Evolving role of HVAC systems to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

Evolving role of HVAC systems to mitigate the spread of COVID-19

09/06/2021

 

Following on from our previously published article on ‘Understanding the role of building ventilation in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in 2021’, which can be accessed here https://mckeon.ie/understanding-the-role-of-building-ventilation-in-curbing-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-2021/, this week – as workplaces prepare for the return of staff and customers – we are exploring the role of HVAC systems and how these are evolving to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

As mechanical and electrical specialists, when approaching HVAC installations or upgrades, the first step is always to understand the overall needs of the clients and the specific needs of the building, with consideration to the existing infrastructure, building and control systems. There is no ‘one size fits all solution’, rather, our team develops a custom-designed solution that meets clients demands in terms of optimising operational and energy efficiency, and increasing user comfort. Going forward, greater control over plant and equipment is likely to be prioritised by the building operators, together with an enhanced, integrated user interface.

There are a number of HVAC measures that have been proven to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to industry resource website https://www.facilitiesnet.com/hvac/article/3-HVAC-Measures-To-Fight-COVID-19–19283, including:

  

1) HEPA filtration: High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can remove more than 99.9 percent of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or greater, including pollen, dust, some bacteria and some viruses. The coronavirus has a diameter of about 0.1 microns, however, as the virus typically attaches to exhaled water droplets that are 5 microns or larger, they can be trapped by a HEPA filter. 

2) Outdoor-air ventilation rates: HVAC systems have evolved to operate with a minimum of outside air. Increased levels of outdoor air will dilute contaminants inside, including COVID-19, however, this increases heating and air conditioning costs as the system must raise or lower the temperature of outside air to the temperature of the conditioned space. According to the previously mentioned article, higher rates of outdoor-air ventilation might not help much in the fight against the coronavirus, “but higher ventilation rates coupled with other good practices can curtail the spread of the virus from one area in a building to another area served by the same system”.

3) Humidity levels: Research has now shown that the virus remains airborne longer and can travel farther in dryer conditions, therefore relative humidity of 40-60 percent might help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The article cautions that not all HVAC systems can maintain these high humidity levels year round so the operation of the systems and spaces should be monitored for signs of condensation and/or mold.

 

The above measures prioritise minimising the spread of Covid-19, which can – temporarily – run contrary to energy efficiency and best practice. For more about this, please see McKeon Group insights on ‘COVID-19 Preventative Measures vs. Energy Conservation in Office Buildingshttps://mckeon.ie/covid-19-preventative-measures-vs-energy-conservation-in-office-buildings/ . For expert advice, contact the team at www.mckeon.ie.

 

About McKeon Group

Established in 1950 and ISO certified for more than two decades, McKeon Group offers expert construction, fitout and building services. The family-run Group delivers projects, services and maintenance across a range of sectors for State, local authority, FDI and private clients. For more information, contact: www.mckeon.ie

 

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