Energy Management In Buildings In A Post-COVID World

2020 has been quite the year so far, especially since for many weeks (even months in some areas of the country), we have been asked to stay home to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Earlier this year, the Fusebox team shared strategies for building management teams to save on their energy bills while their school, office, and other buildings stood unoccupied.

Now, many states are re-opening. As buildings shift into full-time operation, and people start venturing into spaces that have sat empty for so long, building managers will have to balance human health and comfort with energy and resource management. To help ease the transition back into our buildings, many organizations and professional associations are providing useful tips to help people do that safely and effectively - for example, see these resources from the CDC, WHO, AIA, BOMA, IFMA, and CoreNet.

In April and May, the corporate real estate organization CoreNet asked its members to collaborate for a virtual Hackathon to consider how COVID-19 will impact buildings and how the real estate community can adjust and prepare to meet new needs after facilities reopen. One report that came out of the discussion was on the Environment and Climate Change - what kind of environmental impact will COVID-19 have on buildings, and how can the real estate sector prepare for these impacts? Energy management was one key area discussed, and will need continuous monitoring moving forward to ensure energy usage and costs don’t get too high.

While some organizations are considering revised and extended work-from-home policies, many workers will come back to the office, and they’ll want to know that their spaces are healthy. Ventilation systems will be put to the test as building managers keep an eye on things like filtration and air exchange frequencies. Depending on filtration strategies and possible air exchange increases, there’s potential for increased energy use. Performing an energy audit with your utility and/or working with a qualified third-party engineer on an overall indoor air quality (IAQ) assessment could help with planning. These professionals can work with building operations teams to identify areas for mechanical improvement, review opportunities for energy efficiency, and uncover measures to improve IAQ. Smart building technologies like occupancy sensors and building automation systems can help manage operations, and will also provide data for teams to analyze and identify future energy efficiency and improved air quality strategies. Additionally, tracking utility bill data is important to make sure any implemented strategies are evaluated and adjusted, as needed, especially over the next few months. Tools like Fusebox can help building teams monitor impacts on their utility budgets. Check out the CoreNet Hackathon Environment and Climate Change Team Deliverables for more information and strategy ideas.

These are just a few of the things building managers will want to consider as they begin to bring their buildings fully online when people come back to work, learn, and play. Check out future posts for information about other sustainability considerations for buildings in a post-COVID world.