This year, the EPA launched a Clean Air in Buildings Challenge to help business leaders and building managers assess and improve their indoor air quality (IAQ) to help keep occupants safe and healthy.
While it might seem like a big task for those of us who know little to nothing about the factors that affect IAQ, the EPA compiled a guide with action steps to help anyone get started. We put together the key takeaways of that document below!
What to Know
The EPA breaks the Clean Air in Buildings task down into four parts, with action items under each.
Step 1: Assessing and Creating a Plan
The first step to starting a project is to know what’s already going on. What does your HVAC system look like? How does it operate? Which areas receive better or poorer ventilation? Consider working with an HVAC expert to assess and inspect air filtration systems. Make sure they are working properly!
Next, consider how clean outdoor air is getting to different areas. Are there spaces that need better ventilation, like busy lobbies or lunch rooms where other disease prevention methods are harder to follow?
Finally, create an action plan. It should account for regular inspection, maintenance and filter replacement for all air filtration systems. Congrats! These steps will give you the basis to build on and improve your building’s air quality systems in the next steps.
Step 2: Using Outdoor Air
Most HVAC systems use a combination of recycled indoor air and new outdoor air. The EPA recommends using outdoor air as much as possible, balanced by HVAC cost and running efficiency. Refreshing spaces with more fresh outdoor air can be a cost-effective measure to improve ventilation and decrease viral air particles in your building!
How do you do that? First, make sure that all outdoor air is properly cleaned as it enters the building so any outside contaminants are removed. Is it being properly filtered? After this, you may consider adding economizers to your HVAC system to increase the amount of natural air used to ventilate and cool your building on temperate days. This will introduce more fresh air into your spaces while at the same time making your system more energy- and cost-efficient!
Additionally, consider opening windows on nice, clear days with good air quality (as your HVAC system allows). Opening windows on opposite walls will greatly boost clean air circulation in your building! It’s also important to note that in assessing any of the above options, it’s always a good idea to reach out to an expert who can identify the maximum amount of outdoor air your HVAC system can handle while still running smoothly and efficiently.
Finally, ensure HVAC systems are running at all times a building is occupied. During times of higher transmission risk, you may even think about running your system one to two hours before or after occupants arrive or leave as needed to refresh air before another workday. Bathroom exhaust fans should be working properly and also set to run throughout the day.
Step 3: Improve Air Filtration and Cleaning
Better air filtration and cleaning are the next steps to healthy spaces! Make sure your HVAC is using the most effective filters it can support, ideally MERV-13 or higher. Ensure that filters are the right size and there are no gaps that air can move through instead of the filter.
In high transmission areas of your buildings (think gym or cafeteria), supplement ventilation measures by increasing outdoor air delivery, using portable air cleaners or installing extra exhaust ventilation. And in low ventilation areas with poor airflow, the EPA recommends portable air cleaners. In this area, Office360 has you covered. Explore our cost-effective options, learn about how air purifiers fight COVID by providing supplemental air circulation and read more about how this technology can help your team stay safe and healthy.
Lastly, you may want to consider an upper-room Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) device as an additional measure. In combination, these steps will assist your air circulation systems in decreasing viral particles and other contaminants in your team’s spaces.
Step 4: Engaging the Community
“Individual actions and layered prevention strategies remain important measures for reducing the spread of viruses like COVID-19.” – EPA Clean Air in Buildings Challenge Guide
Lastly, tell impacted parties what you’re doing and why. Explain how air circulation increases building health and safety. Tell them what actions have been and will be taken towards completing the EPA Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. Show off your work in the community and beyond, create feedback and maintenance request systems and advocate for the importance of individual action alongside multilayer prevention methods in keeping shared spaces safe. As much as it’s a cliche, safety is a team effort. We can all contribute to keeping our workplaces healthy.