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How to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Building Reopening

posted 18 June, 2020 by Harry Watson
Facilities, Disinfection
 
Cleaning and disinfecting are two critical activities to implement before building reopening after COVID-19, and indoor air quality monitoring brings next-level clarity into your building health, cleanliness, and efficiency. As reopening begins nationwide, businesses are tasked with developing plans to ensure the safety of their occupants. Implementing clean air management is imperative to understanding the safety of the air you breathe, the efficiency of your ventilation, and the performance of your filtration efforts. 
 
This can be a daunting task, but by possessing this data, you can make informed decisions on how to address your building obstacles. The solution lies in implementing an indoor air quality monitoring plan. When combined with your cleaning routines, it can improve your building’s health and safety, as well as its operating efficiency.
 

Getting Started with Clean Air Management 

Prior to implementing your monitoring technology, it is important to understand the significance of improving your indoor air. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90 percent of the world’s population breathes unsafe air, leading to over 7 million deaths per year worldwide. This is an alarming figure and presents the need for a critical conversation on air quality.
 
When it comes to your indoor air, dangerous contaminants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM), CO2, and more pose a major health risk to building occupants. These air pollutants have been shown to increase the risk of health complications like heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and even cancer. So much so, that the EPA deems air pollution a top five environmental danger to the public.
 
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is pivotal to note that your indoor air quality plays a role in the spread and mortality of the virus. Harvard research indicates that a small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in the COVID-19 death rate. Further, it has been suggested that you are at a much higher risk of COVID-19 transmission in a poorly ventilated space.
 
In addition to the implications on human health, indoor air pollution can cause a hit to your business’ bottom line. With no data driving your building operations, you have no insights to make informed decisions. This can lead to complications like over-ventilation, improper filter selection, and energy waste. Using indoor air quality monitoring, you can see the status of your air in real-time throughout different areas of your building – pinpointing critical areas.
 

What to Do Before Building Reopening

Leading experts have discussed the necessity for proper environmental control as buildings look to reopen their buildings safely. ASHRAE contends that ventilation and filtration provided by HVAC systems can reduce the airborne concentration of COVID-19 and, thus, the risk of transmission through the air. Further, data tells us that exposure to air pollutants increases mortality in COVID-19 patients. The need for clean air management is apparent, but how do you start?
 
  1. Establish a Healthy Baseline: After implementing a cleaning and disinfecting routine, establishing a baseline for your indoor air quality is the next step. Using expert recommendations or EPA guidelines, place monitors throughout the facility, generally at the rate of 1 per 3,000 square feet. After gathering data for around 30 days, you will have a good indication of the status of your indoor air throughout the building. You can now look for areas of poor ventilation, high pollution concentration, and other symptoms of an unhealthy building.
  2. Change or Select New Filters: With data from your indoor air quality monitors, you will be able to assess the performance of your filtration efforts. If the MERV class you are using is too low, you will see that your filters are filling up too quickly and allowing for harmful pollutants to fill the ambient air. Ensure that you have implemented the proper filter class for your building’s needs and goals.
  3. Introduce Retrofit Solutions: Once you have discovered areas of concern in your building, you may need to introduce retrofit solutions like air purifiers or bipolar ionization machines. These solutions are introduced to the building retroactively to mitigate specific problems in the indoor air. Your air quality monitoring efforts come into play here. Using the data from your air quality monitors, you can test and prove the efficacy of the solutions you introduce, giving you the peace of mind that the area has been improved.

What to Do After Building Reopening

In addition to frequent disinfection of high-touch areas, here are three steps to help maintain a safe building environment through continuous clean air management. 
  1. Track Changes to Building Operations: As building operations return to normal, you must consider activities like increased foot traffic, regular machine operation, maintenance, and more. These activities will have a significant impact on your indoor air quality, and having monitors in place will allow you to identify trends and make decisions on ways to improve.
  2. Monitor Ventilation and Filtration Performance: COVID-19 has been considered sufficiently likely to warrant changes to your HVAC management efforts. Ventilation rates should be increased to provide cleaner air, and the data from your device can prove these efforts. In addition, it is essential to be aware that air pollution from new building operations will have an impact on your filters. Tracking your air quality can provide valuable insights into your filters’ performance.
  3. Introduce New Solutions as Needed: As mentioned, reopening your building will present new challenges to face and resolve. You may need to increase ventilation in your conference rooms as more occupants are allowed in. In that case, the proper response would be an air cleaning machine to control CO2 levels. Perhaps your airborne pollutant concentrations are too high. If so, a bipolar ionization solution may mitigate this issue.

Let Data Steer Your Building Management

The importance of intensifying cleaning and disinfecting, increasing ventilation and filtration, and managing occupancy levels has been well-documented by leading experts and agencies. The addition of clean air management is your new best-kept secret. Implementing changes to your operations, without tracking their effects or having data to back your decision, is counterintuitive to every building’s goals.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about bringing facility disinfection, protection, and air quality management to your building or facility, learn more about the Spiffy x qlair partnership today. 
 
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Posted in Facilities, Disinfection

Written by Harry Watson

Harry is the Head of Marketing for qlair, the leading platform for proactive clean air management in commercial buildings using Artificial Intelligent (AI) based technology.