Optimizing Buildings To Curb COVID 19

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If you work in an office building, chances are the last few years have been pretty rough. Whether it’s been because of hit and miss schedules, the franticness of trying to adapt to Work From Home or hybrid solutions, or your employer’s inability to come up with a solid work solution that keeps everyone safe, it’s been rough. The buildings we inhabit are supposed to make our lives better — as COVID has shown, however, that’s not always the case.

“While the conditions of crowded cities can aid the spread of viral illnesses such as coronavirus, the buildings we inhabit can act as important barriers to contamination when properly optimized” according to a March 4, 2020 op-ed in the New York Times by Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Allen, who is director of Harvard’s Health Buildings Program, wrote that the role buildings can play in slowing the spread of disease is “not getting the attention it deserves” with regard to coronavirus.

Ventilation is a critical factor in how viruses and bacteria spread within indoor environments, and studies have shown that recirculating air in buildings can lead to higher risk of infection during outbreaks, Allen wrote. He also cited recent research showing that even minimum levels of outdoor air ventilation cut influenza transmission as much as having 50% to 60% of the people in a building vaccinated.

“Limiting the impact of this epidemic will require an all-in approach,” Allen wrote. “With significant uncertainty remaining, we should be throwing everything we have at this highly infectious disease. That means unleashing the secret weapon in our arsenal — our buildings.”

IAQuality is your partner in turning your buildings, classrooms, and  office spaces into your best weapon against COVID-19 and other yet unknown airborne illnesses and viruses. We have a wide range of products and solutions that can keep clean air flowing, no matter the size of the interior space.

According to Dr. Stephanie Taylor who is an Infection Control Consultant at Harvard Medical School ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer & Member of the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Group “There is now overwhelming scientific evidence that a mid-range air humidity has significant benefits for human health. It is very possible for us to be managing the indoor air quality of our public buildings in line with this evidence. The time has come for regulations on indoor air quality to include a humidity level of 40-60%RH. This is the optimal level for our respiratory immune system, and will reduce the spread of seasonal respiratory illnesses and their burden on society.

Her statement  is backed up by science–it gives us three main reasons why we should always maintain 40-60%RH in public buildings like hospitals, schools and offices, throughout the year: 

graph showing air quality and humidity levels for large commercial spaces like schools and hospitals

 

Relative humidity of 40-60% in buildings will reduce respiratory infections and save lives.

The World Health Organization sets guidelines for indoor air quality on issues such as pollution and mold. It currently offers no recommendations for a minimum humidity level in public buildings. If it were to publish guidance on minimum levels of humidity, building standards regulators around the world would need to update their own requirements. Building owners and operators would then take steps to improve their indoor air quality to meet this minimum humidity level.

This would lead to:

  • Respiratory infections from seasonal respiratory viruses, such as flu, being significantly reduced.
  • Thousands of lives saved every year from the reduction in seasonal respiratory illnesses.
  • Global healthcare services being less burdened every winter.
  • The world’s economies massively benefiting from less absenteeism.
  • A healthier indoor environment and improved health for millions of people.

“Ninety percent of our lives in the developed world are spent indoors in close proximity to each other. When cold outdoor air with little moisture is heated indoors, the air’s relative humidity drops to about 20%. This dry air provides a clear pathway for airborne viruses, such as COVID-19.

In addition to this, our immune system’s ability to respond to pathogens is suppressed by dry air.

Studies have shown that there is a sweet spot in relative humidity. Air of between 40% and 60% shows substantially less ability to transmit viruses and allows our nose and throat to maintain robust immune responses against them.

That’s why I recommend humidifiers during the winter, and why I feel the world would be a healthier place if all our public buildings kept their indoor air at 40 to 60%RH.”  -Prof. Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, The Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Immunobiology and professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

 

If you’re looking for the right and best commercial air filtration solution for your home, office, school or college classroom, look no further than IAQuality. Our air experts are standing by and we’re ready to serve you in helping you find the best solution for your indoor air quality needs. Reach out today!

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