Optimizing Building Operations and Equipment Scheduling During COVID-19

Energy savings best practices for building operators

Many cities and states around the country have issued strict stay-at-home guidelines for workers, resulting in decreased building occupancy. As a result, you can reduce or even eliminate the operations of most office building systems. (Note: guidelines from the CDC and OSHA that pertain to occupant and worker safety should always take precedence during this crisis.)

Below, find operational and energy saving tips to consider:

  1. Due to widespread quarantines, many buildings are switching to holiday schedules. Verify your holiday schedules have sufficient setbacks (e.g. unoccupied heating setpoint of 55F and unoccupied cooling setpoint of 85F).
  2. An industry best practice is to use setbacks instead of disabling equipment. However, in an instance where disabling equipment is required, confirm freeze protection is functional. 
  3. A few hours per day, make sure to exercise the air handlers for air circulation. It is recommended to perform this circulation during overnight hours to improve unit efficiency.
  4. Limit the outside air intake and exhaust to reduce energy required by fan and conditioning. 
  5. Use economizer modes to limit mechanical heating and cooling when possible.
  6. Verify chiller sequencing to make sure the appropriate chiller is running for your load and occupancy conditions.
  7. Complete preventative maintenance scheduled up through the end of summer.   
  8. Prior to returning to normal operations, it is recommended to provide increased air changes throughout the building at least two days in advance. 
  9. Make sure to evaluate common areas and event spaces for reduced use. If occupants are expected, they should provide notice or be able to adjust their space as needed.
  10. When possible, have all appropriate lighting circuits scheduled off. All tenants to manually override lighting schedules when necessary.
  11. Send out a written reminder to tenants explaining the best way to communicate with building staff to provide ample advance notice. 
  1. Verify your low occupancy schedules have sufficient setbacks (e.g. unoccupied heating setpoint of 55F and unoccupied cooling setpoint of 85F).
  2. An industry best practice is to use setbacks instead of disabling equipment. However, in an instance where disabling equipment is required, confirm freeze protection is functional. 
  3. For hotels with zone control valves, work closely with operations to place guests and tenants in areas such that equipment can be used to condition only occupied areas while modifying set points for unoccupied spaces. 
  4. Consider rightsizing the number of open retail vendors in your buildings. 
  5. Consider placing guests in rooms on the same floor(s) as to minimize conditioning. 
  6. Use economizer modes to limit mechanical heating and cooling when possible.
  7. Verify chiller sequencing to make sure the appropriate chiller is running for your load and occupancy conditions.
  8. If fully unoccupied, make sure to exercise the air handlers a few hours per day for air circulation. It is recommended to perform this circulation during overnight hours to improve unit efficiency. Limit the outside air intake and exhaust to reduce energy required by fan and conditioning. 
  9. Complete preventative maintenance scheduled up through the end of summer.   
  10. Prior to returning to normal operations, It is recommended to provide increased air changes throughout the building at least two days in advance.

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