Coronavirus is going to have a major impact on our lives moving forward. As scientists and medical experts continue to grapple with the consequences of this and other airborne viruses, engineers and others are looking at preventable ways to reduce its spread.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers believes the best way to prevent the spread of airborne viruses is to utilize a three-pronged approach combining fresh air ventilation, air filtration, and healthy humidity in to a Healthy Air System™. These three methods can help reduce the chance of contracting and transmitting airborne viruses.
Fresh air ventilation helps bring fresh air into the space. Air filtration helps to help capture airborne viruses and other airborne pollutants. Humidity control helps to reduce the spread and proliferation of airborne viruses and other airborne pollutants that can be harmful to your health. These methods are used as source control to prevent the contraction and transmission of airborne viruses. Each of these techniques can be used separately to combat airborne viruses, but our Engineering Executive Advisor John Bloemer encourages using all three together.
Health experts also agree that this 3-part approach is important to reducing the spread of airborne viruses.
Air quality is a major health problem that has been cited as one of the leading causes of disease and preventable deaths worldwide. There has even been evidence linking the spread of COVID-19 to exposure to air .
Building design will be borne out of COVID-19, in the same way we design and aestheticize our bathrooms stemmed from tuberculosis and the flu. Slowly, the design from sanitariums used to treat TB patients eventually transitioned in to modern life. The idea of sanitation and cleanliness evolved from something very boring and stale to something elegant as the worlds of public health and design intersected. Bathrooms prior to these pandemics were covered in wood. This gave way to hard, solid surfaces and fixtures as design and function intersected for style as well as for cleanliness.
As public health experts continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its spread, the design of our homes and the importance of indoor air quality as a method of defense against airborne viruses will also develop. While the HVAC system is not the most aesthetically pleasing piece of architecture in your house, it is an important defense against airborne viruses. Technology and design have started to fuse together to create a more elegant and robust HVAC system that’s both aesthetic and convenient. It’s a trend that’s sure to continue as public health experts tout indoor air quality.
More drastic steps will have to be taken in other larger indoor environments like malls, grocery stores, shopping centers, theaters, and hair salons. Recirculating air inside congested indoor environments helps spread airborne viruses. To undertake such a measure, governments and the private sector will have to work together for the sake of public health. Moving forward non-healthcare commercial buildings in the United States will be encouraged to maintain temperature and humidity as applicable to the infectious aerosol to reduce the likelihood of an airborne virus being transmitted in these indoor spaces.
A Healthy Air System™ is a step toward the future in disease prevention. Even on its face, our homes are filled with volatile organic compounds, odors, pet dander, dust, mold, and mildew. The EPA estimates the air inside our homes can be up to 5 times more polluted than air outside. This can lead to a host of health problems like asthma, allergies, and cardiovascular problems. Just as you exercise, eat well, and use disinfectants to keep your home clean, maintaining indoor air quality is an important part of everyday wellness and health.
While some may look at using UV as a way to kill off viruses in our homes, there is not enough clear scientific evidence to conclude that it is an effective strategy by itself. We recommend using UVC treatments in adjunction with air filtration in combating airborne viruses.
Our 3-part approach is a matter of source control. Humidity control creates an environment that is difficult for airborne viruses to both live in and to spread. Air ventilation helps dilute the stale air in our homes that include airborne viruses and air filtration helps to capture the airborne viruses
It’s hard to know what the next several months and next year will look like as we continue to learn more about the importance of indoor air quality, airborne viruses, and prevention methods. It is clear that airborne viruses will continue to be an ongoing discussion in the public and private sectors as we continue to search for answers to better protect ourselves both inside and outside of our homes. Our homes still remain an important place to focus on for proper indoor air quality to ensure you’re breathing healthy air.