Office Buildings: Reopening a Healthy Indoor Environment for Occupants and the Planet
When you work at New Buildings Institute, you are constantly engaged in questions on how to make all buildings like the best new buildings – functional design, efficient technologies, smart operating practices, comfortable occupancy environments, and low-emissions to benefit people and the planet. This drives our interests and our efforts, and there has never been a challenge like the COVID-19 pandemic to drive attention to the relationship of buildings, ventilation, and occupants. In response, NBI researched dozens of industry journals and guidelines for reopening offices safely, focusing on the energy-using systems in buildings. From this research, we developed four resources to support those who are responsible for office environments:
- Reopening Office Buildings: Creating a Heathy Environment for Occupants and the Planet. A brief white paper with an overview and summary of the multiple building systems that affect occupants return to a safe indoor air environment, energy use implications, and best practices recommendations.
- Retrofit and Reopening Recommendations for Offices: A Quick checklist. A resource for facility managers and owners to consider retrofit options, policy recommendations, and operating practices for reopening and occupying office buildings.
Two blogs that provide the context for the recommendations:
- Blog #1: Buildings’ Impact on Pandemics. This cites and summarizes the critical relationship between buildings, climate, and pandemics noting why we must address people and the planet.
- Blog #2: Future Proofing Buildings for a More Resilient Tomorrow. Focused on the compelling need to address existing building’s energy and emissions impacts during this time of occupancy reduction.
We hope this concise and approachable information provides value and spurs attention and action to the need to retrofit and rely on solid approaches to safe re-occupancy.
To help you weed through the extensive information, articles, and ideas abounding that are related to COVID-19, NBI also compiled information relevant to building operations, design and policy-making to advance energy efficiency, zero energy, and zero carbon buildings while addressing COVID-19. Questions? Please email [email protected]
More Technical Resources & Webinars
Alliance to Save Energy
Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 Preparedness Resources webpage
Re-Opening Our Schools: Activities and Recommendations, a June 16, 2020 webinar
Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Position Document on Airborne Infectious Diseases
Environmental Health Committee Emerging Issue Brief: Pandemic COVID-19 and Airborne Transmission
ASHRAE Standard 188-2018, Legionellosis: Risk Management for Building Water Systems (ANSI Approved) is available for purchase and establishes minimum legionellosis risk management requirements for building water systems. A decrease in water usage in buildings closed or with limited access during the pandemic can increase the risk of bacteria growth in building plumbing and associated equipment.
Management Metrics for Cities in the COVID-19 Crisis, a resource developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and What Works Cities to help city leaders collect and analyze key data to guide the next phase of recovery while keeping the most vulnerable residents’ needs front and center.
Coronavirus Resource Center provides commercial real estate professionals with guidance to address the public health crises.
The Center for Active Design
Basic recommendations for real estate professionals for signage, IAQ management, more 5 Ways to Optimize Buildings for COVID-19 Prevention.
Energy Efficiency for All
Pandemic Response Guidance to help local, state, and federal leaders nationwide address these issues in their responses to the COVID-19 crisis.
Pandemic Response Guide to Protect Under-Resourced Communities
Policy Responses to COVID-19
Green Schools Committee
Facing the current COVID-19 crisis and increased pressures from climate change, it is becoming evident that we need to adapt our thinking to how we can best design and operate schools to a range of issues. This 2-part on-demand webinar series will discuss the research and approaches to designing and operating schools to effectively manage indoor air quality, thermal comfort, outdoor air issues, pandemics, and climate disasters, all while taking into account occupant health and safety.
Clearing the Air, Part 1: This panel brought together experts to dive into research and energy efficiency with student health and wellness as the key driver.
Clearing the Air, Part 2: Experts discussed incorporating the factors mentioned above into school facility design and management decision making processes.
International Code Council (ICC)
Coronavirus Response Center
Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
In the on-demand webinar, Innovation in the Time of COVID-19, a panel discusses the shift to virtual energy audits during COVID-19.
National Air Filtration Association
FAQs for keeping buildings safe
National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS)
Whole Building Design Guide with coronavirus-related updates, including developments that impact the building sector.
Point Energy Innovations
Reviewed guidance from the CDC, WHO, ASHRAE and academic institutions to come up with some recommendations for office building HVAC systems COVID-19 and Office Building HVAC Responses.
REHVA (the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning associations)
COVID-19 Guidance on how to operate and use building services to prevent the spread of COVID-19 depending on HVAC or plumbing system factors, including citations to referenced information.
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
Wellbuilt for Wellbeing: The Office of Federal High-Performance Buildings’ Wellbuilt for Wellbeing research project was designed to help GSA better understand the influence of the office environment on human health, comfort and performance.
Enhancing Health with Indoor Air (specific actions and measurable environmental outcomes)
Urban Land Institute (ULI)
Resources for real estate development/industry, including webinars Public Health and Real Estate: Resources on COVID-19.