Posted on June 5, 2020
Dan Dimond, President of R.E. Dimond and Associates, shared insights for the June 2020 issue of Building Excellence, “Engineering Firm Leaders React to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Q: What steps have you or your company taken to ensure the safety of your clients and employees amidst this global pandemic?
A: “Immediately, we assured everyone that their safety was our primary concern. R.E. Dimond’s leadership team formulated a work from home policy. Necessary telecommunication and software upgrades were made such as increased internet bandwidth, expanded use of virtual meeting platforms for production and team meetings, and internal business communication platforms for coordination of projects. Our leadership team developed a communication plan to make sure our clients were up to date on the status of projects and employees shifted from in-person meetings with clients to virtual online meetings. We had a professional decontamination service company come in to sterilize our offices. We scheduled a deep office cleaning and made sure the few people who were still coming to the office had supplies to remain safe.
In this second phase, the leadership team introduced a gradual return to the office with 50 percent of our company working in office and the remaining 50 percent at home. We have established a maximum occupancy in shared spaces, a protocol for mask use, and incorporated safety signage. We host weekly virtual meetings with all employees to stay connected and delivered care packages to everyone that included masks, hand soap, and disinfectants.
Some of the recommended health and safety protocols were already in place, such as automatic plumbing fixtures with touchless operation. Other protocols have been improved. Surface sanitizing protocols have been established and clearly communicated, including highly trafficked entry and exit doors, office spaces, and company vehicles. We have also established a single point-of-contact in the event any employee or employee’s family members happen to contract COVID-19.
In our office building, we have improved our indoor air quality through several enhancements to our HVAC systems. Fans have been set to run continuously, thereby moving more air and diluting contaminants. We have upgraded the air filters in the equipment to MERV 13. We have also added ultra-violet light systems in these units, which aid in the reduction of biological buildup on internal surfaces and help reduce airborne microorganisms (including viruses) that get past the filters from being transmitted back to the office space. We have also ordered portable room air filtration units for various locations in the office.”
Q: How do you feel about the industry’s response to the pandemic?
A: “There has been an appropriate emphasis on attacking the predominant means of virus transmission – direct person-to-per-son contact and indirect contact via surfaces and proximity.
Airborne transmission over larger distances is not as well understood, and it will likely take a while to see a strong industry consensus on how best to handle this secondary route of transmission. We believe that common sense “preventative” measures such as what we have implemented at our office building will continue to gain wider acceptance. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has formed a taskforce to help deploy ASHRAE’s technical resources to address the challenges of the pandemic as it relates to the effects of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems on disease transmission in healthcare facilities, the workplace, home, public and recreational environments.”
Q: Have you seen any positive changes take effect in the industry as a result of COVID-19?
A: “Remote work at home has been successful, we’ve noticed increased communication with team members and clients, and utilization rates are increasing because we haven’t been meeting as frequently. Professionals of all industries are working together with Best Practices. People have been more aware and conscious of time management and communicate more thoroughly, with better explanation and detail.”
Q: Will the current situation have lasting eff ects on the engineering profession? If so, what will they be?
A: “The profession will be focused on improving indoor air requirements; UVC lights, improved filter efficiency, and the review of air change requirements. Building design will change. Social gathering spaces including theaters, stadiums, open offices, and churches will be viewed differently. Medical buildings including physicians and dental offices will be reconfigured with the addition of negative rooms and increased outdoor air requirements, which improve indoor air quality. The specification and use of touchless devices such as auto flush toilets, faucets and occupancy sensors will reduce physical contact helping keep buildings sanitary and mechanical systems and controls will provide increased ventilation.”
Q: What is the most critical message that you want your clients, employees, and other professionals to know during this time?
A: “R.E. Dimond and Associates’ first concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, clients and their families. We will get through this together. As a building systems consulting company, R.E. Dimond and Associates is displaying ingenuity, keeping up to date on best practices as we learn more about airborne transmissions. Our clients can continue to depend on us for expertise in meeting building goals for safety, energy, and operational efficiencies.”
To view the full magazine article, click the link below.