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Landlords Focus on Improving Indoor Air Quality

Posted by: | Posted on: September 28, 2020

There is nothing like an airborne virus to put a focus on indoor air quality. 

Since COVID-19, landlords and property managers are looking at everything from HVAC systems to particle monitoring technology as they try to improve indoor air quality to attract and retain tenants, according to JLL. 

For sustainability advocates, this push is nothing new. They have been arguing for these changes long before COVID.

“Whether your building is giving you better air or not matters to your health,” Dr. Aaron Bernstein, USGBC board chair and also the co-director of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment (Harvard C-CHANGE) told GlobeSt.com earlier this year. “Ventilation is critical, and indoor air quality is critical. Many of the volatile organic compounds that come out of building materials are bad.” 

In many buildings, the air moves from one room to another, which can increase the risk of transferring airborne infections, according to Cynthia Curtis, senior vice president of Sustainability at JLL. She advocates improvements to existing ventilation systems as companies develop their re-entry plans.

Curtis suggests bringing in more fresh outdoor air by increasing the amount drawn into ventilation systems and preventing it from mixing with recirculated air from inside the building. “To do it right, you have to separate those air flows so any germs, including those from COVID-19, don’t get pumped back in and then recycled throughout the building,” Curtis says.

Ventilation isn’t the only way companies are looking at improving air quality. In some buildings, ultraviolet UV-C light technology is placed inside light fixtures or within HVAC systems. These systems can kill viruses in the circulating air. Wirth Research in the UK is developing a “viral furnace” that heats stagnant indoor air, which kills pathogens before cooling down the air and releasing it, according to Curtis.

Measuring air quality is another tool building operators can use as they think about reopening. This is a trend on the rise, reports Raefer Wallis, according to JLL. His company, GIGA, combines the development of building standards with cloud technology to increase the accessibility and impact of healthy buildings.

“Airborne particle monitoring used to be about dust and humidity … now the ability to measure waterborne droplets has really come to the forefront,” Wallis told JLL. “We’re going to see what we call broad spectrum monitoring become [normalized].”

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