Reduce COVID-19 Risks In Commercial Buildings Without Wasting Energy

As offices, schools, and retail stores reopen, ACEEE’s Steven Nadel discusses how to reduce COVID-19 risks without wasting energy.

By Steven Nadel

Gradually, more offices, schools, and retail stores are reopening, with trends varying from state to state, and often among counties within states. As they reopen, many building owners and managers are considering steps they should take to reduce chances of coronavirus transmission. In this blog post, I summarize what we know and don’t know about the subject and then discuss recommendations based on the best expert guidance we have seen.

COVID-19 risksAs an energy efficiency organization, we want buildings to be safe, and we look for ways to make them safe without wasting energy. Reducing COVID-19 risks is the priority, and research and guidance show that many of the best recommendations to reduce risk can be implemented without excessive increases in energy use.

What We Know And Don’t Know

We know that the coronavirus is much less likely to be spread outdoors than indoors. For example, in a database of more than 1,500 superspreading events, only 3 are indicated as having taken place outdoors (0.002% of the cases) and another 57 (4% of the cases) are cases with both indoor and outdoor elements where it is not clear where infection occurred. The vast majority (more than 95%) of the superspreading events took place indoors.

We know that a primary mechanism for spread of the virus is droplets emitted by infected people, commonly (but not solely) breathed in by people within six feet of an infected person.

We know that the virus can live for a period of time on many surfaces and be picked up when someone touches that surface and then brings their hand to their mouth or nose. This is why people are urged to wash their hands frequently and why there are many recommendations for regularly cleaning surfaces that can become contaminated. However, the emerging consensus is that infection from surfaces is infrequent…

To learn more about reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection in your facility, continue reading Nadel’s blog post on the ACEEE website.

COVID-19 risksSteven Nadel is Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. Prior to his promotion to executive director in 2001, Nadel served as deputy director of the organization and director of ACEEE’s Utilities and Buildings programs. He has worked in the energy efficiency field for more than 30 years and has over 100 publications.

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