The engineering controls proposed in the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry, effective July 27, 2020, stipulate compliance with the 2019 version of ASHRAE Standard 62.1 and 62.2, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality. These engineering controls represent an overreach of the regulatory process since it is impractical for Owners of existing buildings, absent of any pending major renovations, to comply with standards that precede the time when the facilities were designed and constructed. Building HVAC systems in use have been designed, constructed, and commissioned in accordance with strict building code requirements in effect at the time of issuing the Certificate of Occupancy. The engineering controls in the ETS should only require systems to be maintained and operated in accordance with their system design and related manufacturer requirements as of the date of the Certificate of Occupancy or subsequent upgrade to the system.
Although the Department of Labor and Industry utilized the language of the ETS as a basis for the proposed regulation, it is imperative to tailor any permanent regulation for a magnitude and duration commensurate to the risk presented. The COVID-19 pandemic methods of transmission are not fully understood, yet regulations are being proposed to significantly change large components of buildings to address those methods of transmission. Requiring retroactive compliance with a 2019 ASHRAE HVAC standard without fully understanding the real risk from the HVAC system on the building occupants for virus dispersion is premature at best. It should be left to the industry trade groups to determine the most effective design and performance requirements for existing and new HVAC systems and any permanent regulations should follow existing processes contained in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) which utilize appropriate industry investigation and recommendations.