Man wearing COVID-19 mask while working in a commercial office building

 

While many states are opening business and workplaces to the public, the threat of COVID-19 is still at large.

 

Now more than ever, commercial buildings need to prioritize keeping their interior spaces safe and hospitable. The EPA recommends that people practice a combination of wearing mask coverings, surface cleaning, and handwashing to help stop the spread of the virus.

 

On top of these basic precautions, it’s also important to consider indoor air quality.

 

Clean Air, Clean Body

 

According to RMF Engineer Gregory Hudson, “Appropriate ventilation, when properly applied and designed, can limit the spread of airborne pathogens throughout a healthcare facility.”

 

While this statement refers to healthcare facilities, the sentiment is still true for commercial buildings of any size.

 

Air flow indoors normally works through a ventilation system, which mixes recirculated air with outdoor air. By heating or cooling the air as it circulates the building, the HVAC system both conditions and ventilates the building.

 

This process is important, as it makes sure stale, possibly infected indoor air is constantly being replaced with fresh, filtered outdoor air.

 

Though according to the EPA, concentrations of indoor pollutants have increased in recent decades due several reasons. These include energy-efficient buildings which can lack proper ventilation and heavier use of synthetic building materials, personal care products, and household cleaners.

 

On top of that, the majority of people who are most susceptible to viruses and pollution, i.e. elderly people, young children, and those with respiratory problems, spend most of their time indoors. Without proper indoor air quality, these people could more easily become infected.

man wearing COVID-19 mask while working in a commercial office building

Portrait of young man with face mask back at work in office after lockdown, working.

How to Maintain Better Indoor Air Quality

 

It can be difficult to manage a business or office while also trying to maintain COVID-19 safety precautions. Luckily, there are some things that you or the facility managers can do with your HVAC systems to help increase indoor air quality

 

  • Testing, Adjusting, Balancing (TAB): Indoor ventilation systems age over time, meaning there’s always room for improvement. That’s where the TAB evaluation comes in. With this test, current airflow is tested against the desired airflow of a given area. From there, the system is adjusted to reach those specific parameters. This process helps the building run more efficiently and ensures proper ventilation
  • Increase Air Circulation: In order to help filter out COVID-19 from the air, the CDC recommends increasing ventilation rates and the percentage of outdoor air. By increasing the air circulation, the building can filter out the old air with fresh air from outside, helping to further prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Meet in Ventilated Spaces: In most buildings, the HVAC system is designed to ventilate certain areas more than others. A hallway will have less fresh air than a meeting room or office space since less people are staying in that space. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to try and meet in well ventilated spaces, like conference rooms.
  • Change Your Filters: This may seem obvious, but so many of us forget to do it, even at home. Now more than ever, it’s important to regularly change the filters in your building. By doing so, you ensure that less particulates get in the air and that said air is properly filtered before entering a given space.
  • Change Your Ventilation System: Depending on how old your building is, it might be time for an upgrade. By investing in a new HVAC system, you’re making sure that your building meets current standards for air filtration and ventilation.
  • Listen to the People: If you’re the owner of a building or head of an office, it’s a good idea to get your occupants or employees involved in your efforts. By sending out a survey or asking them directly, you can help pinpoint problems with air flow in your building. Once you know the problems, you can more effectively fix them.
  • Use Less Toxic Products: As we discussed earlier, there are many products and materials that can prove harmful for respiratory systems. As a last touch, try getting people to use greener products or choose low-emitting paints for your walls.

 

The Next Steps

 

These are just a few of the many steps you can take to make your building safe during these scary times. It’s important to also keep up with LEED and WELL building standards, along with CDC guidelines. All of these are subject to change as we learn more about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread.

 

If you need your HVAC system checked, cleaned, or updated, give Kohmar a call. We specialize in ventilation systems for commercial buildings and are dedicated to following LEED and WELL guidelines to ensure the highest level of safety.

 

Sources:

https://www.hpac.com/columns/managing-facilities/article/20929501/ventilation-strategies-for-healthcare-facilities

https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/indoor-air-quality

https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/indoor-air-and-coronavirus-covid-19

https://nadca.com/resources/blog/could-indoor-air-quality-become-part-post-coronavirus-playbook