COVID-19: Indoor air quality and its importance to disease prevention

Ventilation is an important part of indoor air quality and healthy homes
(Photo: ArchitectureVIZ, Dreamstime)

Most people don’t take notice when hearing about indoor air quality warnings. Monitoring has become essential in response to COVID-19, rising air pollution and respiratory issues. A study in Nature recently reported that increasing indoor ventilation can be as effective as vaccinating 50% of a building’s occupants.

Related: How indoor air quality helps builders stand out

With that in mind, let’s examine the two key areas that residential buildings need to focus on in order to combat the potential spread of disease.

First things first: Ventilate naturally

It may seem obvious, but fresh air from natural ventilation into a building is one of the best measures that can be taken to control pollutant levels. This can also prevent the conditions that allow a virus like COVID-19 to thrive.

The rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air is described as the air exchange rate. ASHRAE recommends that homes receive “0.35 air changes per hour but not less than 15 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) per person” as the minimum requirement to keep occupants safe. Knowing the precise air exchange rate of an apartment or home isn’t necessary, but keeping windows open for as long as possible will ensure a better air exchange rate.

Measures to consider for residential buildings

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are ideal for use in any building for their filtration efficiency and zero leakage promise. HEPA filtration describes a high level of filtration, which removes even the smallest particles from the air. One helpful change that resulted from COVID-19 is that it spurred the proliferation of equipment such as bipolar ionization, which completely deactivates a virus by destroying it on a molecular level.

There are also various IoT technologies to track temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels. This inexpensive, real-time monitoring utilizes data and sends direct alerts so that users can take appropriate steps to handle poor ambient air quality. It also helps with energy efficiency concerns by observing the building’s temperature and adjusting it according to the occupants’ needs, saving costs in the process. In the not-too-distant future, residential building owners will have to consider installing IoT air quality monitoring devices as an attractive feature for a prospective homebuyer.

These kinds of solutions are often labeled as being too expensive or time-consuming to implement, but the reality is that it is much easier to modernize existing equipment than it ever has been. There is already a new generation of smart air quality monitoring systems being rolled out in schools and commercial buildings across the country, and so taking this technology into a residential setting is the next step. It could still take a while for the majority of the population to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so ensuring good air quality can provide homeowners with complete peace of mind.

Related: Smart home options for connected consumers: Product spotlight


John Bohlmann

John Bohlmann is the founder and CEO at HawkenAQ. At Hawken we're working to make every building COVID-safe and carbon neutral.

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