Building Shutdown vs. Minimal Occupation
First, there are distinct differences between shutting down a building completely and shutting down one that is minimally occupied. Shutting down a building completely is essentially placing it into “moth balls,” i.e., it is no longer ready to run or occupy. As an example, this may include shutting equipment down, draining the cooling tower and plumbing systems, weatherizing the building, enabling minimal heating to prevent freezing, and dehumidification to prevent growing mold or mildew.
In contrast, when you’re shutting down a building that’s minimally occupied, it’s much like what happens on a weekend — consider it a reset schedule. Using a Building Automation System (BAS), systems can be easily switched to “unoccupied mode” using a pre-designed control strategy and reset schedule. This includes temporarily shutting down non-emergency lighting, resetting HVAC equipment, and reducing plug loads.
What to Consider When Shutting Down
There are crucial steps to consider when beginning the building shut down process. To start, consider implementing remote BAS alarming and alerting for critical systems, as well as remote security and fire alarm systems. With the proper alert system, personnel can be notified the moment an issue occurs. These systems can help you monitor the building to ensure that condensation and moisture do not build up on HVAC system components or building surfaces — a problem that could require costly repairs down the road. How you manage your building operations now can have a significant impact on your business’ future.David Bishop, Director, Service Operations, Johnson Controls
Whether shutting down completely or partially, reduced equipment activity results in energy savings that can help keep costs low during this period. When combined, HVAC, lighting and plug loads can use as much as 70 percent of overall building energy, while additional energy savings can be incurred by resetting thermostat settings.
Reopening Your Building for Operational Recovery
When the time comes to reopen your facility, there are three key steps to keep in mind:
- To avoid waiting days for cooling systems to be operational, be prepared to restart HVAC systems ahead of opening so they can cool the building efficiently when the hot weather comes.
- Flush or purge the building using 100 percent outside air for four hours while maintaining enough heat to prevent freezing each morning.
- To fully test the building, it is necessary to run it in occupied mode for at least 24 hours to determine if set points can be established and maintained. As the building becomes occupied, set points will have to be checked again with the increased latent heat load.
During the COVID-19 crisis, business owners are faced with difficult decisions, and that includes adjusting how they operate their buildings. Whether you completely shut down your building or transition to minimal occupation, it is important to do so safely and properly to protect your facilities and prepare them for eventual reopening. How you manage your building operations now can have a significant impact on your business’ future.