Improving Air Quality to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

June 18, 2020
Improving Air Quality to Reduce COVID-19

What would the experts do? A question we often ask ourselves when faced with a challenge that requires an informed solution to a complicated problem. This is never truer than in matters of public safety like the coronavirus. With COVID-19 the whole world is simultaneously facing the same problem:  How do we prevent the spread of an airborne illness? We turned to our doctors and scientists who gave us a simple yet effective solution. They told us to remain out of the proximity of others to avoid breathing in potentially infected air. This solution has added a new term that will forever be etched into our collective lexicon, social distancing.

Social distancing has been effective at flattening the curve of infections, but it is a solution that was never built to last. Offices, schools, and buildings of all types are reopening across the country. As we return to our regular routines, we are faced with a new challenge:  If we will once again be breathing the same air, how do we make that air safer?

LAN Associates is a full-service Architecture and Engineering firm. Our staff is comprised of architects who plan indoor spaces, environmental engineers who specialize in workplace safety and building mechanical system experts who design everything from plumbing to HVAC. We take workplace safety seriously, and our professionals have studied the challenges presented by COVID-19. This is what we are doing in our own offices to purify the air we share and protect our staff as we reopen.

Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization:

Bipolar Ionization and, more specifically, Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NBPI), has been a hot topic since the emergence of COVID-19. A digestible yet overly simplistic explanation of the process would be that through your HVAC system bipolar ionization works on a molecular level surrounding, clustering, and interacting with microparticles. In the process, it neutralizes hazardous airborne substances like pathogens and viruses by robbing them of their life-sustaining hydrogen and clustering expelled breath droplets that can transport viruses and other fine particles allowing them to be caught by the equipment’s standard filters. Taken together these benefits provided continuous disinfection and increased air quality for your building.  A recent study concluded this process can result in 99.4% of COVID-19 viral particles becoming inactivated on a stagnant surface at 30 minutes.

Displacement Ventilation

Displacement ventilation is a process that provides improved air quality by removing contaminated air from the room through a carefully designed HVAC system. Clean cool air is brought in at low velocities and the natural buoyancy of an occupant’s body heat and other heat generating sources in the room draws the air upwards to exhaust in the ceiling. This method of ventilation removes the contaminated air without mixing, whereas a traditional overhead heating and cooling system’s effectiveness is best when the air in the space is thoroughly mixed.

Displacement Ventilation & NBPI: What Option is Right for My Building? 

While both options have their pros and cons, the NBPI is a readily available technology that can be installed in existing HVAC equipment with little labor. Displacement Ventilation is a good option to be evaluated for new construction, large renovations, or large spaces with high occupant density. When used in conjunction with other preventive measures outlined in CDC guidelines like regular cleaning and social distancing when possible around the office, the benefits are measurable and scientifically quantifiable. With so much information around COVID-19 being subject to further investigation, LAN Associates has decided to go with what we know will make a difference in our office.

If you have any questions about upgrading your system to include bipolar ionization or displacement ventilation, LAN’s MEP department is here to help.  Please reach out to us with any questions, we would be happy to advise you on your next steps.