Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook?

May 15, 2020 by  
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Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook? Joe Snider Fri, 05/15/2020 – 01:29 Here is what we know, or think we know, about COVID-19: it can spread through the air. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , it is thought that the COVID-19 virus can spread “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.” According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health on March 17, these respiratory droplets seem to be detectable in the air for as long as three hours. Here is what we also know about hospital buildings and the way they are designed: Ventilation is an important aspect for the design of medical facilities, embraced to prevent the spread of airborne disease. As engineer Gregory Hudson notes in his article ” Ventilation Strategies for Healthcare Facilities ,” “Appropriate ventilation, when properly applied and designed, can limit the spread of airborne pathogens throughout a healthcare facility.” The question then becomes, if ventilation can help prevent the spread of airborne pathogens, and we work really hard at designing and implementing ventilation in medical facilities, might there not be strategies we could or should be implementing in other facilities that could be part of the many-pronged approach to limiting the spread of the coronavirus? The reality is that at some point we will reopen society, our economy and therefore our buildings, with the coronavirus still very much a highly contagious threat. For the sake of this discussion, we will focus on commercial buildings because ventilation systems in residences can vary widely. In most buildings, air comes into a space through some kind of a ventilation system. That air is usually a mix of recirculated air and fresh outdoor air. In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. In most cases, that air is coming in cooled or heated as well and combines the functions of both conditioning and ventilating the space. Most commercial building codes require a minimum amount of outdoor air to be coming into different spaces in a building. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)  has a detailed standard that is the reference for many of us in the field ( ASHRAE 62.1 ). This standard is updated regularly. However, just because there is a minimum doesn’t mean that a space can’t exceed minimum code requirements. Based on the above information about droplets and medical facility design, it is a logical step to look at the possibility that in non-medical buildings that need to be occupied right now, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more; if possible, add more fresh outdoor air; and increase filtration. Another reason to ask ourselves what we can be doing to improve indoor air quality right now is because poor indoor air quality is not good for people’s lungs, and it is well documented that healthy lungs are positive when someone does get sick with this virus. Many buildings designed in recent years according to the LEED or WELL building standards already adhere to higher thresholds of outdoor air flow and other strategies to improve indoor air quality for occupants. The following is a list of best practices that the building owners and facilities managers can be doing to enhance the indoor air quality of our spaces where people need to be now, and/or prepare for when we will be together again. For currently unoccupied buildings, it makes sense to explore many of these strategies while a building is unoccupied so that everything is in the best working order when people return. Give your building a tune-up Just because a building was designed for proper air flows doesn’t mean it is still operating that way. Over time, systems can slip or people can do things such as close vents that are supposed to be left open. Through the process of Testing, Adjusting and Balancing (TAB), technicians determine what the appropriate air flows are supposed to be in different spaces, then go through to verify that the spaces are achieving those airflows. If they aren’t, they are corrected. It is essentially a tune-up for the building’s ventilation system. This can help to ensure all spaces are properly ventilated and in the process possibly help your building operate more efficiently. Increase air circulation and outdoor air As part of the TAB process, depending on how the system is designed, technicians can measure and possibly even adjust the amount of outdoor air coming into the building. Based on how COVID-19 behaves, as noted above, and how we ventilate for pathogens in medical facilities, it seems logical that moving more air and providing more outdoor air would be beneficial. In fact, the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19 ) specifically mentions “Increase ventilation rates” and “Increase percentage of outdoor air.” Note, we are heading into cooling season in most parts of the country, so people wonder, “Won’t I use more energy having to condition more outdoor air and why is the green guy recommending that?” In reality, green buildings are a balancing act, and not all about energy. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of “green building” includes healthy people as well. Use spaces designed for better ventilation Ventilation in a building is determined space by space. A corridor has less fresh air than a meeting room because people are not staying in that space for any measurable period of time. So in any building, there are likely to be better-ventilated spaces. Where might those be in your building, and how might you consider what spaces to be in with that knowledge? For example, we are working on a police facility. That facility has a crime lab that is negatively pressurized where all air in the room is exhausted (meaning none of it is recirculated). Perhaps that space would be a better space for a meeting for these first responders than the conference room, which has much less overall ventilation than the lab. Change out filters or even improve them Regular filter changing should be part of any regular building maintenance plan. Often this can get overlooked or slip on maintenance schedules. Make sure your building filters are not old. Old, dirty filters can slow down air movement, thus reducing the ventilation rates. In addition, consider adding a higher level of filter. Both the LEED rating systems and the WELL standard use MERV-13 (or better) as the guidance for top-level filtration. There can even be ways to add on things such as high-efficiency particulate air or HEPA filters or ultraviolet light for greater levels of filtration and decontamination. Is it time to replace an old unit? If you are inching towards a unit replacement, now just may be the ideal time. First of all, many older buildings were not designed with ventilation systems that meet even today’s minimum standards. A new system retrofit can achieve that. Also, if your building is unoccupied at the moment, it is a great time to be changing out equipment and not disrupting workflows. Getting the ventilation systems up to current standards before employees return could be helpful as we continue to combat the spread of this disease. What are occupants experiencing? It is easy for many of us in the building professions to forget that at the end of the day, it is the occupants for whom we are designing, constructing and maintaining buildings. Another green building and efficiency tool is the use of a survey. A simple occupant comfort survey can help identify issues from poor airflow to major issues such as mold. Again, as the building is unoccupied, it might be the ideal time to do a survey and explore or fix issues as there would be little disruption to workflow. Reduce toxic indoor contaminants Lastly, as we generally have become suddenly and acutely aware of respiratory health, we need to acknowledge the negative impact to respiratory health that so many materials and products used in our buildings can have. Going forward, consider implementing policies for the use of greener cleaning products, integrated pest management programs that use fewer toxic chemicals and lower-emitting paints and sealants, all of which contribute to healthier indoor spaces. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. The LEED and WELL building standards include these and many other strategies for improving the indoor air quality that so many of us sit in day after day that can have lasting impacts on our respiratory health. It has become clear that COVID-19 won’t be defeated with any singular silver bullet, at least until we get to a vaccine, which is estimated to be 18 months away or more. But a combination of best practices — hand washing, social distancing, etc. — is clearly the approach for now. The indoor environments we provide can help with our health and spread of disease, not only now, but even in the future to help things such as basic colds, the flu or other health issues for people. As the delicate balance between health and the economy has come into sharper focus than any of us could have imagined, it is worth noting that long before COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente noted it is estimated that work absenteeism costs U.S. employers $1,685 per employee each year. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Please note I am not a medical professional. I am an architect. I study buildings, not the specific ways diseases spread, nor the human body’s response to those diseases. I have been reaching out to the medical community, and I will update this article with new information as I receive it. This article originally appeared on Medium. Pull Quote In non-medical buildings that need to be occupied, maybe it would be a good idea to circulate air more, add more fresh outdoor air and increase filtration. Even in non-pandemic scenarios, it can be smart business to spend some time focusing on healthy indoor environments for workers. Yes, energy is important, but the concept of ‘green building’ includes healthy people as well. Topics COVID-19 Buildings COVID-19 HVAC Health Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Could indoor air quality become part of the post coronavirus playbook?

Australian father and son crowdfund $13 million for backyard Flow Hive honey harvester

September 19, 2016 by  
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Nearly 18 months ago, we reported on Flow Hive , the wildly successful crowdfunded project with two key benefits: making it easier to harvest honey in your backyard while simultaneously supporting threatened bee populations . The crowdfunding campaign broke numerous records , as it soared past $1 million in backing pledges on Day 1. The wild success of Flow Hive’s Indiegogo campaign made history—not just for bees and prospective beekeepers, but for all sorts of inventors and entrepreneurs looking for ways to fund their own innovations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z54bL6kjyOI In total, the crowdfunding effort raised a whopping $13,244,379 for the Australian father-and-son team of Stuart and Cedar Anderson. That is 17,380 percent of the campaign’s original goal. The campaign was a raging success for many reasons. To start, the duo’s invention addresses a global problem and provides a hands-on solution that individual people or small communities can actually utilize (despite criticisms about Flow Hive’s plastic honeycomb). Additionally, the Andersons thoughtfully prepared photos, descriptions, and videos demonstrate how their prototype works. Related: 6 Buzz-worthy backyard beehive designs Those essential elements contributed to what happened next: the crowdfunding campaign went viral. The Flow Hive received widespread news coverage and tons of activity on social media. Because the campaign got so much attention, it quickly broke a number of crowdfunding records. Flow Hive became the fastest campaign to reach $1 million in backing (within the first 24 hours), the fastest to reach $2 million, and ultimately the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever launched outside the United States. By the end of this month, the project’s backers will have all received their very own Flow Hives, and the duo also sells them directly (for $699). While this particular project translates into a sweet life for bees and backyard honey fans, it’s also a great example of the awesome power that comes from combining a good idea, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an internet community full of bee lovers. Via CNET Images via Honey Flow

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Australian father and son crowdfund $13 million for backyard Flow Hive honey harvester

Curved cross laminated timber "Smile" installation in London is "stronger than concrete"

September 19, 2016 by  
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Photo by Guy Bell The timber utilized in The Smile is American tulipwood. Usually CLT is made of spruce , but engineering and design firm Arup is experimenting with tulipwood as it is stronger than spruce and affords a more elegant appearance. Tulipwood CLT is also sustainable , according the European Director of the American Hardwood Export Council David Venables, because it is abundant and because CLT utilizes low grade timber that’s not exported for furniture making anymore, therefore using more of what is harvested. Related: Rusty old ship transformed into a spectacular building filled with plants 12 tulipwood CLT panels comprise The Smile. Each is around 14 meters long and 4.5 meters wide, or around 46 feet long and 15 feet wide. Yet with a thickness of just 100 milimeters, or close to four inches, most of the floor and wall panels are quite thin. Oval holes in The Smile allow sunlight to permeate the space. Photo by Guy Bell The interactive installation is meant to draw the curious. Alison Brooks said in a statement, “The Smile’s form implies that it will rock. So the form itself is an invitation to test whether the pavilion moves, and how it feels to walk in on a curved floor. A single door and ramp from the square invites visitors to enter – something like our archetypal image of Noah’s Ark. Inside the door light spilling from the ends of the arc will invite you to walk up the slope of the curve to balconies at either end, rather like looking out from the rail of a ship.” The Smile was created out of a collaboration between the London Design Festival, Alison Brooks Architects, the American Hardwood Export Council, and Arup. It will be on display between September 17 and October 12, 2016 at the Chelsea College of Art Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground. + The Smile + Alison Brooks Architects + Arup + American Hardwood Export Council + London Design Festival Images courtesy of Guy Bell, Alison Brooks Architects, Arup, American Hardwood Export Council, and London Design Festival

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Curved cross laminated timber "Smile" installation in London is "stronger than concrete"

Why Your Makeup Bag May Need a Makeover

December 23, 2013 by  
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Just like you wouldn’t let old food sit in the refrigerator long past the expiration date, it’s also a good idea to throw out old cosmetics after a certain point.

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Old Clothes Find New Life as Animal Characters

December 23, 2013 by  
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A New York production designer finds inspiration from old fabrics to create meaningful animal characters.

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Old Clothes Find New Life as Animal Characters

How Dow taps benefits from trickling money into water funds

November 22, 2013 by  
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Watershed conservation isn't just a good idea. Here's why it's a bargain for businesses who invest in it. 

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When it comes to printing, it ain’t easy buying green

July 10, 2012 by  
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Printing environmentally responsibly is a good idea … on paper. Then reality sets in.

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When it comes to printing, it ain’t easy buying green

EDF Climate Corps names 2012 members: Facebook, Boeing, AT&T and more

May 22, 2012 by  
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The EDF Climate Corps started five years ago as a good idea, and now has fellows working in scores of corporations.  

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Ecolabeling and the power of uncommon collaborations

May 22, 2012 by  
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There is a growing body of evidence showing that sustainability certification is spawning far-reaching changes in production and land use practices, supply chains and in the way businesses operate.

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Ecolabeling and the power of uncommon collaborations

Cycling Across Scandinavia: Rudolf Steiner Found, Thanks to James Turell

August 10, 2011 by  
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Counting the number of bikes on the bike path in Boras, Sweden. Guest poster Robert Ouellette has written for the National Post, Corporate Knights and his own Reading Toronto. He is cycling across Sweden and reports: Leaving Boras takes us past a digital sign that counts and displays the number of cyclists using the adjacent bike lane. It is a good idea. I’d like to see guerilla versions put on Canadian streets. We need to make visible the growing number of cyclists our politicians are eager to ignore… anyone want to take me up on this? Mobile automated bike counters have to be easy to make and use . . . … Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Cycling Across Scandinavia: Rudolf Steiner Found, Thanks to James Turell

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