The rise of sustainability in institutional and commercial facilities has created a host of challenges for managers in these facilities. Not the least of these challenges is striking a balance between building design and operation decisions that are environmentally friendly but that also are practical. Designs and operation decisions that tilt too far in one direction tend to create unforeseen problems that divert valuable resources from other areas of the facility. Consider the case of Apple’s flagship store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Winter has struck the store, and the hysteria has begun. With icicles dangling from the store’s ultrathin carbon fiber roof and caution signs and yellow tape cordoning off sections of the store’s outdoor plaza, internet commentators rushed to the judgment that the store is poorly designed for the city in which it sits, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
Writes blogger Matt Maldre, “Maybe next time Apple will consider the actual community where their stores are built. Y’know, basic things like in Chicago, the weather gets cold. It snows. The snow falls off the roof. Don’t design a sloping roof where the snow can’t be caught or guttered off somewhere.”
Read: Building design for productivity and sustainability
Point taken. But let’s put this in perspective. Winter happens. And architects often aren’t prepared for it. Such shortcomings undercut their achievements and their credibility as problem-solvers. Yet the faults do not altogether vanquish the value of their designs.
By the myopic standard of the commentators, Frank Gehry’s snaking BP Bridge in Millennium Park is a failure. The bridge has a wood deck. In the past, when snow piled up on it, it had to be closed lest the metal blades of city snow plows gouge holes in its forgiving wood surface. Substitute concrete for wood on Gehry’s bridge and you would have a far more ordinary span. It would be open 365 days a year, but the journey across it would be less easy on the feet and less lifting to the spirit.
Learn more about the role of sustainability in resilient facility design.
There are times when it is advisable to bend the narrow rule of form following function in favor of a broader perspective that considers the trade-off between the two and how that trade-off affects what ultimately counts — how buildings and the rest of the built environment shape human experience.
Not that getting conked on the head with the icicle is acceptable. Apple spokesman Nick Leahy says the building’s architects, London-based Foster + Partners, had designed the glass-walled store with winter in mind but had been foiled by a technical malfunction.
“The roof has a warming system that’s built into it,” he says. “It needed some fine-tuning, and it got re-programmed today. It’s hopefully a temporary problem.”
In its 16th year now, National Healthy Schools Day seeks to inform the public of health risks that can affect children in educational and child care settings
April 3, 2018, Clearwater FL — The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that 50% of all schools have problems with indoor air quality (IAQ). IAQ issues can be comprised of a complex mix of sources including aging facility infrastructure, deferred maintenance, fouled HVAC systems, dirty ducts, and the use of toxic products for cleaning, among other contributing factors. Every year since 2002, National Healthy Schools Day mission is to inform the administrators and public on these vital issues in an effort to bring awareness and change to the maintenance and safety of educational institutions across the country. The EPA urges schools to “Use the day to take the necessary steps to effectively manage the indoor air quality in your schools, ensuring you are providing your students and staff with a healthy learning environment.”
The focus of National Healthy Schools Day 2018is lead. According to the EPA, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no safe level of lead for any child. Like many other indoor environmental hazards common to schools, lead has long been ignored. However, more schools and child care facilities are becoming more proactive on lead, especially in drinking water. But the fact remains that lead is ubiquitous throughout an educational environment such as in building and instructional materials, as well as other products and even the soil on the property’s grounds.
“It is time to put children first and end lead and other risks to all children in school and child care,” said Claire Barnett, Executive Director of Healthy Schools Network, the national not-for-profit that co-founded and hosts Healthy Schools Day. She added, “For the 16th annual Day, we thank all the education and health leaders and staff in the states who have recognized the high cost of lead and other toxics to the future of children and are taking action to find and to reduce risks in school and child care settings.”
The good news is more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of optimal IAQ in the learning environment. This year a record number of 59 NGOs nationwide are engaged in the event.
Who is most affected?
Across the U.S. over 55 million children and 7 million adults occupy 130,000 public and private schools. Add to that another 11 million children in child care facilities. All totaled, over 1/5 of the U.S. population is in one of these institutions on a daily basis. Today there are fewer public schools than in year’s past, but more children in them and with less federal and state funding. Schools in disadvantaged communities are often in the worst condition from an architectural and infrastructure standpoint. This can likely correlate to these facilities having the most lead in their buildings’ paint and water systems.
What can be done to improve IAQ?
The first step to finding and fixing IAQ issues is to have a proactive administrative and facilities team willing to invest in the building health of their education institutions. This means having their facilities regularly tested, not just for lead but for the myriad of factors that can deteriorate the health of the indoor environment.
“One of our main focuses has been creating healthy learning environments so students can achieve higher academic learning in healthy buildings,” says Alan Wozniak, President of Pure Air Control Services, Inc., “Our Building Sciences team is constantly working with both k-12 and higher education institutions to proactively test and report on the IAQ in their facilities. If issues are found, the detailed reports provided are integral in the remediation process to get the building back to an optimal state of operations and a healthy learning environment.”
IAQ testing can encompass the entire building envelope or concentrate on a specific area on interest in a forensic level investigation of an issue. In the case of lead, water, surface and air samples can be taken from the indoor environment and sent to a laboratory for in-depth analysis. The lab can then qualify and quantify what is in the samples to help determine the severity of the issue in the specific locations where the samples were collected. Of course if concentrations are found and report the proper corrective remediation actions must be taken.
IAQ testing can also be conducted for other issues that can affect the health of a building and its occupants. Things like bacteria, dust mites, fungi (mold) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can all proliferate in the indoor environment. They often act as allergy and asthma triggers which can affect student performance and attendance. Dust and debris built up inside of the HVAC system not only contributes to these allergen triggers, but also can decrease the performance of the equipment which can lead higher humidity and CO2 levels within a building. Not to mention higher energy costs.
National Healthy Schools Day is an important advocacy event that helps bring awareness to the importance of good IAQ for educational institutions throughout the U.S. With this in mind, more schools should be encouraged to take a proactive approach to their indoor environment to ensure healthy facilities for their students and staff all year long.
Well Living Lab will undertake a three-year scientific research plan to identify how indoor environments affect five facets of people’s lives.
How indoor environments affect five significant facets of people’s lives—health, performance, stress and resiliency, sleep, and comfort—will be the focus of an extensive three-year scientific research plan conducted by the Well Living Lab. Studies will examine the five factors for homes, workplaces, and independent living communities. A critical component of the research is the interplay of elements such as sound, lighting, temperature, and air quality, all of which can be altered in various combinations to uncover positive, neutral, and negative effects on people.
“Our responsibility is to advance the science by conducting human-centered research that can be used in practical ways,” said Brent Bauer, M.D., medical director of the Well Living Lab and director of medicine for Mayo Clinic’s Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. “It’s our belief that favorable outcomes can be realized, which will have long term benefits for people’s lives.”
A variety of experiments will be reviewed, approved, and monitored by the Institutional Review Board of Mayo Clinic. Questions to be explored include:
How office workers respond to artificial lighting that simulates natural light, not just at work, but also how it may change their ability to get sufficient sleep at home.
How changes in environmental conditions affect sleep and stress.
What types interventions can increase cognitive performance and improve job satisfaction.
The research will further build on the results of the Well Living Lab’s latest study findings, published in Building and Environment. The study found that temperature, noise, and lighting in open office environments affect employees’ ability to get work done. This was a proof-of concept study that demonstrated the strength of living lab methodology in measuring realistic occupant responses to select environmental changes in an open office. Specifically, it indicated that employees are most sensitive to thermal conditions, followed by work-related noise such as conversations and lack of natural light from windows when working in open office environments.These factors affected work environment satisfaction, productivity, and even carried over into the mood of employees and their sleep.
The study consisted of eight working age participants who spent 18 weeks in a simulated work environment in which acoustics, lighting, and temperature were manipulated in numerous combinations, and the findings were based on occupant responses to surveys and in-depth interviews.
“We want to understand the effect of environmental conditions and combinations of conditions to improve health and well-being, including performance, comfort, stress and resilience, and sleep,” said Dr. Bauer. “This study is just the beginning. We will continue to explore the relationship of environmental factors in the workplace and at home.”
The direction for this scientific exploration was solidified by Mayo Clinic and Delos, as well as the lab’s scientific advisory board with members from academia and governmental institutions including Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Carnegie Mellon University; National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive & Kidney Diseases; Stanford University; University of California; UC Berkley; US General Services Administration and University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.
“We know that passive design elements in our homes, offices, and buildings can contribute to our health and well-being,” said Peter Scialla, COO of Delos and co-chair of the Well Living Lab’s Joint Steering Committee. “This research will further advance change for the building industry and result in innovative design, products, materials, and technologies.”
The General Services Administration (GSA) has doubled down on its promise to find the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) a new home and pledged by the end of the year to give Congress a “workable solution” for consolidating the bureau’s headquarters.
Michael Gelber, acting commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, recently said “Yes, sir” when asked by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) if he would deliver a plan within 120 days.
Richard Haley, chief financial officer and assistant director of the facilities and logistics services division at the FBI, chimed in with “absolutely,” when asked the same question during a recent hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.
“It is clear from today’s testimony that the FBI needs a new headquarters. Fixing up the Hoover building with its $100 million backlog of maintenance needs makes little sense,” Barrasso said. “The elaborate plan to swap the Hoover building for a new headquarters facility was, in hindsight, not the best option. We need a new, cost effective and achievable plan to get the FBI into a new headquarters facility.”
Some of the committee members also expressed their concern for both the welfare of workforce in the building and impact the outdated structure could have on national security.
“We can all agree that there is an obvious need to move the FBI out of the Hoover Building to a new location and to consolidate other FBI locations,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) “Simply put, the Hoover building is an aging building that no longer meets the needs of the FBI. It suffers significantly from deferred maintenance, and the employees bear the brunt of that lack of investment.”
Originally designed to support an occupancy level of 850 people, the Arcbest corporate headquarters has grown to now have 1,085 people plus visitors. Ten percent of the people work at night, requiring 24/7 air conditioning. The increase in occupancy drove a need to introduce more outside air to maintain air quality. All of this outside air had to be conditioned, increasing electrical energy costs. In addition, the extra outside air caused draftiness on cold winter days, and, during the summer, the extra outside air flow through the air handlers resulted in some parts of the building getting too cool. “I previously got calls from people that they were cold during the summer, which was a direct result of having to introduce so much chilled air into the building to meet the appropriate CO2 levels,” said Richard Rieske, director of corporate facilities at ArcBest. “Likewise, they felt drafts during the winter due to all the outside air that was being used to ventilate the building. When the HLR modules are running, our people are more comfortable.”
The corporate headquarters building is in Fort Smith, Arkansas — a warm and humid city in the Southeastern U.S. The 190,000-square-foot building has five floors of office space separated into two wings (east and west primary zones), which are each served by a dedicated air handling unit (AHU). Two staircases connect all building floors.
The building has a central core (bathrooms, coffee rooms) and a peripheral open office plan. There is a computer room on the first floor and executive offices and conference rooms at the southern side of the fourth and fifth floors.
Building return air is an open plenum suspended ceiling type while air is ducted to line diffusers. Building pressurization is regulated on each floor by return air mounted exhaust fans.
The building has a Carrier iVu Building Management System (BMS) running BACnet over MSTP, which can optionally be integrated with enVerid’s HLR® BACnet to control the outside air (OA) damper.
All outside air intake for the HVAC system is demand-control ventilation (DCV) dependent (controlled by space CO2 sensors). The outside air damper is actuated based on an averaged CO2 value on a per floor section basis. Each floor has about 10 CO2 sensors strategically distributed. Although each floor has an open floor plan, CO2 sensors residing in the eastern section on each floor were averaged separately from those in the western section. CO2 set point is observed by the BMS to actuate outside air damper position.
At the start of the project, the building’s central plant on the ground floor had two packaged hermetic centrifugal liquid single-speed chillers (375 tons each). On warm days, the second 375-ton chiller was required, but now, with the enVerid HLR modules, they typically only need a single chiller. The peak HVAC cooling capacity has been reduced by about 273 tons.
“Running a second chiller significantly increased our energy utility costs” said Tom Daigle, manager of building systems at ArcBest. “By using the enVerid HLR modules, we are not conditioning as much outside air, and we are projected to save $63,709 annually.
The kickoff began with a site survey by the enVerid team of the building mechanical layout, an indoor air quality (IAQ) assessment and identification of potential locations for integrating the HLR 1000E systems. The number of HLR modules needed and the resulting outside air reduction were calculated according to ASHRAE Standard 62.1 — Indoor Air Quality Procedure (IAQP) for a typical office building.
The site survey assessed the spaces that are cooled and heated (including stairways and closeted spaces); and documented the existing hydronic systems; power meters; and all DCV, variable air volume (VAV), and AHU interactions in the building, including dampers, sensors, and exhaust systems.
The survey measured and planned for the positioning and installation of the HLR modules, ensuring that they would fit and could be easily moved into position. In this phase, the team also checked for wireless connectivity options and suggested connection points to the BMS.
Lastly, the team took snapshot baseline measurements of CO2, energy use, and other air quality indicators. This information was shared with the facilities management team.
The central plant mechanical room on the first floor houses two AHUs: one conditions the western side of the first floor, and the other conditions the computer UPS room, which is isolated and separated from the office space. The computer room was not included in the HLR retrofit as the outside air intake is fixed at a low level. The eastern mechanical room contains the AHU that conditions the eastern side of the first floor.
Inside the mechanical rooms, each AHU has supply air (SA), return air (RA), and outside air (OA) ducted. Each mechanical room has an outdoor air inlet ducted from a louver on the mechanical room’s northeast exposure. A return air exhaust fan (separated from the return air duct with a gravity damper) is connected to a louver on the mechanical room’s northwest exposure.
In the installation phase, the enVerid project team selected and supervised electrical and mechanical subcontractors with the customer’s approval. Ten HLR modules, installed in each of the building’s mechanical rooms, will cover all spaces within the building. A split-stream of return air from AHU is ducted through the HLR module to be cleaned. Outside air used for regeneration and regeneration exhaust from the HLR are ducted to the louvered outside air in each mechanical room. Figure 1 shows an example of sorption and regeneration paths. Figure 2 shows a schematic of HLR module by-pass connection to the AHU.
Additionally, the enVerid project team continues to work with ArcBest’s facilities management post-installation to optimize energy, IAQ, and environmental comfort. ArcBest data continues to be captured for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to provide documented consumption information to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
ENERGY AND AIR QUALITY MEASUREMENTS
Using HLR technology, ArcBest could take advantage of ASHRAE 62.1 Indoor Air Quality Procedure (IAQP) and use 65 percent less outside air compared to using the ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation Rate Procedure (VRP). As a result, the annual energy savings for heating and cooling are calculated to be $63,709.
For IAQ, contaminant concentrations were measured prior to the HLR operation, then again after the HLR module had been installed and running for at least one week. Indoor air quality monitoring was performed per U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, and the results were analyzed and certified by an independent lab (PRISM Analytical Technologies).
This investigation included environmental and indoor air quality sampling of temperature, relative humidity, CO2, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aldehydes (e.g., formaldehyde), and particulate matter. These include all the contaminants of concern found in office buildings. The investigation included sampling throughout the building at 10 different locations for CO2, and two different locations for VOCs. Instruments used were calibrated before each use and functioned within the limits of performance specifications appropriate for pollutants measured in indoor environments.
Peak HVAC load reduction — The HLR reduced peak HVAC load by 273 tons, which corresponds to a 36 percent decrease in total HVAC load. On warm days, ArcBest’s second 375-ton chiller was required, but now with the enVerid HLR modules they typically only need a single chiller. This savings impacts the “demand charges” on ArcBest’s utility bill, which in many locations, has a major impact on the overall cost of electricity. In addition, when ArcBest replaces the HVAC equipment in the future, the peak capacity required will be 36 percent less, providing significant savings in capital expense.
Energy savings of $63,709 per year — Based on sensible and latent energy calculations, the energy savings for reducing outside air by 26,640 cfm equates to $63,709 annually using a standard energy model as applied to Fort Smith, Arkansas, outside temperature and relative humidity data downloaded hourly over the past five years.
Water savings of $11,535 per year — ArcBest was also able to conserve on cooling tower water, but a separate water meter wasn’t available, so this information was not included in the overall project savings. However, based on standard calculations, ArcBest is saving 2.17 million gallons of water and $11,535 in water and wastewater charges.
Earned a one-time energy rebate — The local electric utility offers rebates for energy efficiency projects. The rebate amount is still being determined by the utility.
Maintained Indoor Air Quality — CO2 levels vary throughout the day but are maintained at levels below 1000 ppm.
DCV system no longer necessary — By incorporating HLR modules and using IAQP to manage how much outside air is used for ventilation, ArcBest no longer needs to rely on its DCV system. Additionally, by using the HLR and IAQP, ArcBest is now managing ventilation based on all contaminants of concern instead of just CO2.
Additional Savings — A 65 percent reduction in outside air can extend the lifetime of the outside air filters by two to four times. Also, a reduction in outdoor air intake provides several secondary benefits that include extending the useful life of the existing mechanical equipment and ductwork.
“enVerid’s people are Class A, top-notch, and the HLR system works as advertised,” said Daigle.
“Shut the school down and move my child.” Those are the words of Valarie Gibbs, one of dozens of parents worried that a Texas public school is making their children sick.
I agree with her. The students and staff of Nichols Junior High in Arlington, most of them black and Hispanic, should be immediately removed from their school building. Something there seems to be sickening them, according to a recent lawsuit, which alleges that they were “exposed to dangerous mold and/or unknown toxic substances.” Since this current school year began, 522 medical complaints have been filed by employees and students’ parents. And these aren’t just kids playing pranks or faking sickness like Ferris Bueller.
Numerous teachers and administrators, including a former principal, nearly passed out or lost consciousness, according to the lawsuit and interviews with parents. Some were put on IVs and oxygen. At least a dozen staff members have reported symptoms. Several staff members have resigned or been reassigned — and some allegedly told parents that they refuse to ever step foot in the building again. They believe it’s that toxic.
Since September, students and staff members have complained of dizziness, muscle spasms and weakness, leg cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches that last for hours or even days, strange tingling feelings, and exhaustion, according to the lawsuit. Among the hundreds of complaints filed this school year, many report that symptoms nearly disappear on the weekends and improve significantly when they leave the school grounds at the end of the day. In the midst of it all, the Arlington Independent School District (AISD) removed the principal and multiple teachers from the school with little explanation.
“We’re losing teachers, the principal. Students are falling ill as well. It’s a lot to deal with,” Delilah Perreira, PTA president for Nichols Junior High School, said in a February interview with NBC station KXAS-TV.
The lawsuit seeks to have the school closed and students and staff relocated until the cause for the illnesses is “correctly identified and fully remedied.”
The district — which filed a motion last week seeking to dismiss the case — released a statement saying it has conducted “extensive testing” at the school and has been transparent about the results, publishing them online.
“The Board and district are confident in the results of both the internal and external testing and analysis … done thus far that indicate nothing in the building would cause a health risk and will continue to work with industry experts to correct any potential issues in the building,” Arlington Independent School District said in its statement. “The district continues to monitor the campus closely and will address concerns promptly and comprehensively and share information with staff and parents as it is received in order to continue to ensure the safety and health of our staff and students.”
In a Feb. 2 letter, the district acknowledged a foul odor at the school — known as “dirty sock syndrome” — and wrote that while the situation is “unpleasant and may lead to a general feeling of discomfort,” it was “not reported to be a health risk.” AISD also said that attendance patterns at Nichols this year appear normal.
Dr. Alisa Rich, a widely respected toxicologist and environmental scientist, was contracted by attorneys representing families and staff members of the school to evaluate this crisis. Her determination, published March 21 after she reviewed multiple reports from the school district and conducted her own analysis, is that students and staff are being exposed to an airborne Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and that the school system, out of an abundance of caution, should order the “immediate removal and relocation of personnel and students from the facility to avoid prolonged exposure and possible irreversible harm.”
Dr. Rich continued, “It is strongly encouraged that personnel and scholars are not allowed to return to the Nichols facility until appropriate tests are conducted to rule out exposure to VOCs and/or natural gas.” Rich is deeply worried about the potential for brain damage or long-term nervous system damage.
Parents carry similar concerns.
“For the kids’ sake, close the school so that it doesn’t prolong whatever’s going on with these kids,” said Joshua Harris, a father of a 7th grader at Nichols Junior High.
When asked whether the inconvenience of moving all of the students out of the school would be worth it, Joshua, standing alongside his wife, Kaneia, without hesitation, declared, “I’d rather my son live a long, healthy life than be sick going to school here every day.”
For its part, the school district has conducted numerous environmental tests, but none seem to adequately explain the severity of symptoms reported by students and staff. The district says it continues to work with county public health officials and sent six letters to parents about indoor air quality concerns at the school.
One local community organizer compared the situation at Nichols Junior High to Dallas public housing built in the 1950s that contained high levels of lead.
“In 1972, the city of Dallas acknowledged the problem, however, it took them ANOTHER 21 years to rectify it… and that was only after the West Dallas Boys and Girls closed their doors when they discovered lead levels in their soil to be 36 times the level considered dangerous for children,” Michelle Williams, President of the local chapter of the Urban League, said.
This is the definition of environmental racism. Marginalized people are exposed to dangerous toxins and when it’s abundantly clear that something terrible is happening, solutions are slower than they ever would be in predominantly white communities of privilege.
“I knew they were testing the air,” said parent Natasha Jackson. “They said ‘oh, everything’s fine.’ Well if they’re still getting sick, everything’s not fine.”
And that’s the point. In spite of test after test, students and staff members are still getting sick and it appears that the school system, according to the lawsuit, has overlooked the well-being of those who deserve to be protected.
This is why we say “Black Lives Matter.” It appears that this Title 1 school, which primarily serves students and families of color, is not being properly protected.
Civil rights attorneys Jasmine Crockett and Lee Merritt have been brought on to represent at least 15 plaintiffs in the suit against the school district. “New families and staff members are joining are suit every day. Educators and parents have come together to file a lawsuit against the district to get the building evacuated until the hazard is identified and resolved. Much like the contaminated water in Michigan or the habitual practice of placing landfills next to black communities, this would not be happening if these students were not minorities,” Merritt said.
Sadly, I agree with him. Like the moment where Erin Brockovich dared opposing attorneys to drink the contaminated water that was making people sick, I seriously doubt that the school officials accused of being slow to stand up for the people of Nichols Junior High would let their loved ones attend or work there.
These kids and their families are stuck. Many families who live in that school district really don’t have any other options but to continue sending their kids to a school they believe is making them sick. No person should ever be forced to make such a choice, but these are the painful decisions too many communities of color face all over this nation. What do you do when you own a home in a city that can’t guarantee your drinking water is clean or that your children aren’t being sickened by something in the ground or in the air?