In much of the Northern United States and in Canada, winter weather patterns have already arrived, meaning indoor activities will become the norm over the next several months. During “normal times,” this wouldn’t be a huge deal, but during a pandemic, there are numerous risks involved. How will the northern hemisphere cope with a COVID winter when outdoor activities aren’t an option?
Many believe indoor air quality will be used as the primary measurement of risk in public buildings, and if that’s the best indicator we have, integrators may be able to help in the fight against another massive wave of new cases.
This is especially relevant considering that the CDC’s recently updated guidelines do say that COVID-19 has the potential to be spread through the air, especially in poorly-ventilated environs.
According to a Carbon Lighthouse report, “91% majority of consumers believe that indoor air quality (IAQ) is important in the prevention of COVID-19 spread, and consumers are taking this into account when considering re-entering public buildings.”
Their report also finds that “76% say that a ‘rating system’ similar to restaurant ratings on the IAQ of a building would help them feel better about entering that building.”
Users clearly feel uneasy about returning to schools and workspaces, but having actionable data about how relatively “safe” those spaces may be could help them feel more confident in a corporate return-to-work strategy. So how can technology help achieve that?
Offering IAQ rating systems for corporate clients
Ventilation, filtration, disinfection, and isolation are the most common “categories” or buckets that solutions drop into. But most importantly, integrators should have a handle on zone measures, says Tyler Smith, general manager for specialty products, Johnson Controls.
A zone measure is something like an air scrubber that exists within a space, can be moved from space to space and helps augment, supplement the clean air delivery capabilities of any given mechanical system.
Leaning on your developers and coders is critical. Developing dashboards in building automation systems that track clean air delivery rates as per an agreed-upon target will ultimately help your clients both during an after a pandemic and will make the overall system an easier sell.
Make sure whatever data is collected or goal that is being tracked also has an alarm of sorts built-in. After all, the solution is effectively useless if it isn’t actively being used by end users.
But in a time when IT departments are worn thin, it is easy to let things slip through the cracks. Don’t let that happen to you users; make sure they can receive alerts when a standard isn’t being met — whether they work on-prem or off-prem.
Indoor air quality maintenance at schools
Student and teacher health are clearly the main priorities as institutions and districts across the country and across the world, but many districts are struggling to put actionable data behind their claims that their individual strategy is safe.
Clearly, this has an impact on parent confidence, but it isn’t wild to assume that funding might also be at risk for schools who fail to provide meaningful, accessible insights into the relative safety of their environments.
Incidentally, most older HVAC and air quality systems are typically found in K12 settings.
“Budgets may have been constrained so much over the years that they may have not been able to invest like a hospital or even some universities have been able to,” Smith says.
That’s why it’s so important that to offer systems that aren’t specific to one type of mechanical system or another. A school system may have an air handler that’s 50 years old, meaning any more investment into that old unit is going to be impossible — but it might also be impossible for the school to completely replace it, too.
How do you help in a situation like this?
“Focusing on things like portable air scrubbers or UV HEPA lighting troffers is so critical to a K-12 school system because that’s irrespective of the age of the mechanical system,” Smith says.
“We find that in most cases, by focusing on in zone, we’re able to get them the clean air delivery rate that they need to bring their COVID-19 risk mitigation down to an acceptable level.”