ASHRAE Issues Guidance on Building Safety

At a time of jitters over the possibility of terrorist attacks, The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc., (ASHRAE) has issued a new risk management strategy for building owners.

Risk Management Guidance for Health, Safety and Environmental Security Under Extraordinary Incidents was presented at ASHRAE’s winter meeting in Chicago, Jan 25-29. The report is available free at

The report addresses health, comfort, and environmental security issues involving air, water, and food technologies that are within the scope of ASHRAE. It encourages all building owners to determine their building’s level of risk before deciding what steps to take to address that risk.

“There’s no silver bullet to solve all problems [that might be encountered], but this document provides a great deal more in-depth information than the document from a year ago,” says ASHRAE President Donald Colliver, Ph.D., P.E., referring to a report released by ASHRAE in January 2002. That report has been nationally recognized by the Office of Homeland Security as one of the most important guidance documents published following Sept. 11, 2001. It is still available at

The new report provides methods for risk management strategy; information on infrastructure support, constraints, and vulnerability; and guidance for owners of existing buildings and for designers of new buildings.

“Building owners have come to expect 100% reliability from the infrastructure that serves them,” says James Woods, Ph.D., P.E., chairman of the presidential ad hoc committee that prepared the report. “Most are not aware of how vulnerable and interdependent these systems are. This report addresses that vulnerability and suggests measures to reduce the risk of disruptions.”

Among the findings and conclusions of the report:

  • The health, comfort, and productivity of building occupants should not be compromised in the name of reducing building vulnerability
  • If the risk of terrorist attack is judged to be sufficiently high, a greater number of redundant or backup features may be desirable and justifiable
  • Outdoor air intakes should be located so that they’re protected from external sources of contamination and away from publicly accessible areas
  • Integrating the control sequences of HVAC systems for normal and extraordinary periods of operation is a critical design issue.

“In some cases not doing anything is an option because a building owner may determine that his or her building simply isn’t at risk,” says committee member Larry Spielvogel, P.E. “At the same time, we felt a heavy burden of responsibility to provide guidance for those buildings that are at risk, because ASHRAE sets the standard of care.”

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