Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

How to Winterize Your Business: Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Prepare for winter weather hazards.


For businesses located in northern climes, the chill of winter brings snow, ice and sleet. What’s that? No, I don’t need booties or a doggie jacket! Is that a reindeer on this sweater? Get it off! I already have a fur coat, for goodness sake!

The winter storm season got off to an early start with an enormous Midwest blizzard. The popular video of the Metrodome collapsing in Minneapolis is a vivid reminder of the potential hazards of winter weather. I ask the guys at the firehouse to shovel snow off of my “dogdome” whenever necessary.

You likely know some tips about winterizing your home. Many of those same ideas apply to business. But commercial properties present some unique winterization challenges of their own.

Heating and ventilation winterizing tips

  • Schedule an annual cleaning of your HVAC system. Neglecting regular maintenance can wear out the equipment and lead to high fuel bills.
  • Check the caulking around your windows and doors, to make sure warm air is not escaping. Another key for staying warm in the winter is to take lots of naps in a sunny spot. A good 14 hours a day of sleep is optimal.
  • Use a door blower to judge whether or not your building is airtight. A blower door uses a calibrated fan with a pressure-sensitive device to measure air pressure and identify leaks.
  • Hire a HVAC professional to check for duct leakage, in the same fashion that a plumber checks pipes for water leaks. This is commonly done with a duct-blaster, a machine similar to a door blower that pressurizes the ductwork in an HVAC system. Some companies even use a fog machine to inject non-toxic fog into the system to visually note air leaks. I have a lot of fog-machine related memories myself, from back in the day when Rex and I were in a Cheap Trick cover band.

Avoid the winter “slip and slide”

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Keeping the temperature at 64 degrees at night instead of turning it completely off does not save energy. Still too cold? Consider growing a full coat of hair, it worked for me! Modern HVAC systems work quickly and can quickly bring room temperature to comfortable levels.
  • Make sure sidewalks and building entryways are free of ice. While salt is the most commonly used method for melting ice, there are new environmentally-friendly alternatives including sugar beet formulas. Remember that traction is the key. So be sure to use traction mats or even sand to cover slippery spots.
  • Is snow blocking the fire lane? Consider safety first. And clear snow to allow emergency access to hydrants (I heartily approve) and emergency exits.
  • Watch for falling icicles. Although it might look like a scene from a cartoon or movie, a 20-pound block of ice from 30 stories up can be dangerous. Consider heating the building’s exterior or using glycol-based de-icing agents.

Preventing “popsicle pipes”

  • Frozen pipes are best prevented by proper insulation of pipes and fittings.
  • In cases of extreme cold, consider letting faucets drip slightly since moving water takes longer to freeze than standing water.
  • Pay attention to wet pipe sprinkler systems for freezing. Review codes which often mandate dry pipe sprinkler systems (water is not in the pipes until system operation) for temperatures under 40F.
  • Do not use a blowtorch or other open flame on frozen pipes. This causes rapid expansion which can easily crack your pipes. (Not to mention that if you do this you just might burn the place down in the process!)

Stop the thermostat wars

  • Squabbles among office workers about the temperature can cause tensions and lead to decreased productivity. I quibble with my friends over more important issues, such as who gets to sniff a new dog first!
  • Consider setting a standard office temperature and name one person whose job it is to adjust the thermostat. Be sure to communicate this standard with your employees. To make your case, relay studies on temperature’s effect on worker efficiency!
  • Set policies on usage of space heaters. If they are allowed, make sure employees follow strict safety rules including proper storage of paper. (Don’t store near space heaters.) Make sure employees and tenants unplug space heaters before they leave their home or office.

In addition to protecting the physical systems in your building, take a look at your emergency supplies. Can your building accommodate every tenant overnight or for multiple days in case of a blizzard? Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets, portable heat sources and extra food in case you get snowed in. Hiring a St. Bernard with one of those barrel collar things is probably overkill.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in Going Green, Uncategorized

Going Green with HVAC

Go Green with HVAC

Part 3 in a Series

While we are not experts at HVAC, here are some basic tips. For more information, please contact your HVAC professional.

Woof! I’m sorry, I can’t contain my excitement when talking about all the ways building owners can help the environment!

In previous posts in this series about going green, we’ve discussed green roofs and recycling programs. Today we are looking at more “behind the scenes” ways you can reduce your building’s carbon footprint.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings account for 18 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. In a typical office building, energy use accounts for 30 percent of operating costs, which is the single biggest category of controllable costs.

Reducing energy usage can result in significant long-term reduction of building expenses, freeing up capital you could use for other improvements such as landscaping, painting, or doggy door installation.

Today’s blog covers ways you can improve your building’s HVAC and other systems to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

Cut down on the need for heating and air conditioning:

  • Review building insulation and fill gaps with the most efficient materials.
  • Reduce the building’s “solar gain” by installing reflective roofing materials and tinted windows. These are especially important in buildings located in sunny climates.
  • Examine office equipment to make sure tenants use the latest technology that outputs a minimum of heat. Pay special attention to data centers which require substantial cooling. When I want to get cool, I simply run through some sprinklers, but I don’t think that works for server farms…
  • Simple solutions are best.
    • Encourage tenants to open blinds/curtains where feasible to let in warm sunlight.
    • Ask tenants to close/open windows to warm/cool office spaces before adjusting thermostats.
    • Can people pant? Not sure if that works for them?

Selecting and maintaining the heat and AC systems:

  • Review older systems against more efficient, modern units. For many buildings, the initial costs of a new system could be quickly recouped through energy savings. Talk to an HVAC specialist about potential savings. Now if I could just get a ventilation system installed in our doghouse…
  • Don’t purchase a system that is too big for your building. Your installer can do tests to make sure the “load” is met for recommended units in your building.
  • Consider dehumidification systems for humid climates and evaporative coolers in dry climates. As the saying goes, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” I personally contend it can be both – I do have a lot of fur and let me tell you; it doesn’t keep you cool!
  • Install quality control systems:
    • Programmable thermostats are important for reducing heating/cooling during off hours. Check with facility managers to be sure thermostats are set to the right temperature.
    • Multiple zones are essential for multi-room and floor buildings. Tenants have varying needs. Some might have 20 employees working in one space, while others might have only a few employees who work in small, individual offices. If you can “bring a pooch” to work, then you need to account for that extra body heat, as well.
    • CO2 sensors dynamically adjust heating/cooling by measuring CO2 amounts.

Proper maintenance:

  • As with all mechanical systems, proper maintenance can extend life and performance.
  • Replace air filters frequently with high quality filters.
  • Inspect all ductwork and piping for any leaks, which can contribute to heat/cooling losses.
  • Check thermostat function to make sure everything is performing as it should.

Beyond the benefits to the planet and your profits, improving your building’s HVAC systems will lead to comfortable, content tenants. This is great because no one likes to hear disgruntled employees complain about being too hot or cold. When JR gets just a chill, he starts barking up a storm! And an unhappy employer is a tenant who might not renew his lease in your building! Modern HVAC systems are designed to provide controlled temperatures at maximum comfort.

Visit us next week for part 4 in our series about strategies for maintaining green commercial and residential property.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact my pals at RJ Westmore, Inc. Their e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. RJ Westmore, Inc. is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council a non-profit trade organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.