May 2020

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Controlling and reporting temperature, humidity and airflow have never been more important for a building to operate safely.
Scott CochraneScott Cochrane
President, CEO
Cochrane Supply & Engineering

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I was recently standing in line outside a large home goods store to pick up an order, just waiting for them to bring it out.  As I stood there quietly wearing my face mask, six feet away from the quiet people on either side of me, I felt this new social pressure.  When I saw the cart coming with my order, I jumped out of line to grab it. In doing so, I was suddenly inside the social-distancing space of the man behind me. He awkwardly tried to move and ended up falling onto the ground yelling at me while trying to get his mask back on.  I froze and realized that if I tried to help the poor fella, it would make the situation even worse—so I just apologized and refrained from any additional movement.   

This is not the NEW NORMAL… It’s an entirely new world full of PRESSURE.  PRESSURE from shrinking industries, from limited capabilities, and on my business for operating safely… PRESSURE on my personal life with three kids who are now permanent residents, like caged animals… PRESSURE to get my article DONE for Uncle Ken… Just kidding…

It’s not normal at all. To me, this is the LIFE AFTER. 

BUT>>>> I’m not the only one feeling pressure—the buildings we serve have new pressures as well.  PRESSURE to OPEN… PRESSURE to be SAFE… PRESSURE to OPERATE in NEW WAYS.

There are new design PRESSURES on new HVAC systems.  The system not only needs to meet local requirements for weather swings, fresh air and energy efficiency, but now they must also be designed to meet aerosol safety standards as well.  The Joint Commission, which creates standards for healthcare, has advised that all dirty utility rooms be negatively pressurized. I’m pretty sure janitors’ closets count as dirty utility rooms that could create a big HVAC challenge. We may see many new sequences of operation adopted into the HVAC industry to help make our buildings a safer place against dangerous aerosols.  We might re-task the old night purge sequence for a whole new purpose such as keeping the building ready for new occupants by changing the air over as occupancy fluctuates.

We, as an industry, may be selling solutions to help open buildings safely for the unforeseeable future.  So what does safe mean? Can the HVAC system make the building safer during the pandemic emergency?  According to our super smart friends at ASHRAE… YES! They have just released a position paper with recommendations on some engineered guidelines to help make buildings safer if exposed to infectious aerosols.  I encourage you to read the ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols, as it has some sound strategies to consider.  As the position document points out, controlling airflow effectively and granularly allows the building to adopt emergency strategies to move air more effectively to reduce the potential aerosol spread, depending on the use case of the building. 

IT’S ALL ABOUT BAS!!!  We have the data; we have the control; we can help make this happen in new systems and old. 

This is the challenge we have been waiting for… A NEW CAUSE FOR BAS!!!!  Controlling and reporting temperature, humidity and airflow have never been more important for a building to operate safely.  Making sure a BAS system is working properly can be directly correlated to making the building a safer place. The ability to modify control strategies to reduce the risk to occupants, as well as the system itself, has the ability to report back KPI’s for indoor air quality and other measures that point out the actual conditions to the occupants.  This information will hopefully make them feel a little safer to enter that building knowing it’s under control.  A NEW INDUSTRY may have just been born? 

Let us not forget where we came from… As we teach our young temperature control engineers, in order to control comfort, you have to control pressure. And with our new situation, controlling pressure has never been more important.   

As my mentor Norman S. Miller once told me (whose experience spanned 30 years at Honeywell followed by 20 years at Cochrane Supply):

”A building is a PRESSURE puzzle; we just have to put the pieces together.”


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