Among the COVID-19 concerns that Tucson property owners and tenants have is how to make their Tucson commercial spaces safe for employees, clients and other visitors.
Strategies dealing with air circulation through HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems have been part of that discussion. For now, there is nothing that will make a building safe from the SARS-CoV-2 that causes the disease.
Tucson mechanical engineer Mehrad Sadrisabet spoke with Commercial Real Estate Group of Tucson. He says UV lights, ionizers and other expensive, scientifically untested devices can’t guarantee that the novel coronavirus will be eliminated from your building.
“What are you going to put in a building and then say, ‘OK, this is what I’ve put in my building and now you can come back and it’s safe?’” asks Sadrisabet, who owns Professional Engineering & Technology. “We can’t recommend those things to our clients.”
“Improving filtration and temperature and humidity is the best you can do for now,” he says. Cleaner air is always a benefit.
Here are his suggestions:
Do regular maintenance. Make sure the HVAC system is working at its best.
Install better filters. Insert the highest-rated filter that the system will take. Sadrisabet says most buildings use a MERV-8 filter. Shoot for MERV-13 or -17.
Add fresh air. Opening windows and doors can provide an exchange of air that might reduce concentration of coronavirus-laden droplets indoors.
Adjust temperature and humidity. The right combination could force droplets to fall to the ground, making them less likely to circulate around an indoor space.
“Those are all steps in the right direction,” Sadrisabet says, “but it’s not a magic bullet to solve the problem.”
He maintains that the safest system for buildings is what health experts have long recommended: Require people in a building to wear masks, maintain distances from others and wash hands and surfaces frequently.
The Centers for Disease Control has some additional advice on how to improve air quality in office buildings:
- Increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces.
- Disable demand-control ventilation controls that reduce air supply based on temperature or occupancy.
- Run the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for two hours before and after the building is occupied.
- Use portable fan systems with HEPA filters to help clean the air.
- When vacuuming a room, turn off the in-room HVAC system to avoid contaminating the space by the dust-up. But do not deactivate central systems.
- Create “clean” ventilation zones for workers by adjusting zone supply and exhaust flow rates in areas that have lower risk of contaminated air.
- Follow ASHRAE recommendations on infectious aerosols.
Act Now for Outbreaks Later
While these strategies and equipment may not make a Tucson property space completely safe from COVID-19, it occurs to me that they may prove effective against the flu and other viruses.
This will be important as fall and winter approach. A flu outbreak that requires health care and hospitalization will complicate the fight against COVID-19.
At Commercial Real Estate Group of Tucson, I can connect you with architects and mechanical engineers. They can help you examine the air quality of your Tucson commercial property and figure out strategies that will improve its air quality.
If the HVAC system in the building you lease turns out to be inadequate for your needs, I can help you search for new space or help you work with your landlord on getting upgrades.
Contact me for an immediate, complimentary consultation, 520-299-3400.