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Wildfires burn near Los Angeles, causing heavy smoke.

How You Can Safeguard Tenant Health Against Climate Change (BOMA 2024 Preview)

May 29, 2024
Wildfires and other phenomena are underscoring the links between climate change and public health. What can building owners and managers do to protect people’s health and adapt to disasters we’re already facing?

The links between climate change and public health are becoming clearer. Indoor air quality has emerged as a clear focus following the COVID-19 pandemic and a series of wildfires. Buildings are responding by cutting emissions, but they must also adapt to disasters we’re already facing.

“We view it from two different perspectives when it comes to buildings,” explained Sara Karerat, managing director for the Center for Active Design, which operates the Fitwel healthy building certification. “Buildings need to not only mitigate the risk of climate change—for example, heat island mitigation and reducing energy use—but also, on the flip side, how do we adapt to the real impacts of climate change with things like mitigating flood risk and making sure buildings are futureproofed to protect humans?”

It’s more important than ever to have this conversation, said Karerat—who will present “How to Safeguard Tenant Health with Climate Change” with Scott Huffmaster, Sales Director, North America, for Trane, in a Sunday, July 14 session at the 2024 BOMA International Conference & Expo.

“What we’ve seen over the past few years is the increasing impact of climate change on our world,” Karerat said. “This is going to be something our generation continues to have to deal with and manage. We’ve seen a lot of conversations around physical risk and how that impacts our safety, but what we’re trying to bring more into the conversation is this ‘people risk’ and how the shift in the environment and climate is affecting our day-to-day lives. We need to be able to look at our spaces from that holistic perspective to see what those effects are.”

Actionable Strategies for Balancing Energy Efficiency and Indoor Air Quality

The presentation will dig into how building owners and management teams can address energy efficiency and IAQ in tandem to reach goals that are seemingly at odds with each other. Improving air quality isn’t just about bringing in more outdoor air—it should be balanced with energy efficiency goals using strategies like effective air changes, where the existing air has been cleaned via filtration.

“While ventilation is important, over-ventilating can lead to increased energy use, and it can actually lead to building owners wanting to do less when it comes to indoor air quality because energy bills and carbon footprints are going up,” explained Huffmaster. “As we’re balancing our carbon footprint with air quality, we have to look at what we’re trying to achieve.”

Buildings can utilize tools like CO2 sensors to ensure they’re ventilating just enough and circulate air through quality filters to clean it, Huffmaster added. Too little ventilation can cause people to have difficulty focusing from an excess of carbon dioxide in the air, while too much ventilation will increase energy spending unnecessarily. Meeting accepted industry benchmarks on factors like air changes, temperature, humidity and lighting will keep bills manageable and ensure tenants are satisfied with the indoor environment.

“It is possible to improve air quality, productivity and tenant outcomes, and it doesn’t need to be expensive,” Huffmaster said. “If we actually target these things in a holistic fashion, it can save money and reduce energy bills.”

Learn more at the 2024 BOMA International Conference & Expo. Not registered yet? Click here to sign up!

About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has been with BUILDINGS since 2010. She is a two-time FOLIO: Eddie award winner who aims to deliver practical, actionable content for building owners and facilities professionals.

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