Development

Local Engineering Firm Improves Air Quality at Denver Office Tower

As Swanson Rink employees return to their HQ space this week at a 50 percent capacity, the Denver-based mechanical and electrical engineering firm has partnered with its landlord to improve building air quality at The Chancery, a 16-story office tower in the Golden Triangle. Swanson Rink has implemented changes to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The firm’s mechanical engineers looked to the latest recommendations provided by the American Society of Heating and Refrigeration Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to help them determine  modifications to the ventilation systems that would have the greatest impact on air quality within their 20,000-square-foot headquarters.  However, as only one tenant in a 256,000-square-foot building, the firm was limited in the decisions it could make on changing the operation of the building’s mechanical systems. The firm approached its landlord, The Chancery Sentinel, LLC, a subsidiary of Zaser & Longston, Inc., with the results of its research on increasing outside air intake and improving filtration to improve indoor air quality.

“It is critical to us to ensure our space is as safe as possible for the eventual return of our employees, clients and partners,” said Gary Orazio, PE, president of Swanson Rink. “We’ve seen all sorts of challenges during our 70 years in business, and the decisions made here have a significant impact on the health and safety of not only our own employees, but that of all the building’s occupants. We first looked at the changes that could be implemented at low to no upfront costs, but that still have a significant positive impact on office environment,” he added.

Swanson Rink’s engineers recommended four primary steps the building’s owner could take to improve the indoor air quality.  These included:

  • Adjusting the ventilation system controls so that the amount of outside air delivered to the space was increased from 25% to 50% of the total circulated air.
  • Running the restroom exhaust fans 24 hours per day.
  • Running the ventilation systems on 100% outside air prior to building occupancy to flush the building with fresh air.
  • Upgrading the ventilation system air filtration from a filter efficiency rating of MERV 11 to MERV 13. Based on current information, MERV 13 filters entrap particles of the size of the airborne virus.

“We are very appreciative to have this resource and level of concern coming from one of our tenants,” said James Moilanen, vice president of real estate at Zaser & Longston. “It’s a win-win. The costs of the adjustments themselves are minimal, and while we expect an increase in energy usage for the building overall, we want to take every positive step possible toward ensuring the safety for all tenants and visitors in our building,” Moilanen added.

Employees at Swanson Rink have successfully been working remotely for the past several months, but the firm is slowly introducing the opportunity to return to the office at a reduced capacity and density. “Design and construction is all about teamwork. The physical spaces we occupy and the human interaction within contribute to workplace culture,” Orazio said. “Building owners and operators should be taking a close look at the HVAC and controls systems as an important component in their overall COVID-19 mitigation strategies.”

 

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