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Best Indoor Air Quality Practices for Opening Your Facility

5/6/2020 | Michael D. Vinick, ASCS, CVI, President - Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc. Past President - NADCA

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) quickly became a leading topic for Facility Managers in the fight against Coronavirus.  Most Facility Managers and Property Owners have never considered the effects of IAQ on the occupants of their buildings.  Usually the main concerns were thermal comfort, not the spread of infectious disease. Since 1989 Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc has been focused on the effects of IAQ on Occupant Health, Energy and the Environment.

We know that clean fresh air is imperative in stopping the spread of pathogens. The Wall Street Journal on May 4, 2020 highlighted a HVAC specialist depicting how they are handling their needs to keep everyone in one hospital building safe, which goes well beyond the patient areas. “How it moves, in what direction, how it is conditioned and who is breathing it” are all the critical questions asked.  Traditional hospitals were built with high ceilings and large windows to allow fresh air to circulate.  This lowered the spread of disease like tuberculosis. Pressurized ventilation that we see today in most building design has contributed to the spread of pathogens.

Unfortunately, the HVAC system is mostly “out of sight”, so it is also “out of mind” for the people responsible for the budget to maintain the building. Budgets for property maintenance are mostly built for aesthetics.  We see nice entry ways, cafeterias, pavers and fixtures.  What we do not see is the mechanical system.  Unfortunately, the mechanical systems are the last thing on the budget to be addressed and are often designed and installed with “low bid” inferior products.  Corners are often cut in the system design and installation.  Down the line building occupants pay the price.  Foolishly, the budget creators also do not consider the deferred maintenance costs.  Lost productivity of those people working in a sick building is estimated by the EPA at $4 annually per square foot.  It is also estimated that 20% of all buildings in the United States are estimated to be “sick buildings”.  That was without the Coronavirus entering the equation!

We must ask ourselves, what are we doing for the IAQ to protect the occupants of this building which is itself a unique environment? 

  1. Are the HVAC systems working effectively as designed?
  2. Are the dampers, coils, drain pans, fans, motors, all in working order?
  3. Do we have the correct MERV rating on filters in the AHU’S?
  4. Are the Coils Clean?
  5. Are the drain pans clean and functioning properly?
  6. Are the HVAC systems clean and distributing clean air?

There have been many studies verifying that clean fresh air from the exterior of the property will help prevent the spread of airborne viruses.  There are two ways to accomplish that.  The first is to open all the windows and doors.  This can make it difficult on hot days, cold days and humid days.  Those variables cannot be controlled.  What we can control is the HVAC System to function correctly and bring in fresh clean air.  If a current HVAC system cannot accomplish the goal for more fresh air coming in from outside to the occupied space, an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator) is one way to increase the flow of outside air in a HVAC system.

We should also consult ASHRAE and NADCA to ensure that we maintain best practices. ASHRAE 62.1 is considered “The Ventilation Standard for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality” and is the basis for ventilation codes including the International Mechanical Code (IMC). NADCA, The HVAC Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Association Standard ACR 2013 is considered the basis for cleanliness of HVAC Systems. Both are recognized worldwide. 

Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc is one of the earliest members of NADCA, helping to shape the industry and the many positive effects that it is having on IAQ.  We are here to help in any way that we can.  Please feel free to call us at 1-800-442-8368. Learn more about us on our website www.ductandvent.com.

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