In this blog post our Segment Leader for Property/Facility Management, Jon Holmes, shares his expertise on air filtration guidelines for commercial buildings and offers tips that facility managers can use to earn recognition from BOMA Canada.
The concept of “going to work” has shifted entirely since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that first had a major impact on the workplace in March 2020. A number of businesspeople have traded their cubicles and the watercooler for the dining room table and water from the kitchen tap.
In fact, almost ⅓ of all Canadian employees were working most hours from home at the beginning of 20211. As more workers become vaccinated and cases continue to drop, employers are developing plans to get their staff back in the physical workplace on a part-time or full-time basis. Consequently, facility managers and employers must take action to ensure the workplace environment is safe and that the proper mechanisms are in place to prevent virus transmission.
How Does COVID-19 Spread in Office Buildings?
According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three principle transmission methods of COVID-192:
- Exhaled droplets or virus particles (e.g. Splash from a cough) that are exposed to another person’s mucous membranes
- Virus transfer from touching common surfaces/soiled hands and subsequently touching mucous membranes
- Inhalation of air carrying very small droplets and aerosol particles that contain infectious virus
By avoiding face-touching, employing standard hygiene practices, and maintaining physical distance from one another, two of the three transmission methods can mostly be accounted for.
Unfortunately, aerosol particles can travel for long distances and typically linger in the air much longer than larger droplets. For office buildings that use circulated air in their ventilation systems, these aerosol particles can be transported even further and can be dispersed into different rooms.
Dr Ali Khan, an epidemiologist and professor at the College of Public Health UNMC at the University of Nebraska says that the “maintenance of systems and filtration has an impact on how contaminants flow through the air, so buildings that have not been properly serviced to maintain appropriate circulation, filtration, humidity and temperatures can contribute to higher amounts of microorganisms moving through the systems3”.
As such, facility managers and employers should thoroughly consider the ventilation systems currently in place as well as additional air filtration measures to be implemented.
How Can Virus Spread be Reduced With Air Filtration?
Just as inadequate air filtration in office spaces can be a factor in spreading illness, proper air filtration can help to mitigate spread by reducing virus particles suspended in the air. The Public Health Agency of Canada extends several recommendations for improving ventilation and filtration to decrease the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-194:
- If possible, consult a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional to ensure your air system is running properly
- Take advantage of natural ventilation by opening windows and doors insomuch as there are no air pollution advisories in the area
- Use the highest efficiency particulate filter that the air system can handle
- Replace air filters as required
When choosing the highest efficiency particulate filter, one of the most accurate measurement tools for this is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. MERV rating indicates a filter’s ability to capture particles. A filter with a higher MERV rating is able to trap smaller particles at a higher efficiency, including aerosols contaminated with the COVID-19 virus and other illnesses.
Of course, there are other benefits to improved indoor air quality (IAQ) in the workplace.
What Are the Benefits to Better Air Quality in the Workplace?
Improved IAQ hosts a number of other benefits aside from a decrease in illness. A study from the University of Reading has concluded that proper facility design and increased attention to environmental factors can lead to significant improvements in productivity by as much as 17%5.
Furthermore, Harvard Business Review (HBR) conducted a study in which workers received higher test scores across nine cognitive function domains once better air was introduced into the workplace. According to the results of the study, the biggest improvements were in areas that “tested how workers used information to make strategic decisions and how they plan, stay prepared, and strategize during crises”6. These skills are critical when working in the knowledge economy. Based on this information, it is clear that the positive impact of adequate air filtration cannot be discounted.
Health and cognitive advantages aside, paying closer attention to IAQ in the office can earn you accreditation. The BOMA BEST Sustainable Buildings certification, managed by the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA Canada), acknowledges superiority in energy and environmental management7.
Jon Holmes, Segment Leader for Property/Facility Management, says that “with clean air being the ‘new amenity’ in buildings these days, and air filters being the lungs of any facility, there has never been a more appropriate time to re-evaluate current filters.
Many are unaware that by simply choosing air filters that sustain air quality (labelled as the same MERV/MERV A value per ASHRAE), or adopting plug and play, higher performance filters that result in waste diversion or even energy reduction, could yield BOMA Best points with zero CAPEX. A simple air filter upgrade is the lowest hanging fruit option when it comes to improving the health of a building in a sustainable way”.
What Air Filters Are Ideal for Commercial Buildings?
With high-quality, energy-efficient air filters and air purifiers, you can improve the health of your workers, your HVAC systems, and reduce building maintenance and cleaning costs. There are various clean air solutions that are effective for commercial and public buildings. From our bag filter line, the Hi-Flo and Hi-Flo ES are ideal for filtering most external and internal pollutants. They can be used to upgrade pre-existing installations, and both can come in a MERV 14/14A rating, meaning they are designed to protect people and do not decrease in efficiency over time. We also supply compact filters (V-bank style) such as the Durafil ES2 which have the longest life and the lowest average pressure drop when used in conjunction with a proper prefilter.
If the present HVAC system design cannot be improved, the Public Health Agency of Canada suggests the implementation of portable HEPA air cleaners8. The CamCleaner CC500 from our air purifier line can be used in larger office spaces. The HEPA filter is secured by MERV 9/9A prefilter, thus extending the HEPA’s life and reducing filter changeouts.
There are a variety of factors that determine which air filtration solutions will best protect your office space. Be sure to contact an experienced commercial building air filtration consultant to find the air filtration solutions that are right for your building.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. We firmly believe that the best solutions for our customers are the best solutions for our planet, too. That’s why every step of the way – from design to delivery and across the product life cycle – we consider the impact of what we do on people and on the world around us. Through a fresh approach to problem-solving, innovative design, precise process control, and a strong customer focus we aim to conserve more, use less and find better ways – so we can all breathe easier.
The Camfil Group is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has 33 manufacturing sites, six R&D centers, local sales offices in 30 countries, and about 4,800 employees and growing. We proudly serve and support customers in a wide variety of industries and in communities across the world. To discover how Camfil Canada can help you to protect people, processes and the environment, visit us at www.camfil.com/en-ca/.
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