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Building Automation During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made terminology like "shelter in place" and "personal protective equipment," commonplace. At our headquarters in Illinois, our manufacturing plant is up and running because our industry is considered essential. But we're standing in the doorway of someone's office to talk rather than sitting at their desk. We aren't sharing tables at lunch and it always smells like disinfectant.

Our engineers are working from home, which means their home offices are covered with our latest prototypes and testing equipment. Spouses are being very tolerant of the sudden increase in networking equipment in the house. Our next innovations might very well come from children who are willing to help test equipment if it means avoiding their own digital learning.

All our meetings are teleconferences now. Our Suzhou office is sending us the usual shipment of parts, but they are also including N95 masks and advice for life under quarantine. It's quieter than we're used to. We're all asking each other, "Are you ok? Is your family ok?"

"We're all in this global crisis together," said George Thomas, president. "It's unprecedented on many levels, but the HVAC industry remains essential and I'm certain we'll see innovation as the result of this challenge. This reminds me in some ways of the energy crisis in the 1970s. In an effort to reduce energy consumption, President Carter urged all Americans to turn down their thermostats to 65°. I remember going on sales calls to Caterpillar Tractor in Peoria, Illinois. All the guys were wearing three-piece suits to keep warm and all women who had to wear skirts had space heaters running under their desks. Of course, the space heaters were energy hogs that defeated the purpose of the lowered thermostat."

Source: The U.S. National Archives Documerica album by David Falconer, 1973

The energy crisis in the seventies was challenging, but it spurred the movement for energy conservation, which is still a prime driver for the HVAC industry.

While the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the building automation industry is racing to meet the demand for remote solutions and maintain critical infrastructure. For example, hospitals are complex environments that can challenge the capabilities of a BAS. These 24/7 facilities must maintain temperature, pressurization, humidity, lighting, life safety and security while meeting the comfort and safety needs of patients. In addition to energy, air, and water conservation, hospitals require sophisticated ventilation and humidity control to isolate high risk patients from the surrounding environment and vice-versa. Sophisticated air handlers and central plants with multiple sensors feeding information to the BAS are required. Alarms and security must be monitored and addressed as well.

Likewise, suppliers to essential businesses require warehouses and distribution centers where environmental control is key to maintaining the viability of the products they supply (for example, cold storage warehouses) as well as the comfort and safety of the workers.

We cannot overlook the role we play in society. For that reason, Contemporary Controls remains open and stands ready to support society's needs with BAS products and services. Our factories are running, our products are on the shelf, and our technical support team remains ready to serve you.

To all of our customers and suppliers, stay well. We truly look forward to seeing you in person again.


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