We started 2022 in fear of Omnicron, which at the time was the latest variant of the coronavirus. With Omnicron’s arrival, it seemed as though the pandemic would never end. At the time, the future of the economy and the reopening of schools looked uncertain. However, as businesses and schools addressed IAQ challenges, they did reopen and things started getting back to a new normal.
The new normal in a post-COIVD world means improving indoor air quality for workers and students as well as for patients in medical facilities and customers of retail establishments. It also means using new strategies for coping with viruses and new technologies to monitor and respond to changing indoor conditions.
Addressing IAQ in the Workplace
As mentioned, Omicron was the latest IAQ challenge as the year began. As a result of rising concerns, we used this space to focus on the fundamentals of HVAC hygiene. That includes regular inspections of AC coils to ensure proper ventilation of indoor air and a lowered risk of virus transmission.
We continued to stress the need for adopting a combined approach to improve IAQ. The first step in that approach is a diagnosis which is done through HVAC testing. We also highlighted the risks of aerosol transmission of viruses and pointed to a study suggesting that even highly filtered environments present a risk of COVID exposure. We offered advice on ways to minimize that risk that includes HVAC evaluation in addition to testing, cleaning, and monitoring the system.
Strategies to Meet IAQ Challenges
The goal of improving IAQ in the face of the COVID pandemic requires specific strategies. In February, we focused on five of those strategies for creating healthy indoor environments. That includes routine inspections and regular maintenance as well as HVAC testing. Cleaning and disinfecting remain important parts of providing clean air indoors as does the restoration of aging equipment to near-factory specifications. The use of air cleaning technologies is also beneficial as is around-the-clock monitoring of indoor conditions.
We also encouraged schools to take advantage of available funding to tackle their IAQ challenges. We pointed to the monies allocated by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund). This money includes over $13 billion through the CARES Act to help schools improve IAQ. We also advised schools not to simply accept the lowest bid from contractors but instead do the research for the most qualified HVAC company.
ASHRAE Guidelines and Smart Monitoring to Improve IAQ
As 2022 progressed so did the advice building owners received to meet IAQ challenges. For example, guidance from The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) helped facilities managers improve IAQ. That includes guidance from the organization’s standard on ventilation system maintenance. The ASHRAE 62.1 standard provides direction on the inspection and treatment of cooling towers as well as the inspection of the entire HVAC system for microbial contamination.
Monitoring environmental conditions to meet IAQ challenges is a big part of creating safe indoor conditions. The pandemic highlighted this need and WTI – PACS responded by improving an already effective monitoring system. With IAQ Guard 2.0, safeguarding indoor conditions reached a new level of control and effectiveness. For example, new technology using the Zigbee protocol enables the system to create artificial intelligence (AI) swarms that connect to WIFI-enabled air purifiers. As a result, air cleaning technologies adjust their performance to react to conditions in real-time.
A New COVID Plan for Air Quality
Getting the economy moving and getting schools back open requires a plan. In March, we discussed the federal government’s new strategy for fighting the SARS-COV-2 virus and its emerging variants. That included a National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that outlined steps to protect students in classrooms and workers in buildings. The new COVID plan laid out four goals for dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Those goals include protection and treatment, preparing for any emerging variants, steps to prevent shutdowns, as well as stressing the importance of vaccinations. The plan also included a Clean Air in Buildings Checklist to help building owners and facilities managers provide safe indoor conditions for occupants.
For our part, WTI – PACS provides the methods and systems needed to address IAQ challenges. That includes our Building Sciences Services to evaluate indoor conditions and HVAC systems to create safe indoor air, as well as the monitoring system needed to maintain it.
Meet Your IAQ Challenges Today
We hope the information we provided in this forum helped you meet IAQ challenges in 2022. As another year begins, we continue to work with schools, universities, medical facilities, and government agencies to improve the safety of their buildings. To learn more, call WTI – Pure Air Control Services at 1-800-422-7873 or email us here.