Harvard professor highlights importance of ventilation for ‘healthy buildings’ | 60 minutes

Harvard professor highlights importance of ventilation for ‘healthy buildings’ |  60 minutes

Joe Allen thinks about the air a lot. Specifically, the air we breathe indoors.

For the Harvard professor, founder of the university’s Healthy Buildings Program, our building design and public health officials have ignored indoor air systems for too long — that is, until… Coronavirus disease pandemic He hits.

But then it became too late. Allen says a lack of interest has contributed to tens of thousands of coronavirus cases. He believes rethinking the building’s design is crucial to preventing the spread of coronavirus and other potentially deadly respiratory infections in the future.

“Think of the public health gains we have made over the past 100 years. We have made improvements to water quality, outdoor air pollution, and our food safety; we have made improvements to sanitation: the absolute basics of public health.” He said. “Where was indoor air in that conversation? It’s been completely forgotten. The pandemic has shown just how badly it went wrong.”

One of the oldest super publishers

By March 2020, the coronavirus was spreading in the United States

That month, the Skagit Valley Chorale gathered at a Washington church to rehearse. Half of the choir attended, including board members Debbie Amos and Kwesi Bettinger.

Dr. Lubbock speaks with members of the Skagit Valley Chorale

60 minutes


“We just thought hand sanitizer, wash your hands a lot, you know, don’t hug each other, because that’s touching,” Pettinger said.

None of it was good enough. The choir members started getting sick within a few days. In all, the coronavirus infected 53 of the 61 people in the church that night. Two of them died, both in their eighties.

Skagit County health officials concluded that the choir members had “intense and prolonged exposure” to surfaces and possibly airborne particles called “aerosols” that contained the virus.

This finding caught the attention of Linsey Marr, a professor at Virginia Tech who specializes in aerosol science. Despite the medical community’s focus on droplets, surfaces, and hand washing, Marr and his fellow researchers strongly believe that Covid was primarily an airborne disease.

Marr used a portable fogger to help explain how so many choir members became ill.

“When they sing, they are constantly releasing virus particles into the air,” she said.

Professor Linsey Marr gives an aerosol demonstration

60 minutes


She said the choir was in the church for more than two hours, and during that time, virus particles drifted in and reached other people.

“You can imagine that after that period of time, other people would have inhaled enough of them to get sick themselves,” Marr said.

As far as Marr knew, the building’s HVAC unit was not working that night. The researchers suspect that it likely turns off spontaneously because the choir members generate enough heat on their own.

Understanding advances in building ventilation

Analysis of a potential superspreading event led to one of the world’s most important research papers The importance of ventilation It was published during the pandemic. Then, last year, studying in Italy went even further. It found that by using school fans and air ducts to exchange indoor air with outdoor air five times an hour, the risk of contracting the coronavirus was reduced by at least 80%.

In the United States, it took until last May for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend an air exchange rate at all.


Face mask effectiveness: What we know now

“If you look at the way we design and manage buildings — I mean offices, schools, local cafes — we are not designed for health,” Allen said. “We have minimum standards.”

Improving your building’s filtration is an easy and cheap change that can do more than just protect against the coronavirus. It can also reduce and protect against influenza infections Forest fire smokeAnd external pollution and allergens, according to Allen.

“Coronavirus has changed everyone’s mentality”

Some companies are now focusing on indoor air for the health of their workers, as well as the health of their bottom lines.

Allen diagnoses problems in air quality systems and comes up with solutions for clients, including CBS parent company Paramount. He has also worked with commercial real estate firm Beacon Capital Partners and Amazon. Allen advised Amazon before it opened a 22-story office building in Arlington, Virginia, last May.

The top floor of Amazon’s new offices is a maze of pipes and air ducts. It’s part of a $2.5 million HVAC system that starts with huge vents and dampers on the roof.

“Coronavirus has changed everyone’s mindset regarding air quality, regarding infectious or contagious diseases,” said Katie Hughes, Amazon’s director of health and safety.

Dr. LaPook and Joe Allen in a mechanical room at Amazon

60 minutes


JPMorgan Chase says its new New York City headquarters will have state-of-the-art air quality controls. Another New York City skyscraper, One Vanderbilt, already runs a state-of-the-art HVAC system.

Allen said having “hygienic” buildings could bring workers back from their homes to their offices.

“All other things being equal, which building do you go to? You have your choice now: this building that has healthy building controls, or this building that’s designed the way we’ve always designed buildings, and it’s vulnerable to being a sick building?” Allen said.

Learn lessons

It’s not just companies changing. Skagit Valley Chorale rehearsals are now being held in a different church with a new HVAC system. The doors remain open to let in fresh air, regardless of the season. There are even portable carbon dioxide monitors to track ventilation. Board member Debbie Amos said they learned lessons from the aerosol study after the choir’s traumatic experience.

“We are now moving forward in a way that we can still sing, but in a safer way,” she said.

With new strains of the coronavirus continuing to emerge and flu season just starting, Allen isn’t worried about people forgetting the importance of building air systems. He sees fundamental shifts in the scientific and medical communities, as companies take into account what building design means for the health of their employees

“I don’t think we’ll forget those lessons,” Allen said. “We’d better not do that.”

(Tags for translation)COVID-19

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