQ

IAQ is nothing new - it has been addressed extremely well over the years to deal with what is known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). SBS is blamed when people suffer from headaches and respiratory problems, attributed to unhealthy or stressful factors in the built environment. There may be myriad reasons for it, but it is mainly due to an inadequately designed, operated, or maintained HVAC system. I have often seen properly-designed HVAC systems in new building projects being adapted due to budget constraints or under-fulfilment of specifications, without consequence. This can no longer be tolerated if we are to provide safe, comfortable and efficient buildings.

All we need to do is hold true to the standards required and we avoid SBS whilst providing the contrary – a healthy, sustainable environment. Being in building controls, it is crucial to have HVAC systems which provide more-than-adequate air exchange capacity, coupled with outdoor air, and temperature and humidity supply to occupied spaces. Naturally, these functions come at additional cost to the status-quo systems which are not mechanically able to provide them – even with the best controls – but they actually cost less overall from a lifecycle perspective (i.e., investment plus operational costs over the equipment lifetime).
 

moz

Image – energy standard

Caption - Example of a building standard - the European Norm (EN) EN15232 that supports a healthy building and alleviating SBS (sources: (1) KNX Association (2) Building Automation and Control (BAC) efficiency classes to standard EN 15232).

Building technology adaptation to spatial dynamics

Now that we have covered IAQ within the space, let's look at the new conditions within the building, i.e., the spatial dynamics. Specifically, occupancy of the building will require flexibility of the space in order to adhere to distance requirements, which future standards will dictate. The technology exists to be able to adapt to such fluctuating 'core business' activities such as meetings, individual workplaces, dining, and other common areas. For HVAC and lighting controls, this means that we should provide control down to the end-device level, i.e. the air diffuser/box and lighting luminaire.

For example, a common area having flex-desks for salespeople, who are mostly on the road, will require a 'home-base' for administration and collaborative meeting purposes; this is nothing new. However, such office space in the future may be structurally adaptable with flexible partitioning, and mobility of both desks and IT technology. If this is the case, the space itself will be fully adaptable for HVAC and lighting (both artificial and natural daylighting), since we are able to control down to the occupant space level. Adaptation to these dynamic spatial requirements mandates flexibility of this nature, so we only need to employ the technology based on the said functional dynamics within the building.

 2

Image – building adaptation
Caption - Building adaptation to a dynamic working environment, whilst ensuring safety, comfort and efficiency within the building (source:  Automated Technology Company (ATC) www.atcjomo.com).

Green-up to augment technology with biophilia

Interior 'plantscaping' may not be the realm of building trade engineering consultants and contractors, but it is a crucial part of the mix. Employing plants together with building technology not only augments IAQ but also creates an ideal work environment for employees by connecting them back to nature. The term 'biophilia' was coined by the Harvard naturalist Dr Edward O. Wilson to describe what he saw as humanity's 'innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes, and to be drawn toward nature, to feel an affinity for it, a love, a craving' (source: Miriam Webster dictionary). Being technically-minded, I was completely unaware of biophilia until introduced to the concept by my green-fingered sister.


biophilia

Image - biophilia
Caption - Biophilic design within the building – the natural, aesthetically-pleasing and healthy way to augment artificial HVAC systems (source: Cityscapes www.bostoncityscapes.com/portfolio/biophilia/)

To continue reading, click here <knxtoday.com/2020/07/16220/view-from-america-strategies-for-a-safer-and-more-humane-built-environment.html

About the Author

Philip R. Juneau is the Chief Commercial Officer for Automated Technology Company (ATC), and Vice President of the KNX USA National Group. ATC's mission is to transform today's buildings into tomorrow's net-zero infrastructure by ensuring the highest levels of safety, comfort and efficiency for the overall well-being of the occupants and the overall environment.


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