Build Me Up: Indoor Air Quality and COVID-19
So much is still unknown about the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools are navigating hybrid learning and offices are planning for an eventual return to work, there are many questions on preventative measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing are still the most effective ways to prevent COVID-19, but many people have been asking how a building’s indoor air quality can play a role in the spread of the virus. It is easy for misinformation and fear to spread surrounding so many unknowns, so we sat down with three MEP experts to get to the facts of how a building’s HVAC system can affect – or not affect – the spread of COVID-19 on KA’s Build Me Up podcast.
To discuss what is known about the link to indoor air quality and COVID-19, we talked to Kraus-Anderson’s MEP Systems Group Manager Matt Stringfellow; Facilities Assessment Manager Tim Kittila; and Principal at KFI Engineers, Randy Christenson.
The Importance of Indoor Air Quality
While the importance of indoor air quality has been known for years, it has taken a pandemic to bring the conversation to the forefront. A Harvard study tested the impact of fresh air on worker productivity. The results indicated a heavy correlation between the amount of fresh air circulating through a building and cognitive function, with higher levels of carbon dioxide affecting attentiveness, productivity, and decision-making abilities. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the conversation from people’s performance to people’s health. The decision comes down to balancing the cost of a higher quality building system.
The Impact of COVID-19
While increased air filtration and mechanical systems are important for indoor air quality, Stringfellow, Kittila and Christenson warn that more research is still needed to prove how they affect the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommended guidelines for slowing the spread of the virus are still most important. While there are a lot of new HVAC system technologies out there, building owners should be wary about these claims with so little research and so many unknowns. They recommend looking to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for the latest recommendations on indoor air filtration.
Below: Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization generating equipment is installed inside an air handling unit.
KFI Engineers’ Indoor Air Quality Study
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March and many office workers transitioned to working from home, KFI Engineers took the time to conduct an air quality study in its mostly empty office in St. Paul. Christenson and his team tested out several technologies in the building, such as UV lights and HEPA filters, and conducted research with a third-party testing agency measuring its baseline and final air quality. They measured things like ozone, total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), formaldehyde, and ion counts, and found that HEPA filtering and needlepoint bipolar ionization were the biggest factors in improving air quality. KFI’s initial study is helping inform decisions when it comes to air filter recommendations.
Below: UV light is installed inside an air handling unit.
To hear more about KFI’s study and what they recommend for air filtration amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, tune in to the latest episode of KA’s Build Me Up podcast.View Comments