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‘New normal’: IAQ, touchless, and higher energy bills?

Not since 9/11 has a single event so severely rocked the foundation of the commercial building industry.

September 08, 2020 |

Courtesy Pixabay

In the five months since the pandemic-driven real estate shut downs began, the BD+C editorial team has authored or posted more than 135 articles dedicated to COVID-19 and its impact on the AEC market and the built environment. We’ve curated well more than 250 research reports, on-demand webinars, white papers, and articles from third-party sources in our coronavirus newsfeed. We’ve interviewed nearly two dozen AEC experts about their team’s and clients’ coronavirus response on our new streaming video show, The Weekly.  

Through all of this reporting, a single common theme bubbled to the surface: Buildings are part of the problem in controlling a global health pandemic. Yet buildings—and the AEC professionals that design, engineer, and construct them—are also a major part of the solution. 

From infection control strategies to 3D-printed PPE equipment to pop-up isolation units and COVID-19 testing stations, AEC firms are delivering practical, innovative solutions to complex problems during a time when their clients need it most. The axiom “innovation loves a good crisis” is playing out right in front of our eyes. 

Not since 9/11 has a single event so severely rocked the foundation of the commercial building industry. As owners, developers, and property and facility managers scramble to re-open their properties and create protocols for maintaining safe and healthy interior spaces, they are turning to their AEC firm partners for guidance and support.    

And much like the post-9/11 response from the AEC community, many of the best practices and innovations being instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will become permanent fixtures in the built environment (codified, or otherwise).

Take, for example, MEP design, especially for commercial office buildings. Forget the fitness centers, food trucks, and spacious lobbies—the hottest office building amenities are indoor air quality and touchless design. Technologies and design approaches that were on the fringe—bipolar ionization, UV light disinfection, enhanced air filtration—are being pushed to the forefront. Clients are investing in these systems in an effort to retain and attract tenants. These design approaches have been added to the “cost of doing business” list for commercial office owners and developers.

One side effect of the coming MEP spending boom, says Andrew Horning, Vice President with Bala Consulting Engineers, is higher energy bills for building owners. He explains COVID-19’s impact on sustainability and energy efficiency in the July 23rd episode of The Weekly. Watch on demand at:


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