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Pressure Critical Rooms Tech Talk

Stacy Carey and Steve Jerge, Midwest Associates President and General Manager respectively, presented at the Building Commissioning Association June 2020 Tech Talk.

Along with representatives from Grumman/Butkus Associates, Stacy and Steve discussed commissioning and balancing Pressure Critical Rooms (PCRs), such as operating rooms, ICU rooms, cleanrooms and laboratories.  PCRs have very specific design, construction, and performance requirements that must be adhered to, tested, and documented. This year we’ve seen a sharp increase in the need for commissioning PCRs and creating new, makeshift PCRs for treating and testing COVID-related patients.

Our Midwest Associates team shared their years of experience commissioning and balancing PCRs and the lessons they have learned along the way to help avoid common errors.

Here are a few highlights from their presentation.

A TAB technician’s process for balancing a PCR involves the following key steps:

  • Review the drawings and specifications to understand the room requirements – for example, does the room need to have positive pressure, negative pressure, or a pressure cascade (ensuring the flow of contamination is from clean to less clean); what is the required ACH (air changes per hour)​.
  • Visually inspect the room envelope integrity.
  • Pressure test the room if required by the owner.​
  • Balance the room to design​: test and adjust all supply valves, boxes, diffusers and all exhaust valves, boxes, grilles.
  • Measure the pressure differentials using a multimeter and compare this data to the room sensor or monitor readings​.
  • If balancing multiple rooms with a cascade, start with the innermost room and “work your way out.”​
  • After the pressure differential is correct, measure the room and calculate the ACH​. The ACH is a measure of the air volume added to or removed from a defined space divided by the volume of that space. In other words, this is the number of times per hour the total volume of air in a room is changed over.

 Commissioning and TAB lessons learned:

  • Before they can complete their functional testing, commissioning providers need to review the TAB report. If a commissioning provider has any questions regarding the report, don’t hesitate to call the TAB firm and ask. Commissioning providers and TAB contractors can and should work together to achieve the best results.
  • In most cases, the initial balance to the design airflows doesn’t achieve the required pressures. TAB technicians should discuss adjustments with the design engineer.
  • Keep in mind that most balancers will measure room dimensions without taking cabinetry, bulkheads, etc. out of the room.
  • Verify the TAB instruments are within calibration​.
  • Low level return grilles can get loaded with lint from bed linens. It’s a good practice to clean them before starting balance​.
  • Best practice is to inspect the AHU and exhaust equipment, including the pressure differentials, before starting balance​.

An Overview of ASHRAE’s Updated Guidelines for Academic Buildings

The reopening of schools and universities has been a prevalent topic these past few months as institutions strive to ensure they’re providing the safest possible environment for their students and staff to learn and teach in.

It is important academic leaders continue to review and verify their plans for reducing the spread of viruses like COVID-19 are up-to-date and being followed.

At a conference this summer, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force presented an updated guide to reopening schools and universities, reaffirming their position that “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning [HVAC] systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The collection of 41 slides includes a series of checklists to be completed for specific equipment and systems throughout the academic year. Some checklists are to be done daily such as general cleaning and flushing the air by operating the mechanical systems in occupied mode for at least 2 hours before occupancy.

Most equipment and system checks should be done on a monthly basis. Some of the monthly checklists are for major pieces of equipment like air handler units, boilers, cooling towers, and chillers. There are also checklists for single zone equipment like fan coil units and mini-splits, as well as water and steam distribution systems.

The Task Force outlines a set of “Designer Guidelines” with the goal of helping “designers retrofit and plan for the improvement of indoor air quality and to slow the transmission of viruses via the HVAC systems. The underlying effort of the designer should be to increase outside air to the spaces, treat return air and or supply air to spaces via mechanical filtration and maintain indoor comfort as defined by the design temperature and relative humidity.”

The guide also provides instructional and procedural recommendations for how facility managers can increase their existing air system’s filtration efficiency during the pandemic. The target filtration level for schools is currently MERV 13 or higher. The slides walk you through how to gather the necessary data to determine whether MERV 13 filters are compatible with your system. If MERV 13 cannot be installed, they offer alternative options for increasing filtration.

Finally, the updated guide includes a list of protocols for higher education facilities to implement, including recommendations for unique spaces like student health facilities, laboratories, athletic facilities, and residence halls.

Midwest Associates is here to help you evaluate and test how your academic buildings are performing this school year. Visit our contact page above to learn more about how our services can benefit you. To learn more about ASHRAE’s reopening recommendations, visit the link here: https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/reopening-of-schools-and-universities

MWA Techs Featured in The NEBB Professional

MWA’s Test and Balance technicians share their stories about working in potentially high-risk buildings during the pandemic in the latest edition of The NEBB Professional, Quarter 3 – 2020. The article, titled “Midwest Associates Test & Balance Technicians Respond to COVID-19: Helping Create Safe Spaces for Treating Patients & Testing Essential Workers,” highlights the important contributions MWA’s technicians have made, some of the challenges they faced, and lessons they learned on projects across Indiana.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, some of the ways MWA has responded to clients’ requests have been by helping hospitals ensure they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated standards, converting patient rooms into temporary isolation rooms, and helping companies quickly and safely provide much-needed testing sites for essential workers.

To read the article and learn more about the essential work our amazing technicians have been doing, follow the link here: https://www.nebb.org/resources/theprofessional/

The Role of Quality Assurance at the Community Justice Campus

Midwest Associates is hard at work providing Construction Quality Assurance for the Marion County Community Justice Campus, or the CJC. The CJC consists of the Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse, Adult Detention Center (ADC), Sheriff’s Building, and the Assessment and Intervention Center (AIC).

Our expert team is primarily assigned to the courthouse; however, we do assist in all of the buildings on a regular basis.

Each of our team members on site is tasked with different responsibilities. Whether we are attending meetings or reviewing the fine details of work being completed in the field, Midwest Associates is dedicated to ensuring the project is completed to the highest standards.

A large part of our work on this project consists of identifying deficiencies, reviewing the issues, and ultimately verifying they have been corrected. This process guarantees cost savings for property owners, as it reduces rework by identifying and correcting issues early in the construction process.

Our Construction Quality Assurance team is doing amazing work for the CJC project, including, but certainly not limited to:

1.) Supporting the concrete installation by reviewing and documenting most of the concrete placed on site. We help the concrete superintendent identify any potential field issues. We review elevated deck pours to ensure that the post-tension tendons, rebar, formwork, and embedded items are in per the plans and specifications. We walk with the engineer and/or 3rd party testing agency and record any deficiencies they find so that we can get them corrected prior to placement. We document the elevated deck and vertical concrete work through pre-pour cards, observations logs/maps, and Procore observations.

2.) Maintaining a pre-punch system for our concrete superintendent. Every Monday, the concrete superintendent and our team walk the building to identify deficiencies in the concrete finish and/or to document the corrections that have been made. This helps the concrete division make repairs while they have easy access to the areas before the other trades occupy the space.

3.) Reviewing the vapor mitigation system (VMS) and all of its components. We then help resolve issues in the field by facilitating communication with the VMS engineer and the vapor barrier manufacturer’s representative. We document the correction of all deficiencies using observation logs and Procore observations. We provide a similar service for the waterproofing of exterior walls and elevator pits. We often have more time to devote than the superintendents to really dig into the details of each system and ensure we are installing items per the contract documents.

4.) Attending the above ceiling walkthroughs at the AIC. We help document the deficiencies that are called out by the design team and owner’s representative. The list is published and distributed to all the subcontractors. After they have completed the necessary corrections, we come back to verify and document.

5.) Reviewing the air barrier in a similar way to the waterproofing. We meet with the subcontractor and identify areas that do not meet the manufacturer’s requirements, such as: wrong product, wrong application of the product, and/or any missed areas. Again, we document the deficiencies and verify they have been corrected.

Are you a property owner or project manager looking for a dedicated team to complete tasks like these, and more, to the highest standards? Contact Midwest Associates today.

Healthy Buildings to Help our Economy

Did you know there are many economic benefits to healthy buildings?

As we respond to COVID-19 and this uncertain time for our health and future, safe buildings AND boosting our economy are more important than ever.

Harvard experts have found that by providing more opportunities to work, learn or reside in a more health conscious building, we will also be supporting the economy.

As we move back into “normal” life post-COVID, the economic benefits for property owners who are able to market their buildings as healthier indoor spaces will become increasingly apparent. John D. Macomber, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, explains “I think that the offices with the premier health story will get the premium rent and get the tenants, and the offices with a lagging health story will lag.”

Healthy buildings will be those that can claim improved Indoor Air Quality. Midwest Associates’ expertise in balancing HVAC systems and performance testing of mechanical systems helps property owners implement the necessary changes to achieve healthier buildings. These changes include increasing the air change frequency, increasing outside air ventilation, checking air filter installation & maintenance, and ensuring balanced room pressure differentials.

In the article "What Makes An Office Building Healthy",The Harvard Business Review states, "Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have estimated that improving indoor air quality in offices could add as much as $20 billion annually to the U.S. economy. This new calculus should inspire a new generation of highly justifiable investment in creating and operating a healthy building."

Contact us today for more information on how you can make your buildings safer for your tenants, employees, and more, while also doing your part to stimulate the economy.

Building Commissioning Association’s Central Chapter

Midwest Associates’ President Stacy Carey has been elected to sit on the leadership board of the Building Commissioning Association’s Central chapter.

BCxA is an international non-profit organization that serves as the recognized authority and resource on commissioning. The BCxA exists to assure quality buildings and provides technical and educational resources, a roadmap to innovation, quality benchmarks, and initiatives that are important to commissioning providers.

Their mission is to guide the building commissioning industry by advancing best practices and education throughout the building industry, and promoting the benefits of building commissioning to achieve buildings that work. The BCxA supports certification programs that set a high bar for the commissioning professionals who manage the total building commissioning process.

As an ambassador, Stacy and the other commissioning professionals are committed to the highest standards and practices for the commissioning process. They focus on supporting members through best practices, professional development, leadership and representation, promotion and collaboration, and certification.

“I am honored to be elected to the board and am looking forward to providing leadership and representation for Indiana and the central chapter,” Stacy said of her election.

Building Confidence Through Local Nonprofits

We had the pleasure of joining Flight1, a local nonprofit that rebuilds confidence in children affected by serious health challenges, at an event celebrating their board and sponsors. It is easy to see how flight brings such joy to our community!

Steve Jerge – Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Bureau Hall of Fame Award

Midwest Associates General Manager Steve Jerge has been honored as the latest recipient of the Testing, Adjusting, and Balancing Bureau Hall of Fame Award from SMACNA, the Sheet Metal Contractors Association of Central Indiana!

The Hall of Fame Award recognizes “those in our industry who have made significant contributions by setting exemplary standards of service or by providing innovative ideas that strengthen the value of TABB Certification”.

Steve has dedicated his career to the Test and Balance field and is a leader in the industry with over 20 years of experience. Known as one of the best in Indiana, he completes each job with passion, integrity and determination to be the best. Others look at Steve as a mentor and he willingly shares his knowledge with engineers, owners, and other contractors. He provides training on various systems, explanations on how to troubleshoot issues in the field, and shares his experiences. He encourages all technicians to continue their education and become certified. Steve is also active in the local chapter of IEBB and shares his TAB expertise with the other contractors in an effort to ensure future leaders of the TAB field continue to uphold the profession.

“Steve has a degree in “real world experience.” I’ve worked with Steve for more than 20 years and he has always proven to be a valuable partner and asset to the organization he represents.” – Mike Roach

We are so grateful to have such a dedicated, experienced leader for our team! For more information on Steve, check out the Leadership page under the ‘About Us’ tab or contact us to set up an appointment.