Building operators and engineers have an important role to play in planning for infectious disease transmission emergencies.
Building engineers can support emergency planning by understanding the design, operations, and maintenance adequacy of buildings for which they are responsible and helping emergency planners mitigate vulnerabilities or develop interventions.
For instance, there may be means to increase dilution ventilation, increase relative humidity, or quickly apply upperroom UVGI in an emergency room, transportation waiting area, shelter, jail, and crowded entries to buildings in an emergency, provided that this does not create either (1) flow of air to less contaminated areas or (2) conditions of extreme discomfort (ASHRAE Position Document on Airborne Infectious Diseases).
In other situations, curtailing ventilation or creating pressure differentials may be the appropriate strategy. Actions should be thoughtfully undertaken in collaboration with infection control professionals and based on knowledge of the system and its operation and the nature and source of the threat.
Four ways building engineers can play a roll in controlling Coronavirus:
- Identifying vulnerabilities with air intake, wind direction, shielding, etc.;
- Identifying building systems and safe zones in the general building environment;
- Identifying approaches to interrupting air supply to designated “shelter-in-place” locations in general building environments; and
- Identifying cohorting possibilities for pandemic situations so that whole areas of a hospital may be placed under isolation and negative pressure.
“The recent escalation in the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 is alarming on a global scale,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE President Darryl K. Boyce, P.Eng. “While ASHRAE supports expanded research to fully understand how coronavirus is transmitted, we know that healthy buildings are a part of the solution. ASHRAE’s COVID-19 Preparedness Resources are available as guidance to building owners, operators and engineers on how to best protect occupants from exposure to the virus, in particular in relation to airborne particles that might be circulated by HVAC systems.”