By KEITH W. THOMAS
“Buildings can be a tool in the fight to control infectious diseases,” said Joseph Allen, director for Healthy Buildings program at Harvards’ T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and coauthor of the book “Heathy Buildings-How indoor spaces drive Performance and Productivity.” Are we doing the right things to enlist our homes and offices in this fight or are they making us sicker?
As kids head back to school are they going into toxic environments where viruses, bacteria and pathogens are swirling about them, or have authorities taken the proper steps to ensure their environments are safe and healthy?
School buildings around the country including the Orange County Public School System in Florida are being proactive and utilizing technologies such as bi-polar ionization (NPBI) in the fight against pathogens in their air conditioning systems. The Covid-19 virus is primarily an airborne pathogen that attaches to other air particles and could make its way into our respiratory systems. Utilizing ozone-free ion devices (NPBI) have proven to clean up air of harmful pathogens, and tested to 99.8 percent efficacy within 30 minutes in simulators for inactivating the Covid-19 virus. Another technology is using UV-C lights inside the ductwork to destroy the DNA of pathogens. Together these are a powerful set of tools to create a safe and healthy environment.
What are you doing at home and in your work environment? Do you know what the air quality is inside? Do you know it can be measured for pollutants like dust pollution, VOC’s, Ozone and other allergens? The EPA states that “indoor pollution is 2-5x worse than outdoors.” Mr. Allen is absolutely correct stating we “need to engage our buildings as a tool in the fight against infectious diseases.”
The HVAC system could be a very good ally in this fight. The three important factors to consider making improvements-Ventilation, Filtration and installing Purification like NPBI.
Is your HVAC system operating properly and has it been serviced recently? Check your air filters now. Has it been changed regularly? Are you using a cheap, ineffective home improvement store filter, or have you installed a slightly more expensive filter with a MERV10 or better rating to capture the dust particles in the air? It could make a substantial difference in your environment and more importantly for your health. The Covid-19 virus can attach to these larger floating particles and find its way circulating about your room, or can be captured by a higher quality MERV(Minimum Efficiency Rated Value)filter.
Recently, I measured a home of a lady with COPD in her mid-80’s. The Air Quality Index (AQI) was 67, not good and definitely a problem for anyone with a lung issue. A healthy home should be under 35. One hour after installing a MERV 10 filter, the AQI was reduced to 28. One hour after installing the NPBI, the AQI reduced to 8. She is now breathing and sleeping better with these economical adjustments to her system.
Do you feel like you are winning the Covid-19 battle, or simply unaware of what your environment air quality is and possibly not breathing well? Relax, and breathe a little easier knowing our children at school with NPBI technology and good filters should be safer and healthier than other environments.
According to the CDC and the American Institute of Architects, they issued a ‘hierarchy of controls for Covid-19’ for the most effective and least effective means of controlling transmission. (see inverted pyramid diagram). The MOST effective is social isolation for ‘elimination’ - but, not completely practical. The LEAST effective is PPE (masks, respirators, gloves). In the middle is utilizing the Joseph Allen methodology of using our buildings as tools-Engineering controls (ventilation, physical barriers).
Masks and social distancing cannot be totally eliminated at this point, but effectiveness of transmission should be considered for creating healthier indoor environments.
What will you do next to make your indoor environment safe and healthy?
Keith W. Thomas AIA, LEED AP, CEEE, Fitwel Amb. is the CEO of inpura, a healthy building consulting firm specializing in measuring and purifying indoor air quality in the Southeast U.S. His 35+ years of architectural practice and healthy living initiatives offer his clients a global perspective to solving environmental design and health issues in commercial and residential buildings. Visit https://www.inpuradesign.com/ Reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org