Glass could have an important part to play in post-COVID-19 design. Its role may be addressed in new guidelines being developed by ASHRAE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The organizations have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that defines parameters on how they will develop and provide safe building occupancy guidelines following the spread of COVID-19.

These guidelines will include building readiness and reopening guidance, sustainable development practices and associated training. NYSERDA and ASHRAE will work cooperatively to improve the design and application of efficient and low carbon heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and refrigeration technologies and their application in New York State.

William Bahnfleth, chair of ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force and professor of architectural engineering at Pennsylvania State University, told USGNN™ how glass and glazing could be used in post-COVID-19 design.

“One could imagine that operable windows might become more common in some types of buildings in order to give occupants more opportunity to control their environment and have access to increased flow of outdoor air. The potential for natural light to inactivate viruses has been much discussed. If light transmitted by glass is germicidal, then this suggests the use of more glass in some spaces to increase daylight penetration,” he said, adding that while ultraviolet wavelengths may be germicidal, many windows have low-E coatings which filer out the UV rays. “Increasing glazed area of buildings, however, adds considerably to energy use because of its lower thermal resistance.”

The MoU includes the following goals:

  • The development and/or utilization of existing research, resources, guidance manuals, training and best practices on minimizing airborne pathogen exposure through improved indoor air quality, ventilation and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation for buildings to enable safe reopening and operation.
  • The development of job/task specific contractor and building safety guidelines to minimize airborne pathogen exposure.
  • The development of guidance documents on carbon neutral buildings, building electrification, carbon emission load calculations and clean geothermal district systems.
  • The development and/or delivery of new or existing ASHRAE professional training on the application of codes, standards, guidance documents, manuals and tools.

“The MoU between NYSERDA and ASHRAE establishes a broad framework for collaboration on research, technology development and guidance that addresses not only clean energy and climate change, but also indoor environmental quality. A major focus of the MoU is indoor air quality and, specifically, energy efficient applications of ventilation and germicidal ultraviolet technology to enable safe operation of buildings. The products of the programs envisioned by the MoU may change standard practices and affect the design of future commercial buildings in New York, and elsewhere, in significant ways,” says Bahnfleth.

Glass Ventilation

YKK AP America’s YOV SSG Operable Vent has the ability to be triple-glazed and provides an integral venetian blind option.

Gary Flemming, business manager of commercial window products for YKK AP America Inc. also spoke with USGNN™ about how zero sightline vents can be used to provide fresh air for buildings without impacting aesthetics.

He explained that he’s seen fewer operating window vents going into wall systems in recent years due to advances in HVAC systems. However, he says these advances work against occupants because more air is recycled and less fresh air is brought in. While the HVAC industry is working to bring in more fresh air Flemming says this hurts energy savings whereas zero sightline vents have a relatively low U-value.

Another benefit of using a zero sightline vent is that blinds can be incorporated into the window to reduce the amount of cleaning and disinfecting needed.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Flemming says he’s had some inquiries from companies interesting in adding vents at clinics. However, these products can be used for a variety of applications, including retrofit projects. One consideration the project team needs to keep in mind is that they will need to match modern-day glass solutions with the existing glass.

YKK AP America offers zero sightline vents that can be used with structural silicone glazing and triple glazing up to 5 by 8 feet.