Tough questions, tougher answers

By Dan Hounsell  

HAVE YOU BEEN called on to answer tough questions about the performance of your facilities’ HVAC systems? Chances are that if you haven’t already, you are likely to be soon. Increasingly, facilities executives, building owners and even the general public are taking a greater interest in the role of HVAC systems play in facilities, in large part because of the impact these systems have on both the health and performance of building occupants.

In the Cross Hairs

The most high-profile of these cases involves indoor air quality (IAQ), which has become a problem in a range of buildings nationwide in recent years. IAQ problems involving mold have garnered tremendous media attention and public interest in the last year or so, largely because of the reported health risks for certain types of mold.

As Associate Editor Loren Snyder writes in his article, “Clearing the Air in Classrooms,” maintenance and engineering managers in many K-12 schools nationwide face an uphill battle making their buildings’ indoor air healthier because they lack the funds and top-level support to upgrade HVAC systems that, in some cases, are decades old and performing poorly.

While many building components and materials can contribute to IAQ problems, the first questions a manager are likely to face should such a problem crop up are related to HVAC system performance.

Most recently, HVAC systems are in the cross hairs regarding noise in classrooms. The biggest source of noise in many classrooms is HVAC systems, according to a report in the February 2003 ASHRAE Journal.

“Some teachers have indicated that they are forced to alternate between talking (teaching) and cooling the room because they cannot raise their voices above the noise” of HVAC system components.

As scrutiny of facilities grows, such situations aren’t likely to go on for very long without creating tough questions. And chances are, maintenance and engineering managers will be the first ones called on to provide answers about the performance of these notoriously complex systems.

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  posted on 2/1/2003   Article Use Policy

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