Fight Airborne Pathogens Indoors with a Paradigm Shift

Given what we know about the aerosol transmission of the COVID-19 virus, indoor air quality has never been more important. As a result, a building’s HVAC system remains an essential part of creating and maintaining healthy indoor air. You can think of an HVAC system as the lungs of the building only in reverse. The system “inhales” used air and “exhales” clean air into the building environment. To give the building’s “lungs” the best chance for success, it is important to keep them clean and maintained. In addition, regular inspections and monitoring help keep systems in top working order. Doing so gives facilities managers an effective weapon to combat indoor air pathogens.

Changing Our Approach to Combat Indoor Air Pathogens

Dr. Rajiv Sahay, FIAS, CIAQP, is Pure Air Control’s Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and director of Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory. He believes there needs to be a transformative change in the way we approach the spread of the COVID-19 virus indoors. The costs in both lost revenue and the impact on occupant health are too substantial if we do nothing. Dr. Sahay stresses the importance of following guidelines on ventilation in the design of systems as well in performance, maintenance, and cleaning.

“This is critical in, not just reducing the pathogen count, but in keeping building occupants healthy,” Dr. Sahay explains. “Buildings should meet higher standards for airflow, filtration, and disinfection rates, but monitoring and managing indoor environments for optimizing building conditions is important not only building hygiene but also for providing a healthy and productive occupancy as well.” 

In the effort to combat indoor air pathogens, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has established standards for ventilation system design and construction.

Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality

For well over a century ASHRAE has drawn attention to heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems design and construction. They’ve set the standards for what is acceptable ventilation as it pertains to IAQ. This includes considerations in the design and focuses on two options for mechanical ventilation systems as well. One is the ventilation rate procedure (VRP) which is based on prescriptive measures and ventilation tables. The other, indoor air quality procedure (IAQP), is based on performance, or in other words, the effectiveness of the ventilation system in controlling air pollutants.

ASHRAE also identifies 19 components that play a vital role in proper ventilation. The organization also recommends inspection and maintenance of 27 areas, 12 of which deal with the cleanliness of the system. A clean HVAC system helps fight airborne pathogens more effectively.

For its part, Pure Air Control Services, Inc. provides a host of environmental project management services that address all of these IAQ concerns for companies large and small. This includes the Building Sciences suite of services which provides a building health check to evaluate HVAC zones using sample testing and analysis. It also includes logging temperature, relative humidity, and wall moisture. Another component is the HVAC hygiene assessment which gives facilities managers data on the system’s impact on IAQ as well the effect on operational costs. The third piece of the Building Sciences system is IAQ Guard. This service uses sensors to log readings and look for changes in environmental conditions that could impact IAQ. All of these things help combat indoor air pathogens.

Combat Indoor Air Pathogens

Dr. Sahay and the EDLab use technologies to analyze environmental samples in order to understand IAQ. For example, testing for the presence of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a key part of risk assessment, infection prevention, and control measures. 

“The evidence is clear that airborne transmission spreads the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Dr. Sahay, “yet, with the exception of healthcare and research facilities, most minimum ventilation standards only control for temperature, humidity, CO2, and odor. Therefore, higher standards for improved ventilation systems and their cleanliness are needed to combat indoor air pathogens”  

Through the analysis of surface samples utilizing RT-qPCR technology, the presence of the virus is detected so remediation can follow to fight these airborne pathogens.

And again, there is a financial cost in failing to meet standards for IAQ.

According to Alan Wozniak, CIAQP, CIEC, President of Pure Air Control Services. “Improving IAQ and reducing virus transmission keeps workers healthy and that means higher productivity with fewer missed workdays. That alone should justify any costs needed to make upgraded changes to the current ventilation cleanliness condition.”

Today, a paradigm shift has occurred to ensure good IAQ in buildings.  In a building the average price per person is $200 per square foot. Therefore, it makes economic sense to evaluate HVAC systems assets both environmentally and mechanically., Then provide ventilation cleanliness and upgrades, as well as continuous IAQ monitoring. All this reduces the unseen risk factors that impact the health and productivity of occupants. These measures also add to building comfort and save valuable energy dollars.

Ready to Make the Shift?

If you’re ready to start improving your ventilation systems and step up the fight against airborne pathogens through inspection, disinfection, monitoring, and more, contact Pure Air Control Services today. Call us at 1-800-422-7873 or email us here.