As Building Infrastructures Age, Up-to-date Assessments Can Ensure High Performance and Resilience

Changes to a building that occur over time can often make building performance less efficient and less resilient. As time goes on, building use characteristics often diverge from those that were used initially to design and commission a building. A good example of this is improper outside air ventilation rates which can lead to problems with indoor air quality (IAQ), or excess operational costs. Building power and cooling infrastructure components can also wear out and fall out of calibration. As more and more powered equipment gets added, power capacities are exceeded, and unanticipated downtime issues begin to emerge.

As systems age, they decline in performance, which leads to failures that significantly impact the bottom line. We partner with our customers to implement solutions that keep systems operational by thinking strategically about proactive measures and how those actions impact the business over time.

Building Intelligence Solutions that improve indoor air quality, reduce excess operational costs.
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At Stark Tech Group, we work as a Schneider Electric EcoXpert™ Partner with expertise in their EcoStruxure™ Building architecture and building automation. Our engineers encounter many situations where building owners need help improving existing building performance.

A perfect example is a research facility that examines proteins and crystals in their research of bacteria and virus-borne diseases. The facility recently decided to upgrade its installed base of microscopes in response to pharmaceutical customer demand for more accuracy. Their existing building power infrastructure supported a 1-megawatt (MW) power switch, which was previously adequate as the building consumed 600 kW of power on an average day, and nosed up to 800 KW on the hottest of summer days when air conditioning systems work at full capacity.

Given the required upgrade, a cost effective, steady power supply with peaks in excess of 1MW was now required in order to accommodate stringent purity requirements and to avoid losing both data and research samples.

Our solution was to implement a lithium-ion-based energy storage solution physically located inside of the building. The battery selected for this purpose supplies stored power to the facility when demand spikes over 1MW and then recharges from the grid. This cost-effective change to the lab’s existing power infrastructure successfully managed the building’s increased power capacity requirements and helped the research lab remain competitive in their market.

Approaches for validating current building requirements

For organizations seeking to ensure consistent building power, cooling, and building automation performance, here are some preliminary steps that should be taken to validate requirements:

  • Identify common needs of both traditional and new critical infrastructure – Building owners need to periodically assess the health of different types of building critical infrastructure. This includes both generators and power distribution systems and the IT backbone – anything that keeps the building on its mission at a predictable operating cost. These infrastructure pillars need to be assessed in order to determine whether changes to the building have altered the efficiencies.
  • Identify needs unique to your facility – Understanding the unique requirements of the building under management also heavily impacts how technology is deployed to improve performance. Sports arenas, for instance, have a specialized need for higher dehumidification. High precision temperature control and monitoring are needed to both accommodate tens of thousands of fans and to assure that ice rink temperatures, for example, are properly maintained.

Healthcare facilities require more highly regulated environments. Circulating air has to be regularly monitored. Sophisticated backup power systems are required since connected hospitals have no real ability to shut down. In government and municipal buildings–such as prisons and K-12 public schools–a higher focus on safety and security emerges as a primary concern. Commercial buildings are focused more on comfort and lighting so that employee productivity can be maintained. Knowing the unique characteristics of your building and applying the right building automation technologies suited to those unique needs is a key performance driver.

Changing times demand more building resilience

Regardless of the type of facility, building owners also need to be aware that building resilience is emerging as a growing need. For many years, predictable building performance was taken for granted by the occupants. But now, the existing power grid has grown older. As power sources such as coal and nuclear phase out in the US, new solar and wind power are being introduced. These changes make power quality more intermittent and downtime can now occur in areas where power fluctuations were once rare. In addition, pockets of businesses continue to expand across regions driving more demand for clean, “always on” power. In these cases, building infrastructures need to be reexamined in order to withstand the demands of the “new normal.”

To learn more about how digitized building automation solutions can improve building performance, visit the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure for Buildings web site.

Want to see how Stark Tech Group, a Schneider Electric EcoXpert, is helping to drive energy efficiency in buildings? Read more here.

Exploring Ways to Bring B/C Buildings into A-Class Opportunities

Class B and Class C buildings may have been resistant to making investments or operational changes to their properties due to limited working capital and resources. However, according to the BOMA report, the market for Class B/C Buildings is changing. Tenant preferences, demand for new energy efficient technologies, and mandated policies to reduce building emissions are forcing building owners to look at options to stay competitive and in compliance. The market demands more, and energy efficiency is only part of the solution.

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Patient Rooms Being Converted to Intensive Care as Hospitals Prepare for Influx of COVID-19 Patients

This is an historic time for the world, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravages hundreds of thousands of people from nearly every continent on the planet. Governments have issued shelter-in-place warnings, restricted social gatherings and strongly encouraged frequent handwashing, social distancing and mandated reductions to in-office employment. As the world seemingly pauses to “flatten the curve,” the hospital systems are ramping up to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Johns Hopkins University and Medicine has a live map of COVID-19 positive cases. As of March 24, 2020, there have been 410,000 documented cases of COVID-19 globally and 18,300 related deaths.

A data analysis by USA Today in early March found that America’s coronavirus trajectory was trending towards similar numbers to the dire state of Italy where there have been nearly 70,000 recorded coronavirus cases and 6,800 deaths to date. One projection estimated as many as 214 million people in the United States may be infected with coronavirus over the course of the epidemic with as many as 20 million required hospitalizations. The United States, according to the American Hospital Association, has 924,000 hospital beds, of which 98,000 can be used for intensive care. There’s a clear gap in anticipated demand and available beds.

New York currently has more than 25,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 24, which is higher than any other state in the country. Governor Andrew Cuomo has mandated hospitals increase their bed capacity by 50% with an intent to mandate 100% bed capacity at all facilities. He has also called on the National Guard and building developers to convert existing facilities – dormitories and former nursing homes, for example – into makeshift hospitals to add 9,000 beds for future patients with COVID-19.  

What Is Needed to Convert Buildings for Hospital Use?

When converting buildings into isolation rooms to help stage patients, many aspects need to be looked at including air supply, exhaust systems, pressurization and controls, power generation and filtration.

Proper heating and cooling units need to be checked, upgraded if needed and commissioned to ensure steady air flow, patient comfort and proper ventilation filtration systems so infected airborne particles do not spread through the ventilation systems to other rooms and parts of the building.

Facilities are designating entire units for COVID-19 patients to limit exposure to other floor units. The number of air changers per hour depend on treatment type. A regular patient room has 6 air changes per hour to circulate the air in the room. In an isolation room, where many patients with COVID-19 will be admitted for treatment, a minimum of 12 air changes for hour is needed. The air in these rooms are filtered through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to prevent airborne spread.

While the Center for Disease Control, does not require automatic placement in an AIIR room, a patient should be housed in the same room for the duration of hospital stay with limited exposure outside of their patient room. For patients undergoing aerosol-generating procedures, however, AIIR rooms should be used.

Stark Tech Group’s Cleanroom Solutions Group offers a wide range of technologies that can support temporary hospital units and the demand needed to increase hospital bed capacity at operational facilities over the coming months.

One product line offered, Healthway’s Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS), removes germs from the air, beyond typical HEPA-rated filters. The coronavirus is said to pass through filters at 0.0902 microns. The product line mentioned can retrofit with any HVAC system for 99.99% filtration efficiency, down to 0.007 microns.

Small scale and large scale surges in demand for beds are being planned including, converting rooms to negative pressure rooms, which supports patients on mechanical ventilation machines as a lifesaving procedure. Negative-pressure ventilation reduces incidences of severe complications.  Stark Tech Group’s U&S Services can accommodate the switch by programming controls in the facility to switch from positive to negative pressurization.

The role of integration teams and equipment distributors will play a critical role in the speed to which these changes need to be implemented. For more information or for support in converting buildings to temporary hospitals, please call us at 716.693.4490.