ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 22

TECHNICAL FEATURE

Preparing HVAC Systems
Before Reoccupying
A Building
BY JOHN MCCARTHY, SC.D., C.I.H., MEMBER ASHRAE; KEVIN COGHLAN, C.I.H.

As states across the U.S. roll out new phases of reopening and ease social distancing restrictions instituted to " flatten the curve " of infection from SARS-CoV-2
(the virus that causes COVID-19), commercial building owners and facility managers are seeking direction in preparing their spaces to a return to near-normal levels
of occupancy. World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) recommendations have focused on " de-densifying " spaces
and disinfection of surfaces, while the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force's comprehensive Building Readiness guidance addresses strategies for preparing HVAC systems
for buildings reopening after COVID-19 closures.1 Still, facility engineers have been
wondering whether disinfecting their facility's HVAC system is a further protective
step to take to prepare for reopening-and about what else they should do.
While no blanket answer exists to fit every scenario
and every building type, the current science2 indicates
that, in general, disinfection of mechanical systems is
not likely to be necessary. However, that doesn't mean
there isn't work to be done-or risks to address before
reopening or expanding the number of occupants
in the space. To prepare buildings for a return to full
occupancy, there are a number of steps to take with
HVAC systems that have been operating at significantly

reduced loads or turned off as an energy-saving
measure.

How SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Impacts Disinfection
Recommendations
To understand why HVAC system disinfection may not
be necessary to safely reopen or increase occupancy of
your facility, it's best to start with a clear understanding of the biological distinctions around the viral threat
in question. Building owners and managers seeking to

John McCarthy, Sc.D., C.I.H., is president, and Kevin Coghlan, C.I.H., is principal scientist/chief operating officer at Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc. in Newton, Mass.
This peer-reviewed article does not represent official ASHRAE guidance. For more information on ASHRAE resources on COVID-19, visit ashrae.org/COVID19.
22

ASHRAE JOURNAL

ashrae.org

JAN UARY 2021


http://www.ashrae.org/COVID19 https://www.ashrae.org/

ASHRAE Journal - January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ASHRAE Journal - January 2021

Contents
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - Intro
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - Cover1
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - Cover2
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 1
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 1a
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 1b
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - Contents
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 3
ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - 4
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ASHRAE Journal - January 2021 - Cover3
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