In these times when it seems that we are about to resume work in the offices, it is essential to clarify some questions regarding COVID-19 and air quality.
Considering that the greatest amount of time we spend indoors, it is very important to take into account some health measures that guarantee our health before returning to everyday life. According to this approach, professionals state that "the more time we spend indoors with other people, the more likely we are to breathe each other’s exhaled air - and germs. The vast majority of scientists now agree that the coronavirus is airborne and infectious droplets can linger in the air, float around the room or build up in spaces with poor airflows, like conference rooms".
For this reason, here are six questions you should ask at your workplace to make sure they are meeting air quality improvements, and biosafety standards.
1. What improvements have you made to the ventilation system?
All the structures of the buildings have mechanical heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, which are called HVAC. These were designed with a mixed operating regime, which consists of air filtration, and natural ventilation structures.
In this sense, companies have a responsibility to invest in the optimization of air quality, which includes:
- Increasing the rates of MERV
Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values stands for filters used in building installations. The higher the efficiency range, the more capable the filter is to combat particles trapped in the outside air.
- Increasing outdoor air
Professionals suggest adjusting the air vents, which help to generate natural ventilation. However, it is not recommended for areas with indices of polluted air, as it could be harmful to health.
- Disabling demand-controlled ventilation
It is common for some buildings to control the demand for visitors to save themselves the costs involved in the high demands of ventilation systems. However, this could be counterproductive, as the spaces still need ventilation even when people have been removed, because it is necessary to clean all the aerosols that remain in the air.
2. Who is monitoring air quality?
Installing carbon dioxide sensors could be an alternative for monitoring air quality. Many professionals specializing in viruses and air quality use portable devices to detect CO2 levels in spaces.
For this reason, if the company where you work does not have any monitoring device, you can buy one that is for sale in the market, since they have an affordable cost and are easy to use. Specialists explain that the ideal is that CO2 levels are not higher than 800.
3. Is it important to keep the windows open?
In the case of buildings with very old structures, there is a possibility that they do not have an optimal ventilation system. Therefore, in these cases, it is essential to ensure that windows are kept open most of the time.
In addition, it is recommended to apply a cross-ventilation mechanism by opening windows on different sides of the room.
On the other hand, it is not recommended to apply this option in cities where temperatures are usually very cold, or where they are exposed to poor outdoor air quality.
4. What is the air change rate?
"The air changes per hour, or ACH, the number is the industry standard to indicate how often the air in a room is replaced by outdoor air. (Cleaning the air with filters can create the equivalent of air change.) While some experts suggest four to six air changes per hour (that’s fresh or clean air every 10 to 15 minutes), many buildings fall short of that standard. It’s recommended that schools have an ACH of at least 3, but many classrooms are closer to 1.5, experts say. Airplanes and newer hospitals may have anywhere from 10 to 20 air changes per hour. Air change rates or their equivalent can be improved by upgrading the overall ventilation system or filters, increasing the amount of outdoor air (by opening windows or ventilation dampers), adding exhaust fans, or by adding portable air filters".
5. Are you using portable air cleaners?
Portable air purifiers with HEPA filters are another effective alternative to combat all airborne particles. However, you should use the appropriate size according to the room. It is advisable to look for a device with a clean air delivery rate, or CADR, of approximately 300 cubic feet per minute.
This is a tool that serves to complement the failures of the ventilation systems, thanks to which it can significantly reduce the spread of particles infected with the virus.
6. Does the building rely on unproven technologies?
There is currently a bipolar needle ionization system that uses positive and negative particles to combat airborne viruses. However, experts such as Joseph Allen question the effectiveness of this mechanism.
On the other hand, organizations such as the American Society of Heating, Cooling, and Air Conditioning Engineers argue that the lack of credibility surrounding this system is because it has not been scientifically proven with the proper rigorous measures.