Interior of the St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Mental Health Emergency Services Unit

The Mental Health Emergency Services Unit at St. Joseph’s Health Centre is the recipient of a 2020 Toronto IES Illumination Section Award. Congratulations to St. Joseph’s and the entire design team! HH Angus’ Lighting Design group was proud to have been involved with this project.

Energy-efficient LED lighting, complete with remotely located dimming controls, replaced the old, inefficient fluorescent fixtures. Remote control of lights in patient rooms provides increased staff security and convenience, and minimizes disturbance to patients. The design team consulted with hospital clinical staff, the architect and best practices in Mental Health design in order to provide tamper-proof and anti-ligature versions of lighting fixtures, M&E devices, and services. 

Click here to read more about the full scope of this project and some of its interesting design challenges.

COVID-19 Exterior view of the outbreak Response Facility

Earlier this month, HH Angus teamed up with Parkin Architects as part of a global group of volunteer healthcare designers organized through a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Federation of Healthcare Engineering (IFHE)

These volunteers respond to requests from the WHO to quickly create design documents for emergency facilities to help hospitals and nations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were honoured to have the opportunity to contribute in the global efforts to battle the spread of COVID-19 with our most recent endeavour in Doba, Chad – nearly 10,000 km away from Toronto. Our mandate was to provide design guidance for the repurposing of three existing medical buildings into a facility with one building to handle suspected COVID-19 patients (those awaiting test results), and two buildings for inpatient treatment of COVID-19 positive patients. Our team followed WHO guidelines and provided the optimal design solution for patient care and the safety of staff and visitors, while balancing speed of constructability and simplicity of operation. We proposed several alterations to the existing buildings to address improved patient, staff and visitor circulation in order to mitigate spread of COVID-19, as well as changes to washroom facilities, expansion of the exterior open air arcade (covered walkways), additional doors, partitions and ante rooms.

A hybrid ventilation system was proposed where supply air for all rooms is provided using natural ventilation through building windows, and exhaust fans draw air from the patient rooms using an overhead duct system. The design of critical and severe patient rooms included an anteroom to provide a physical barrier to mitigate the risk of air transferring from the patient room into the corridor.

Despite the uncertainty that COVID has created for many industries, we’re appreciative that we can contribute our knowledge and expertise in healthcare design to help construct facilities to combat this pandemic in regions that may not have access to the same level of resources as we have in Canada.

Our HH Angus team, comprised of Michael Botros, Jessica Generoso, Laura Sisson, Kim Spencer and Tim Zhu, collaborating with Parkin Architects, put together a thoughtful design solution and report for the client, working to their key considerations on a short timeline (7 business days from beginning to end). It was a rewarding experience for our team and we’re looking forward to the next assignment!

Images credits: Daga/ Google

 

As the economy slowly re-opens, businesses need to plan for restarting
operations. Those who require their staff to work in a common location will
need to ensure their employees, customers and partners feel safe and can
trust that they will be returning to a healthy and clean work environment,
both for the near future and for potential second or third waves of infection.

The spread of COVID-19 is generally understood to be through close proximity – by both droplets (within 1-2 meters) and surface transmission. There is little evidence at this time to support airborne transmission, but there is also no definitive proof it is not a contributing transmission path – transmission through HVAC systems is not adequately tested or documented and available resources (such as ASHRAE) appear to favour an abundance of caution in making any recommendations due to this lack of testing.

Our engineers and technology strategists have been exploring the impact of COVID-19 on building design. Here are some considerations for building owners and tenants.

Improving Air Quality

In a typical office building, indoor air is comprised of roughly 25% outdoor air. The rest is recirculated and filtered. It will be important to understand what upgrades may be necessary for the building’s HVAC and Building Automation System (BAS), as well as current and emerging technologies to enhance these systems.

Simple building operation and system adjustments

A first stage of re-entry can include the following, relatively simple adjustments to normal building operation:

  • Assess the amount of additional outdoor air for occupied and unoccupied modes of operation to permit increased air exchange in the tenant areas and disable demand-controlled ventilation schemes.
  • Review the volume of additional outdoor air that could be added to the system based on current system capacity and further open outdoor dampers to eliminate or reduce recirculation. In milder weather, this does not necessarily
    affect thermal comfort or humidity, but will become more difficult in extreme weather.
  • Assess the site for possible addition of energy recovery units to offset some of the operational costs associated with an increase in outdoor air.
  • Make necessary adjustments to building control sequences and changes to set points, such as humidity, to allow for temporary flushing or extended operation of systems.

Design and selection of various filter options for your air handling systems

  • Investigate solutions to retrofit or add enhanced filter technologies in existing air handling systems such as higher MERV-rated filters, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, Active Particle Control filters, UVGI, and Bipolar Ionization.
  • Consider portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters.
  • Active Particle Control technology filters are claimed by their manufacturers to create collisions on a sub-micron level. This causes smaller particles to collide and stay together becoming larger, and providing the ability to collect the larger particles within normal MERV 13 or higher filters.
  • Consider ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to safely and effectively reduce bacteria, viruses and allergens, particularly in high-traffic areas such as lobbies, elevators, and cafeterias/kitchens.
  • Bipolar Ionization may also be a beneficial solution to improving air quality. Manufacturer literature states that it inactivates viruses and creates positively and negatively charged ions that attract to other particles and become bigger and heavier. These bigger heavier particles can now be better trapped by MERV 13 or higher-rated filters. Also, many small particles that are generated within a space will drop to the floor quickly, taking them away from where we breathe. It is imperative to understand that the above changes to system operations and addition of certain filter technology will have an associated impact to energy use and cost.

Cleaning of systems

  • Consider probiotic cleaning of existing coils and other components in contact with air streams.
  • Consider swabs of air handling unit interiors after cleaning and instantly test for presence of Covid-19.
  • Consider use of mobile and local air-cleaning solutions in congested areas.
  • Re-start and re-establish safe drinking water supply.
  • Establish process, protocols, and testing requirements for domestic water systems that have been stagnant during the COVID pandemic.

Technologies for Infection Control in Buildings 

There are various technologies currently in use or emerging in the healthcare sector that could benefit and be applied to commercial real estate buildings.

Real-time locating and monitoring systems

  • Hand hygiene compliance–technology such as infrared can be used to better monitor hand hygiene. Can be deployed at hand-washing stations and bathrooms.
  • Contact tracing apps can create a contact history log, based on location. They can allow you to accurately track the interactions between people, the facility and equipment. Knowing this information can help to slow the spread of the infection. However, there are privacy implications involved with contact tracing apps which should be carefully considered.
  • Occupancy sensors provide real-time information on occupancy and location to indicate whether social distancing or occupancy limits are being respected.
  • Building owners and tenants can also send instant communications and alerts through a mobile app to occupants, and provide information to first responders in case of emergencies, including specifying the exact location of the emergency.

Cleaning

  • UV lighting technology has improved to the degree that it can sanitize an unoccupied room in a few hours.
  • Cleaning robots (currently used in some hospitals) may become normal procedure to clean office buildings or hotels in off-peak hours.
  • Occupancy sensors can notify cleaning crews (or the aforementioned robots) that a particular area is vacant and can be sanitized before next use.

Touchless (Hands-free) control

  • To minimize potential infection from contaminated surfaces, occupants could utilize mobile apps (through their smartphones) to control security access/opening doors and elevator call. This could be rolled in with existing space management apps used for boardroom booking and office hoteling – which also play a role in effective social distancing.
  • Automated or proximity sensor door opening technology.

Social distancing

  • To better practice social distancing in the office environment, occupants may prefer to access amenities such as ordering food, dry cleaning notification, building gym occupancy, transit alerts and ride sharing services through an app – possibly one provided by the building owner that integrates in-building amenities and other local services.
  • Automated social distancing alerts through wearable technologies or smartphone apps.

How HH Angus Can Help

Whether you are a building owner or tenant, we can help you plan your operational restart strategy. Specifically, we can:

  • Assess your HVAC systems and explore ways to minimize the impact of virus aerosols.
  • Work with the Facilities team to appropriately optimize building systems and controls.
  • Investigate and recommend technologies that can help mitigate the spread of infectious disease through sanitization, monitoring, social distancing and other means.

HH Angus has been involved in the design of healthcare facilities (both new construction, renovation/retrofits, expansions and maintenance) for over 75 years. We are a leader and innovator in all aspects of healthcare design. Our knowledge of hospital design and how to address challenges such as infectious disease control can be effectively leveraged into other sectors such as office buildings, retail, hospitality, educational facilities, airports, transit stations, entertainment centres and more.

As well, many of HH Angus’ technical staff are actively involved in committees and associations that are continually developing industry standards for construction and renovation, including the CSA’s HVAC Standard, and the Catastrophic Events section of CSA Z8000 – Canadian Healthcare Facilities. On the technology front, our Angus Connect division is focused technology, including smart buildings technology, and is a leader in providing technology strategy and implementation in healthcare facilities.

To learn more contact:

Kevin O’NeillP.Eng., LEED® AP
Commercial Director
kevin.oneill@hhangus.com

Low and zero carbon energy presents a substantial opportunity for the world. It will deliver significant benefits to the human health, well-being and prosperity, while improving the environment and sustainability of our planet.

The promise of harnessing emission-free energy is an engineering and economic opportunity that is hard to pass on. While eliminating carbon emissions has its health benefits to humans as we reduce air pollution and improve air quality in cities, the transformation to renewable and emission-free energy will help achieve a truly sustainable energy future for the world. This zero carbon energy revolution is coming. It will deliver jobs and reduce the impact of global warming on a wide variety of other important aspects of life. A Low Carbon Energy Transformation is a key component for an effective strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and boost energy security.

The Issue: Climate Crisis

Climate change took centre stage in 2019 as advocates around the world organized events and demanded government action to address the climate crisis. In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended to the United Nations that the world limit global warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) above pre-industrial levels in order to avoid adverse effects on both humans and the environment. This target is possible, but would require the world reaching zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, as well as fast-tracked and extensive changes in all aspects of society.

Looking to the future, the global population will reach 10 billion by 2050, according to the World Bank. In parallel, the world’s demand for raw materials could double by 2060, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. These factors, among others, introduce substantial pressure on the path to zero carbon energy. In order for the world to reach its climate targets, the main sources of emissions to be addressed are human activities related to transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings. For the latter, achieving near-zero/zero carbon emissions involves tackling multiple aspects, such as building construction and retrofitting activities, building envelopes, and building energy systems.

Challenging the Status Quo

Across Canada, one of the primary approaches to building heating is through fossil fuel combustion. Natural gas and fuel oils are burned to produce steam or hot water which are used for heating, or fuel is burned to heat air and sending it directly into buildings. As for cooling, buildings traditionally use refrigeration systems that rely on electricity from the grid, which may/may not use fossil fuel to generate electricity. In addition, when it comes to electric vehicles (EV), most buildings have yet to install EV charging infrastructure.

Reducing building emissions requires a focus on building energy systems, efficiencies, and strategies in order for buildings to achieve true zero carbon emissions. While ASHRAE standards 90.1 and 90.2 address building efficiencies, new smart and innovative building systems for heating and cooling must become mainstream in order to make tangible progress toward a zero carbon world.

Engineering Solutions 

The good news for building emissions is that there is a wide variety of engineering solutions and strategies available to provide emission-free heating and cooling.  Building owners, collaborating with engineering consultants, face the critical task of establishing evaluation criteria for each proposed emission-reduction solution or strategy, in order to determine which is most appropriate under constraints such as budget, time, and performance, and other practical considerations.

Heat Pumps
One solution is heat pump systems that can be used to satisfy both building heating and cooling loads. While heat pumps are typically powered by electricity, it is worth noting that, in Ontario, approximately 90% of electricity comes from low/zero greenhouse gas sources and has one of the lowest annual average emissions factors in Canada (31 g CO2eq/kWh electricity consumed). Heat pump systems commonly have a wide range of capacities. For heating, such systems are capable of providing heating capacities up to 30,000 MBH (8792 kW) per heat pump, and hot water of temperatures as high as 150°F (65.5°C). For large cooling loads, heat pumps have cooling capacities from 250 tons of refrigeration (TR) (879 kW) up to 1800 TR (6330 kW) per heat pump. These capabilities make heat pumps suitable for simultaneous heating and cooling of buildings in the shoulder seasons. 

Heat pump systems are also capable of providing full building heating in winter when they operate in conjunction with an appropriate heat recovery system. For peak heating loads, these heat pump systems can operate side by side with low emission condensing boilers in a low carbon scenario, or coupled with thermal energy storage (TES) systems in a zero carbon scenario. It is worth noting that, for colder climates, supplemental heating may be required to satisfy peak winter loads in order to achieve zero carbon building heating. This may be achieved with other zero carbon heating alternatives. For peak cooling loads, heat pump systems work in conjunction with high efficiency centrifugal peaking chillers or thermal TES systems. Heat pumps that use carbon dioxide as a refrigerant (R744) can provide both heating and cooling emission free, and could be a promising solution if they become mainstream.

Solar Photovoltaic
Regarding on-site electricity generation, low/zero carbon electricity generation can be achieved by using solar photovoltaic (PV) systems coupled with battery storage in a zero-carbon scenario, or by utilizing small-scale low emission natural gas engines for electricity generation, which can also be coupled with battery or thermal storage in a low carbon scenario.

It is important to note that PV system capital costs have been falling dramatically in the past few years, with solar panel efficiencies up to 23%. In addition, battery storage system prices are becoming more competitive. They continue to decrease in cost and are destined to play a significant role in this market.These economic factors will significantly contribute to the zero carbon transformation for reducing building on-site emissions, as they will help to make projects financially viable.

For large-scale integrated applications, such as neighborhood-scale heating/cooling systems or institutional campuses, buildings can utilize an ambient water loop that operates between 50°F and 75°F (10°C and 20°C), or a resilient redundant thermal grid. This system uses an underground pipe network to supply a heat source/sink capability, which is then coupled with individual heat pumps in each building to either draw heat from the loop or inject heat into the loop. One caveat is that this may require retrofits for some buildings in order to accommodate lower water temperatures for heating. These retrofits may involve implementing measures such as re-insulation of the building envelope, high performance glazing, and upgrading the heating and cooling systems in the buildings.

Energy Storage
On-site energy storage systems, such as battery storage or TES, assist both electrical and thermal grids in satisfying peak demand and increasing overall system reliability. Heat recovery is a similar solution that helps achieve zero carbon. These systems work by reclaiming/dispensing thermal energy from/to sources like wastewater, storm water, and open bodies of water.

Geo-exchange
For building heating and cooling, geo-exchange thermal energy is supplied to or extracted from the earth’s surface. The advantage of geo-exchange is that the earth’s temperature is stable over time; for example, in some regions of the world, soil temperature below the frost line remains a constant 45°F-50°F (7°C - 10°C) year-round. In other words, geo-exchange uses Earth’s outer layers as a rechargeable thermal battery. This strategy works best in specific climates and involves geotechnical, civil works, and landscaping considerations.

Geothermal Energy
Another promising solution is Geothermal Energy (which differs from geo-exchange). It uses thermal energy from deeper layers of the earth (2500 meters+) to provide higher temperature heat that could be used for process heat or to distribute thermal energy for heating on a larger scale.

Small Modular Reactors (SMR)
SMRs can be safely deployed in remote areas and would provide carbon-free electricity up to 600-1200 MWe per unit, in parallel with high-grade process heat (up to 1112°F (600°C) for capacities up 1.5 Billion BTU), or heat that can be used for city-wide heating.

The Challenges Ahead

Implementing any of the above-mentioned solutions carries challenges, the main one being economics. Any zero carbon solution has to deliver a competitive return on investment for cost per unit of energy, total capital cost, operational cost, and marginal cost for system reliability for mission-critical applications. These emission-free solutions may, however, offer future economic advantages when compared to traditional methods. 

The advantages become clear when considering economic risk factors such as carbon pricing, cost of depreciation of assets due to regulation, and legislative risk, as well as cost savings of new zero carbon technologies arising from future technological disruption. For example, the heat pump market has been changing rapidly in the past two years (2018-2020), introducing large-scale heat pump systems at lower cost which makes them financially competitive. 

Other challenges to zero carbon energy solutions may prove more problematic; for example, the challenges of business repositioning for some energy stakeholders, such as fossil fuel energy producers, distributors, resellers, and equipment vendors. Repositioning businesses to benefit from the zero carbon transformation can induce substantial resistance to change, perhaps due to accelerated time frames, as well as human capital problems, or due to changing demands for skills in the job market.

Planning and deploying an effective energy strategy, including creating and implementing resilient and adaptive energy roadmaps that can actively respond to changing economic and environmental conditions, is a solid start to a zero carbon energy transition.  

Our highly skilled energy consultants are available to discuss low/zero carbon energy options and the transformation solutions best suited to your needs.
For more information, contact lowcarbon@hhangus.com

Resources:

Summary for Policymakers – IPCC
https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

A Clearer View on Ontario’s Emissions - The Atmospheric Fund, 
https://taf.ca/publications/a-clearer-view-on-ontarios-emissions-2019/

Deep Lake Water Cooling System - ACCIONA https://www.acciona.us/projects/construction/port-and-hydraulic-works/deep-lake-water-cooling-system/

 Geothermal energy - IRENA https://www.irena.org/geothermal 

Author:

Mike Hassaballa, MASc., P.Eng.
lowcarbon@hhangus.com

Creating intelligent, responsive and flexible spaces allows building owners to improve occupant comfort, productivity, health & wellness and security, while also increasing the value of the asset. By leveraging data from connected building automation systems, IoT devices and other applications, we can design ‘smart spaces’ that optimize the built environment – from workplaces to hospitals and more.


Benefits of smart spaces

  • Optimize work flows and processes
  • Realize operational and energy efficiency
  • Improve tenant/occupant experience
  • Increase the value of your property assets

Unlike new construction, where it is easier to design and implement smart building technologies,we wanted to better understand the process and pain points around retrofitting an existing structure into a smart space. HH Angus has launched a Smart Spaces pilot project to explore smart building technologies within our own office environment, with the goal of supporting our clients’ interest in similar initiatives.

The Smart Spaces pilot will evaluate technologies that can benefit our clients in a real-world setting. We are installing sensors in selected conference rooms and volunteered workstations that will anonymously monitor occupancy and environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. We’re excited to be collaborating with Argentum Electronics, a Toronto-based start-up that is providing the sensors (Spacr.ai Smart Building IoT Platform).

We are also developing a Smart Spaces dashboard and companion mobile app that will aggregate and display data from the sensors and building systems to provide actionable insights, such as adjusting environmental conditions in the space, improve the meeting room booking process, increasing efficiency of lighting systems, and more.

What’s next? The sensors installation has begun, and when these have all been deployed in our office, we will be sharing our progress - including challenges and successes - throughout the process, so stay tuned for updates!