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Op-Ed: Sustainability Opportunities from Covid-19
Summer internship Insights from Temple University Mechanical Engineering Student Michael Jankowski
Over the past two months I’ve gained perspective on multiple technologies that I never expected to learn. Having spent a large portion of my summer working with Charlie Szoradi, the CEO of the Energy Intelligence Center in Berwyn, PA, I was able to learn a lot about cost effective solutions for killing Covid-19, overall healthier living and American job creation. Many companies are unknowingly wasting 15-40% on energy that they could otherwise optimize without replacing existing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Only being introduced to this algorithmic software recently, I can already appreciate the value that it could potentially bring not only economically, but also environmentally as well, to the United States and beyond. I was also able to gain insights into the effectiveness of ultraviolet lights to “purge” viruses such as Covid-19. Prior to this internship I didn’t fully acknowledge the potential UV lights can bring to the disinfection of pathogens and bacteria.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United States government has spent billions of dollars on research for a potential vaccine for the Covid-19 virus. As important as this is, I do believe it is only a short-term fix for a long-term problem. An analogy Charlie likes to use is with sprinkler systems. In the late 1800s a fire broke out in Chicago burning a third of the city’s property value. This prompted the mayor to initiate new building fire codes, including smoke alarms and sprinklers. Although smoke alarms and sprinklers do not stop fires from starting, they do help stop the fires from spreading and can reduce death in home fires by 50%. The same can be said for the Purge Virus technology, which is the sibling offering to the Energy Intelligence Center’s HVAC optimization. The synergy is relevant given that HVAC is central to both technologies. Technology alone cannot completely eradicate the virus, but we are able to mitigate the spread of the virus substantially by decreasing its ability to replicate.
In addition to spending billions of dollars on vaccine research, additional funds could potentially be allocated to businesses around the United States towards research on disinfection and energy efficiency. Funding can support recovery by creating jobs and stimulating the economy, as well as most importantly saving lives. I’ve seen the congressional debates on the news regarding added unemployment benefits which certainly help people, but the funding does not necessarily put them back to work. A new attitude towards clean-tech can include millions of jobs created for disinfection and energy efficiency as a byproduct from Covid-19.
As college students in our early twenties (Gen Z), my peers and I sometimes feel like we have a burden on our shoulders to make positive changes that ensure future generations can live the way we and our ancestors have. A start to addressing the issues I’ve stated above could be leadership by federal and state governments to implement low interest loans and grants for research and design into disinfection and HVAC optimization. The results could be millions of new jobs in a next generation “clean tech” economy and a healthier population with significantly lower healthcare costs. Plus, public and private sector decision makers can create growth by purchasing some of these proven technologies to lead by example. Office buildings, schools and hospitals are just the start for clean air and energy smart buildings.
Another analogy that I really feel brings my point across is with doctors giving medications to patients. A doctor can prescribe you medication to make you feel better, but this is only a post problem fix. If doctors learned more about diet, many healthcare problems could be fixed before they arise. Optimizing diet to each individual person has the same effectiveness as premeditated air disinfection and HVAC system efficiency for each building. Doctors don’t always understand the impacts of what we put in our bodies just as many facility managers don’t understand the impact of connectivity in the pressure, flow and temperatures within building systems, or the condenser water entry temperature and load balancing of HVAC equipment. Buildings are like bodies that need to have the right inputs to thrive. I cannot stress enough the urgency to act now, so we are not all running around like chickens once the problem is already present. If disinfection and energy efficiency companies could have the financial support to be able to help businesses and schools reduce rates of infection and save money on operations, we can in turn reduce the amount of deaths from Covid-19, promote economic stability and have sustainable, healthy buildings moving forward.
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This Op-Ed references “new jobs in a next generation ‘clean tech’ economy,” and a recent GREENandSAVE profile on American made LED Lighting by Optilumen (www.Optilumen.com) is another way to generate more US jobs. To review the article see: https://greenandsave.com/green_news/green-science-and-technology/optilumen-leads-energy-savings-cost-effective-led-lighting