How Portland commercial building owners can prepare for hotter and smokier summers

By Ryan Phelps, Oregon Operations Manager at MacDonald-Miller

Viewpoint in Portland Business Journal:

“As we get deeper into the summer months, it’s no secret that the Portland area is experiencing hotter and smokier seasons.

This presents a challenge for commercial buildings that previously relied on modest temperatures and the cooling effect of evening air. Assuming that existing heating and air conditioning systems will suffice during the hot and smoky season is no longer a viable option.

With the warmer months on the horizon, it is imperative for building owners and facility managers to prepare proactively. Assessing the operation of the building’s heating and cooling systems, inspecting air filtration systems, considering necessary upgrades, and exploring the implementation of “smart building” technology are some of the best ways to prepare and ensure buildings are comfortable.

While we may have moved past the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to acknowledge and plan for the ongoing challenges of parts shortages and supply chain disruptions. More viable strategies exist for those who wish to address issues before they escalate.

At the very least, building owners and facility managers should consider implementing a “smart building” system that integrates into the building’s controls. This system constantly monitors and trends the heating and air conditioning equipment, and promptly detects faults, changes in temperature, pressure, deficiencies and changes in utility usage.

Remote Monitoring

Additionally, this system can be configured for 24/7 remote monitoring, even without on-site personnel. Utilizing such a system can quickly identify, diagnose and assist facilities teams and technicians with resolving issues before they amount to more costly complications.

The system can be configured to send alarms and automatically dispatch technicians to correct the problem, often hours or even days before anyone notices the issue within the affected space. This implementation can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each building. Waiting until problems become large enough to be felt within a building may result in inoperable equipment, production loss and additional damage to equipment.

This is particularly critical for essential service buildings such as hospitals, healthcare facilities, and residences for vulnerable adults, where patients’ well-being may be compromised by heating and cooling problems. Production facilities, lab sites, clean rooms and data centers risk increasing production costs due to prolonged downtime.

24/7 Service

Recently a customer with a mission-critical environment experienced an unplanned shutdown. Our service team comprised of technicians from our electrical, plumbing, controls, and heating and air conditioning departments pulled together to cover an around-the-clock restart that took 24-hours a day for three weeks to complete. This resulted in a seamless restart of production, faster than initially anticipated by one week.

It’s best to ensure that buildings have adequate air conditioning coverage before the scorching days arrive and new equipment becomes scarce. The consequences of being unprepared were clear during a recent “heat dome” event, where temperatures soared above 100 degrees. One nursing home had to scramble to find portable air conditioners at the last minute to ensure the well-being and safety of the residents.

Even buildings with less critical needs, such as office spaces, retail establishments, and multi-use buildings, should prioritize their comfort cooling systems. Scheduling an assessment by an HVAC contractor to evaluate the adequacy and condition of the existing cooling equipment in handling heatwaves is crucial. Regular filter changes and coil cleanings should also be a part of routine maintenance to ensure optimum performance during the hot summer days.

Filter Services

Finally, building owners and facility managers should plan to prepare the building’s air filtration system so it’s capable of effectively filtering wildfire smoke, which is anticipated to fill the region this summer.

Higher level MERV rated filters and carbon filters can be used to better filter the incoming air and reduce odors, particularly during the smoky season. It is recommended to change filters every 90 to 180 days, which means the filters that were installed last summer are well past their usable life. The industry is still experiencing filter shortages, so submitting orders now is imperative to have the filters in hand when you need them most.

We know that heat and smoke are likely coming. We also know that preparing now will prevent discomfort and loss of productivity later.”

Learn more about our smart building services here.

Categories: General

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