Real Estate Journal: Carrier battles coronavirus with healthy building technology

Wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of Covid-19, but so do germ-killing HVAC systems and enhanced building security controls – two points Carrier Global Corp. emphasizes as businesses respond to the pandemic.

The Palm Beach Gardens-based company (NYSE: CARR) has recognized a major growth opportunity by pairing its available products in air conditioning, refrigeration and building controls with new technology. It launched the Healthy Buildings program in June to offer solutions for commercial building owners looking to boost clients' confidence about returning to safe environments.

The products approved at its South Florida headquarters could impact the health of building occupants in the more than 160 countries where Carrier operates.

Founded in 1915, Carrier is relatively new to South Florida’s corporate scene. The company opened the Center for Intelligent Buildings, where its many products are put on display, in 2018. In April, it spun off from United Technologies Corp.

Carrier posted $18.6 billion in revenue in 2019. Its revenue dropped in the first half of 2020 due to the pandemic, but the company expects to see growth thanks to its Healthy Buildings program.

“With the pandemic, our customers recognized the need to reinvent their buildings in a way to not just address the current crisis, but over the long term to address the health of their buildings,” said Rajan Goel, senior VP of the Building Solutions Group at Carrier and leader of its Healthy Buildings program.

Upgrading a building’s systems can be costly, but it’s often worth it, he said.

Carrier has worked with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on measures to improve health inside buildings and monitor the results. Goel pointed to a Harvard study that indicates improved air quality could increase worker productivity by $6,500 a person annually because it helps curb absenteeism and healthy employees are more alert at work.

“The cost is miniscule compared to the benefits of a healthy building,” Goel said.

There are various types of HVAC systems used to improve air quality. Depending on the type of building, the best solution may be electrostatic filters, UV lighting or increasing the flow of outdoor air. Controlling the humidity level is also important to keep viruses in check, Goel said. Carrier conducts remote air quality monitoring, focusing on ventilation and CO2 levels, so adjustments can be made quickly.

AJ Mueller, co-owner of Miami-based Origin Construction, said many office clients now ask for advice on improving HVAC systems to make the workplace safer. Both architects and building managers are interested in UV lighting and thermal imaging.

For schools and medical offices, Carrier recently developed the OptiClean Air Scrubber, a machine that removes contaminants and releases filtered air. The portable device takes up 3 square feet of floor space.

Building security and access is also important to prevent the spread of viruses.

Carrier recently partnered with Flir Thermal Cameras to incorporate temperature screening into its building access systems. If a person has a high temperature, Carrier’s occupancy sensors can tell where they’ve been in the building and who was near them, which would help with contact tracing. The company also has touchless building entry systems, so employees don’t need to touch anything to move around the office.

Security and monitoring systems can also limit the number of people in any one space to promote social distancing.

The pandemic has resulted in rapid adoption for the mobile technology Carrier developed for the hotel industry, Goel said. The Onity DirectKey system allows guests to check in and enter their rooms with an app, skipping the front desk or and the door handle. Many Hilton hotels have started to use this technology, Goel said.

“Carrier has been in the space of healthy buildings for some time, and we are investing in areas to make sure we define the next era of healthy buildings,” he said.

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