Because of the pandemic, many building owners, operators and occupants recognize the need to prioritize indoor air quality in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is good news, because historically air quality and ventilation haven’t been prioritized; many buildings cut costs by sourcing and purchasing cheaper filters, and neglect coil cleanliness. Inadequate filter specifications, and a lack of training and education have also been a concern. Currently, air quality standards are designed to meet a bare minimum, and in many cases this minimum standard isn’t being met. Here’s why that needs to change:
We know that airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is significant and needs to be controlled. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air.
A building with inadequate filtration and ventilation can become what is known as a sick building. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sick building syndrome (SBS) is defined as “a set of symptoms that affect some number of building occupants during the time they spend in the building and diminish or go away during periods when they leave the building,” such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, or difficulty concentrating.
Not only does better air quality reduce the spread of COVID-19, it improves working conditions overall. In fact, according to research led by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, air quality within an office can have significant impacts on employees’ cognitive function and productivity.