Health Tech: Erik Malmstrom On How SafeTraces’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

An Interview With Dave Philistin

By Dave Philistin, CEO of Candor | January 13, 2022

…Simply put, SafeTraces’ technology is as consequential for building health as CT, MRI, and PET have been for human health. Conceptually, SafeTraces’ technology is analogous to PET for buildings, leveraging patented and safe DNA-tagged aerosol tracers to detect, measure, and visualize abnormalities in airflow, ventilation, and filtration in real world indoor spaces. SafeTraces’ technology will become central to the healthy building continuum in the same way that medical imaging technology is central to the healthcare continuum, dramatically sharpening diagnostic accuracy in order to protect occupants from airborne disease, better manage financial resources, and reduce carbon impacts of HVAC systems. Moreover, the impact of our technology will be amplified by pooling data from millions of assessments within and across buildings over time under different conditions and correlating with other IAQ diagnostic data in order to strengthen the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring process through data science.


This post originally appeared in Authority Magazine. Read it here.

Verifying Mall Indoor Air Quality 

San Jose Eastridge Mall

By David Louie | ABC7 News | Building A Better Bay Area | December 23, 2021

SafeTraces deploys anti-COVID aerosol tech to detect risky buildings

Company tracks air circulation, ventilation in buildings

By George Avalos | Bay Area News Group | December 22, 2021

A SafeTraces technician sets up air samplers to verify indoor air safety in the food court of Eastridge Center in San Jose. SafeTraces hopes to lend an assist to the wide-ranging battle against the coronavirus by deploying aerosol-based technologies to identify risky buildings imperiled by hazardous air circulation.


PLEASANTON — SafeTraces hopes to lend an assist to the wide-ranging battle against the coronavirus by deploying aerosol-based technologies to identify risky buildings imperiled by hazardous air circulation.

The biotech company’s liquid aerosol system uses DNA markers and software analysis to help property owners determine whether poor ventilation and air circulation might be allowing virus-like particles to remain in the air inside a building and its rooms.

“This technology is a way to learn if a room or an entire building is safe,” said Erik Malmstrom, chief executive officer of SafeTraces. “That is what everyone wants to know. We provide that answer.”

When the liquid aerosols are sprayed into the air, SafeTraces uses DNA markers in the droplets to track how they are circulating in a room and whether the air is being refreshed — changed — frequently enough to ensure that the building and its rooms are operating safely.

The United States, California and the Bay Area are battling to recover from the economic devastation unleashed by wide-ranging business shutdowns that government agencies imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Among the huge uncertainties that loom over the economy: How safe is it for workers to return to the office, for shoppers to return to malls and movie theaters, for fans to return to concerts and sporting events?

“Polls clearly show widespread public anxiety about facility safety from offices to schools to retail locations,” Malmstrom said.

These are vital questions to answer, said Gary Dillabough, a busy Bay Area developer and commercial property owner who is especially active in downtown San Jose.

“We have to create better and safer environments for people to return to,” said Dillabough, a principal executive with Urban Community, a real estate firm that has teamed up with global developer Westbank on several major projects in downtown San Jose. “SafeTraces has the technology to help bring that about.”

Much of the concern over the coronavirus has been focused on the contamination of surfaces by the pathogen.

Malmstrom and Dillabough point out, however, that a key vector for the spread of the deadly bug is through virus-laced droplets that can remain in the air for hours and travel well beyond six feet.

The anxiety over enclosed spaces is fueled by the reality that the dangerous microorganisms can’t be seen, by definition, and viruses are traveling on paths that also can’t be seen.

“Air is invisible, but we help building owners to see the invisible,” Malmstrom said.

Pleasanton-based SafeTraces says its software-supported and aerosol-based system can provide precise analysis about how air is flowing through a building, whether that air is being changed sufficiently and what might be done to address any hazards within the structure.

During the current holiday shopping season, Eastridge Center in San Jose has turned to SafeTraces to ensure that the shopping mall meets top safety standards for indoor air and ventilation systems.

Eastridge is the first shopping center in the nation to undergo verification and assessment by SafeTraces, according to Pacific Retail Capital Partners, one of the principal owners of Eastridge Center.

“We are solidifying our commitment to ensure that our visitors can have a high degree of trust and confidence in a safe shopping experience at our retail locations,” said Najla Kayyem, senior vice president of marketing with Pacific Retail Capital.

The SafeTraces technology and software analysis is advanced enough that it can analyze a room of 1,000 square feet within two hours, according to the company.

The biotech firm says it can assess the playing surface and the seating areas of the SAP Center in downtown San Jose within a day.

“Companies and real estate operators are going to have to get over that bar to prove that their spaces are safe,” Dillabough said.


This post originally appeared in The Mercury News. Read it here.

SafeTraces & Eastridge Center Launch Groundbreaking Partnership

Safety technology leader verifies indoor air quality and ventilation performance during holiday shopping season

Date: December 16, 2021

SafeTraces, a leader and innovator in safety technology, announced an industry first partnership with Eastridge Center to ensure it meets the highest safety standards for indoor air and ventilation systems. The center, located in East San Jose, is the first shopping mall in the United States to undergo SafeTraces’ science-based performance verification assessment.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), a leading authority on environmental health and safety, states, “Engineering controls [including air ventilation and filtration] that can keep infectious aerosols at very low levels indoors offer the greatest promise to protect non-healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations as we reopen our businesses and workplaces.”[1] However, most public buildings lack the ability to test and verify performance of their engineering controls and ventilation systems for airborne pathogens due to limitations in existing diagnostic assessment tools.

SafeTraces offers the first commercially available diagnostic solution for testing and verifying indoor air and ventilation safety performance for mitigating exposures to airborne pathogens. Developed with support from the National Institutes of Health, SafeTraces’ groundbreaking technology leverages patented DNA-tagged aerosol tracers that safely simulate pathogen mobility and exposure in real world environments to optimize health, safety, and financial decision-making and communicate facility safety to key stakeholders.

“Pacific Retail has a proud track record of leading and differentiating in all aspects of visitor, tenant, employee, and community experience, paramount of which is health, safety and wellness,” said Najla Kayyem, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Pacific Retail Capital Partners. “By partnering with SafeTraces to utilize the best science-based technology on the market, PRCP is solidifying our commitment to ensure that our visitors can have a high degree of trust and confidence in a safe shopping experience at our retail locations.”

“Throughout the built environment, polls clearly show widespread public anxiety about facility safety from offices to schools to retail locations,” said SafeTraces CEO Erik Malmstrom. “Building owners and operators need to be extremely proactive about addressing these concerns and communicating safety measures clearly and compellingly to get people to return at pre-pandemic levels and have peace of mind. It has been inspiring to see Eastridge Center’s deep commitment to health, safety, and wellness by leveraging SafeTraces leading science-based safety technology. We’re truly honored to partner with such a mission-driven forward-thinking company.”

Testing results demonstrated that Eastridge Center’s air ventilation and filtration systems performed effectively in high density occupied areas.

About SafeTraces, Inc.
SafeTraces is committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the
medicines we take by harnessing the power of DNA. The company provides market-leading technology solutions for indoor air quality and safety, and food and pharmaceutical traceability. SafeTraces supports a wide range of Fortune 100, commercial real estate, and government customers globally, including Brookfield Properties, the Irvine Company, and Jones Lang & Lasalle (JLL). Learn more at or follow social media (LinkedIn:, Twitter:

About Eastridge Center
Owned and operated by Pacific Retail Capital Partners, Eastridge Center is Silicon Valley’s second largest retail destination, featuring 1.4 million square feet of shopping, dining, and entertainment. Hosting the largest exterior mural Artscape at any shopping center in the nation, the property offers a unique retail experience while engaging with the community through the Eastridge Mural Program. Opened in 1971, 2021 marks a milestone as Eastridge Center celebrates its 50-year anniversary as a cultural hub for the diverse San Jose area. Located in close proximity to San Jose’s East Foothills and Evergreen neighborhoods, the two-level center provides natural lighting and an open floor plan with access to an impressive 15-screen AMC IMAX Theatre, Round 1 Bowling & Amusements, Macy’s, JCPenney, multiple restaurants, and more than 95 stores including H&M, Hollister Co., Tilly’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Forever 21 RED. For more information, visit or follow along on social media (Facebook:, Instagram: @EastridgeCenter).

About Pacific Retail Capital Partners
Pacific Retail Capital Partners (PRCP) is one of the nation’s premier retail operating groups of large open-air centers and enclosed malls, with more than $2 billion in retail assets presently under management in the United States. Based in Southern California, PRCP provides end-to-end sourcing, assessment, underwriting, valuing, developing, and asset management of retail real estate with a proven track record of repositioning retail properties. PRCP strategically manages over 20 million square feet of regional malls and open-air lifestyle centers. The Executive team has over 150 years of collective real estate expertise with deep experience in leasing, marketing, operations, design, development, investment, and finance. With a keen focus on enhancing the value and quality of its growing portfolio, PRCP is dedicated to creating a unique, strategic vision for each property and exceeding the highest expectations of retail investors, retailers, and consumers. To learn more visit or follow social media at:
Instagram: @PacificRetail

SafeTraces Media Contact
NINICO Communications | Kiana Karn |

Eastridge Center Media Contact
NINICO Communications | Diandra Weldon |

This post originally appeared on PRLOG. Read it here.

How to Create an IAQ Strategy

By Tyler Smith, Erik Malmstrom & Sean McCrady | December 6, 2021

COVID-19 has certainly spotlighted the need for clean air in commercial buildings. However, improving indoor air quality shouldn’t begin and end with the pandemic. The importance of clean air extends beyond viruses and bacteria — common airborne particulates like mold, allergens, pollution and smoke can also negatively impact occupants’ long-term health and comfort, in turn hurting focus, productivity and satisfaction. According to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, so organizations must reevaluate how they deliver healthy and safe indoor environments to meet the public’s rising expectations of a modern building. That starts with the HVAC contractor.

While every building needs clean air, there is no one-size-fits-all IAQ strategy that will work for every building. What works for one may be lacking for another, leaving occupants vulnerable.

Through a customized, science-based approach with a trusted partner, HVAC contractors can optimize a specific building’s design, system capabilities and unique characteristics with the highest performing clean air strategies for occupant health and wellness.

Buildings require customized clean air strategies

HVAC professionals understand better than anyone every that building’s needs, design and challenges are unique, meaning every organization’s clean air blueprint must also be unique. Varying factors like space size, number of occupants, building use and existing infrastructure require customized solutions to deliver an effective and holistic strategy.

For instance, a small commercial office building will have vastly different IAQ needs than a large K-12 school. Most rooms in an office building are uniform in size; occupants typically stay in assigned cubicles throughout the day and, in smaller buildings, circulating clean air from outside is easier. In a K-12 school, on the other hand, students are constantly switching classes and rooms vary in sizes from classrooms to gymnasiums. The younger age of a school’s occupants also makes them more susceptible to some illnesses and less likely to follow public safety protocol. The level of clean air management sufficient for a small office building would likely fall short in a K-12 school. This acts as just one example of why, when working across industries, HVAC contractors need to create a clean air strategy tailored to each building’s design specifications and occupant needs.

Starting with science-based assessments and integrated solutions

To help identify a clean air strategy that best meets a commercial building’s needs, HVAC leaders can realize value from science-based IAQ and infection risk assessments. These assessments evaluate baseline risk levels and system performance in buildings, pinpoint gaps and make necessary updates for a long-term clean air strategy that provides the strongest health and safety, financial and energy efficiency ROI possible.

By working with a trusted partner, organizations’ HVAC teams have the ability to assess systems’ ventilation performance with aerosol tracing technology that simulates the mobility and exposure levels of airborne pathogens in order to detect, measure and visualize airflow, ventilation and filtration performance.

The real-world value of these assessments is three-fold. First, independent assessments quantify the health and safety ROI of a clean air strategy – for example, how significant is the exposure risk reduction provided by increasing outside air rates, MERV-level upgrades in AHU filters and local air cleaning devices? Without verification by a trusted partner, it is difficult for organizations to know whether they are making the right decisions for their building. Assessments can provide the answers.

Second, assessments ensure organizations are spending their financial resources most effectively, both for capital investments in the HVAC system and local air cleaning devices, as well as for operating costs especially related to energy usage. Frequently, assessments save customers significant money and avoid waste.

Third, these audits enable HVAC technicians to communicate the health and safety conditions of the building to key customer stakeholders in order to strengthen trust and maintain occupancy levels at the highest levels possible, safely. By relying on their HVAC provider for these auditing services, organizations can feel confident both in their partnerships and the safety of their buildings.

Upon completing IAQ and risk assessments and setting targets, HVAC partners can ensure all stakeholders remain informed and implement integrated clean air solutions to meet customers’ goals. Together, these technologies provide a comprehensive, connected and data-driven approach to clean indoor air that delivers long-term success.

Leading clean air solutions most preferred by HVAC experts include:

  • Upgraded air handler or package unit filtration with MERV 13 filters
  • In-zone filtration and disinfection solutions like ultraviolet-C lighting
  • Advanced air quality sensors for ongoing testing and monitoring
  • HVAC equipment remediation and maintenance

Delivering the healthy building of the future

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on how we think about building health, and more organizations are making significant investments in clean air. But these investments must be tailored to each building and organization’s needs to maximize returns.

By taking a customized approach to their clean air strategy, incorporating science-based risk assessments and integrating solutions, HVAC suppliers can deliver customized solutions to help contractors and give occupants the peace of mind that their environment best meets their IAQ needs.

Tyler Smith is executive director of Healthy Buildings at Johnson Controls. Erik Malmstrom is CEO of SafeTraces. Sean McCrady is director, Asset and Sustainability Performance, Real Estate Properties at UL.

This post originally appeared on Read it here.

SafeTraces Welcomes Ted Bischak to the Company’s Board of Directors

Leading Commercial Real Estate Investor Will Support Continued Growth in the Built Environment

Date: December 2, 2021

Today, SafeTraces is proud to announce the appointment of Ted Bischak as independent board director. Representing the company’s common stockholders, Mr. Bischak will leverage his extensive and successful experience as an investor, operator, and technologist to ensure strong corporate governance and performance.

Ted Bischak is a Principal and Co-Founder of Ocean West Capital Partners.  He is responsible for all Property Operations including, Asset Management, Property Management, Construction Management and Physical Due Diligence, upon acquisition or disposition, of managed assets.

Prior to the formation of Ocean West Capital Partners, he was Senior Vice President of Asset Management for Maguire Properties, responsible for the firm’s entire portfolio of 21 million square feet of real estate assets.

Before joining Maguire Properties, Mr. Bischak served as Senior Vice President for CommonWealth Partners, where, in partnership with the CalPERS pension fund, he was responsible for all operations activities, including in-house property management, tenant improvement, operational leasing, and asset management for the $1.5 billion portfolio and directed all property-level acquisition and disposition activities.

Additionally, Mr. Bischak has held senior management positions with Tooley & Company and The Irvine Company, where he was a key member of the development team on over 6 million square feet of new office development product, multiple retail, and hotel projects as well as 6,000 apartment units over his 35-year career in commercial real estate.

“It is extremely rare to find a versatile leader like Ted who has such a stellar reputation and proven track record as a real estate investor, operator, and technologist,” said SafeTraces CEO Erik Malmstrom. “Moreover, he is well-known across the industry as an individual who has demonstrated the highest standards of integrity, ethics, and professionalism throughout his very successful career. SafeTraces is excited to enlist Ted’s leadership as we grow and expand our business in the built environment and deliver on our mission to create a safer, better, more sustainable world.”

“Today, the real estate industry stands at the most important crossroads of my 30+ year career,” said Bischak. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a mega-trend that was already well underway beforehand – health, safety, and wellness becoming a core value driver in real estate assets. SafeTraces has developed one of the most groundbreaking and disruptive technologies in the marketplace, which is positioned to be the gold standard for safety performance verification throughout the built environment. I am deeply committed to supporting the company to realize this massive potential and deliver exceptional financial results for our stockholders.”

About SafeTraces

SafeTraces is committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the medicines we take by harnessing the power of DNA. We provide marketing leading safety technology solutions for indoor air safety and product traceability. Learn more at and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Making Healthy Buildings Real: The Coming Revolution in Diagnostic Imaging Technology

The built environment stands at a 1967-like inflection point, when the invention of computed tomography (CT) revolutionized medicine

By Erik Malmstrom | October 4, 2021

How Diagnostic Imaging Technology Transformed Medicine

Over the past year, IAQ experts have described the COVID-19 pandemic as a watershed event, drawing historical analogies from Chadwick’s 1842 Sanitary Report that led the British government to organize clean water supplies and centralized sewage systems1 to the 1918 influenza pandemic that gave rise to modernist architecture2, innovations in steam radiators3, among other major long-lasting reforms to building design and operations.

However, a different historical analogy may be more appropriate, at least from a technology and innovation standpoint – Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s 1967 invention of the first computed tomography (CT) scanner. CT is considered one of the most important medical innovations in human history, advancing us from a largely superficial to an incredibly sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the human body.4 CT images display soft tissue contrasted with anatomic detail, exponentially enhancing diagnostic accuracy for detecting, measuring, and visualizing abnormalities in the body’s metabolic processes and physiological activities, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders. 

The Evolution of Medical Imaging Technology5

Sir Godfrey Hounsfield’s 1967 invention of the first computed tomography (CT) scanner is considered one of the most important medical innovations in human history, kicking off a series of breakthroughs in medical imaging technology and advancing us from a largely superficial to an incredibly sophisticated understanding of the inner workings of the human body.

With over 100 million studies performed annually, CT has become the “modern doctor’s truth machine.”6 Moreover, CT kicked off a revolution in medical imaging, with major improvements in the efficacy, precision, and speed of CT itself in subsequent decades as well as the invention of complementary diagnostic technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Today, medical imaging is fundamental to “the entire health-care continuum, from wellness and screening, to early diagnosis, treatment selection, and follow-up,”7 representing a true step change advancement for the field.

How Diagnostic Imaging Technology Will Transform the Built Environment

In 2021, the built environment stands at a 1967-like inflection point, when technological breakthroughs will make “healthy buildings” real, not just a marketing gimmick. 

Indeed, the term “healthy buildings” implies that the building is human body-like in nature – a complex interconnected system with a core and shell (skeleton and skin), vital mechanical and HVAC systems (tissues and organs) that regulate core processes and activities such as airflow, ventilation and filtration (blood flow, biochemical function, absorption), all of which have direct health implications for the key system components – people (cells). 

Like medicine prior to CT, building doctors – architects, engineers, industrial hygienists, facilities professionals – have traditionally operated and continue to operate with an extremely limited and flawed toolbox for preventing airborne disease transmission, the invisible, deadly, and costly public health scourge that defines our times. This shortcoming has led to a shallow understanding of airflow, ventilation, and filtration, our essential controls for combating respiratory infection, and consequently a damaging breakdown in diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring for airborne disease transmission risk within buildings, leading to millions of preventable infections, billions of dollars of wasted spending and productivity, and billions of tons of avoidable carbon emissions. 

Air Balance Test Output8

Air balance test outputs and other existing diagnostics reports for ventilation and filtrations performance are not geared towards health and safety risk mitigation, have limited utility for addressing airborne disease transmission, and are often not visually digestible and intuitive.

Simply put, SafeTraces’ diagnostic imaging technology is as consequential for building health as CT, MRI, and PET have been for human health. Rooted in biosecurity and supported by the National Institutes of Health and world-class experts at MIT, Stanford, and other leading research institutions, our company has developed the first solution for testing and verifying indoor air/airflow safety and HVAC system performance for airborne disease exposure risk in real-world buildings.

SafeTraces Airflow, Ventilation, and Filtration Test Output

Heatmaps visualize airborne pathogen mobility, exposure levels, and ventilation and filtration system performance resulting from the safe, controlled release of patented DNA-tagged aerosol tracers in buildings.

Conceptually, SafeTraces’ technology is analogous to PET for buildings, leveraging patented and safe DNA-tagged aerosol tracers to detect, measure, and visualize abnormalities in airflow, ventilation, and filtration in real world indoor spaces (not software-based models), the foundations of healthy buildings and healthy people. The controlled release of our tracers simulate respiratory emissions and exposures to SARS-CoV-2, influenza, and other airborne diseases to: 

  • Identity potential infection hotspots and transmission pathways 
  • Measure ventilation and filtration system performance in removing infectious aerosols from the air 
  • Visualize analytics in heatmaps and other clear graphics that enable building owners, operators, service providers, and occupants to see the “invisible” and make better, smarter decisions

Commercial Application and Return on Investment (ROI)

Practically, our technology is employed in facility portfolios as a recurring preventative building health and measurement & verification (M&V) service to enhance:

  • Indoor environmental quality programs (including major building verifications and certifications)
  • Service and maintenance programs
  • Compliance and audit programs
  • Capital budgeting and planning
  • Public communications on workplace safety

What is the value of SafeTraces technology to our clients and partners, including Fortune 100 companies, leading commercial real estate owners and operators like the Irvine Company, Brookfield Properties, and JLL, and large public entities like the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, and the State of California?

  • Health and Safety ROI: we quantifiably measure the exposure risk reduction for airborne pathogens provided by real world ventilation and filtration systems and infection control strategies. Does increasing outside air rates or MERV-level filters in central air handling units actually do anything? Which product model, size, position, and setting level is optimal for local filtration devices? Absent our technology, there is virtually no way to know. However, our technology holds the answers in order to proactively measure and manage risk, keep occupants safe, and communicate safety conditions and mitigation actions to employees, tenants, regulators, and other key stakeholders. 
  • Financial ROI: we optimize capital investments on HVAC and local ventilation and filtration upgrades, minimize cost penalties associated with increasing ventilation rates, filtration levels, and building flushes that can be upwards of 30%, and develop portfolio-level strategies for how and where to most effectively and cost-effectively spend money. In real terms, what does this mean for our clients? In many cases, saving millions if not tens of millions of dollars that would have otherwise been misdirected and wasted, and increasing the probability of getting tenants and employees back into otherwise unoccupied buildings, keeping them there safely, and avoiding depressed leasing levels and vacancies threatening the commercial real estate industry.
  • Sustainability ROI: we minimize carbon penalties associated with increasing ventilation rates, filtration levels, and building flushes, identify optimal points of health & safety and sustainability-focused IAQ, and develop resiliency strategies in order to react to extraordinary events like pandemics in a carbon-sensitive manner, especially important for clients committed to green building, decarbonization, and net zero programs. The real estate sector is responsible for 30% of global annual greenhouse gas (GHG) and 40% of global energy consumption, with the HVAC system accounting for a significant share of these numbers9. Our diagnostic assessment helps right-size ventilation rates and filtration levels for infection control while avoiding unnecessary energy usage and carbon emissions  

In sum, SafeTraces’ technology is central to the healthy building continuum in the same way that medical imaging technology is central to the healthcare continuum, dramatically sharpening diagnostic accuracy in order to protect occupants from airborne disease, better manage financial resources, and reduce carbon impacts of health & safety strategies. Moreover, the impact of our technology will be amplified by pooling data from millions of assessments within and across buildings over time under different conditions and correlating with other IAQ diagnostic data in order to strengthen the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring process through data science. 

Shifting the IAQ Paradigm: The Alliance for Sustainable and Practical IAQ in Real Estate (ASPIRE)

Moreover, SafeTraces is proud and excited to be a founding member of ASPIRE for three main reasons. 

First, we are deeply committed to ASPIRE’s mission to develop a new paradigm for IAQ that balances health & safety and sustainability via foundational knowledge, codes & standards, and solutions & analytics. 

Second, we have tremendous respect for ASPIRE’s market-leading proptech founding members and see huge synergies and potential between our technology and their complementary innovative technologies spanning IAQ sensors and analytics (Awair), fault detection and diagnostics (Clockwork Analytics), sustainable air purification (enVerid), and high performance building services (System2). 

Third, ASPIRE will be a powerful vehicle to advance the agenda for risk-based ventilation rates for infection control proposed by Lidia Morawska, Joseph Allen, William Bahnfleth et al,10 as well as reformed policies, regulations, and building codes and increased government funding for IAQ research and development.   

2021 has the potential to usher in an exciting new era for performance-based and data-driven IAQ, where public need, political will, and technological advancements meet the moment in the interest of public health and safety, financial responsibility, and sustainability. With one of the most groundbreaking technologies in IAQ, SafeTraces is eager to work with our sister ASPIRE members and other like-minded allies to make this potential a reality.

  7.  Ibid

Building for the Future

Featuring: SafeTraces, Inc., CannonDesign, Ghent, 3M

by Halee Miller | Sep 30, 2021

Back to school usually means the changing of leaves, constant running to sports practices, and hours shopping for that one particular bookbag with your child’s favorite cartoon character on the back. In the last, almost two years however, back to school has looked differently for everyone.

Earlier this month, Forum by Mortarr’s Editor-in-Chief, Jen Levisen, facilitated a conversation between leaders in the education sector from design, product manufacturing, and building health and data science. All of these areas rely on one another to create safe education environments.

Meet the Panel

GMi Companies, 3M, SafeTraces, Inc., and CannonDesign gathered together to discuss what designing for sustainability and safe spaces in the education sector means.

GMi Companies is the parent brand of Ghent, Waddell, and VividBoard — all brands in visual communication and display products. GMi’s Director of Marketing, Susan Claus, recognized the company’s commitment to sustainability, being manufactured in the USA, and their seriousness about their environmental responsibility.

3M is more than just Scotch tape and Post-it notes — they take pride in their sustainable cleaning solutions in the education sector. Segment Marketing Manager, Ben Oberle, said that 3M cares about more than just producing a product, they focus on keeping students and their families safe through their work in the education sector.

SafeTraces, Inc., is a DNA-powered safety technology company that has a focus in indoor air quality, ventilation, and filtration assessment. CEO, Erik Malmstrom, said their products aid schools to more accurately target their safety efforts and spend their money more wisely.

Rounding out the panel, Eric Corey Freed, the Senior Vice President of Sustainability at CannonDesign, brought an architect’s perspective to sustainability in education spaces. CannonDesign is a top 10 architecture firm that brings an outcome-based approach to the architecture industry — designing for just what the client needs.

Why does it matter?

What do architecture and design have to do with our future’s education? Well, according to Freed, quite a bit.

“If we do our job properly, for an educational space, we can boost student test scores, we can boost cognitive performance, we can make them feel at ease, we can have stress reduction, we can improve staff retention rates,” said Freed.

All of the possible outcomes Freed mentioned are measurable and quantifiable outcomes that can be designed for. This is the outcome-based approach that CannonDesign takes in all of their projects. They ask their clients what outcomes mean most to them, and design for those particular goals.

Not only is design important for learning and retention efforts, but also sustainability.

“About half of our carbon emissions come from the design, operation, and construction of buildings, so if we’re going to solve the climate crisis, we have to change how we design and build our buildings,” said Freed.

Certifications — do they matter?

Project certifications like LEED and WELL, and product certifications like LEVEL, are sought-after sustainable achievements in the commercial construction + design industry. What matters most, however, is not just the title of the certification, but the why behind it.

LEVEL by BIFMA is a commercial furniture certification that is only awarded to products that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. As noted by Claus, filling a space with LEVEL-certified products contributes to notable sustainable building ratings, including LEED and WELL certifications. GMi’s products are LEVEL 2 certified, proof of their efforts toward a more sustainable world.

Keep the space clean.

3M plays an important role in the safety of students in the midst of a global pandemic. As a manufacturer of cleaning products, they were asked to do more than just produce, but also educate on how to clean correctly and sustainably.

“How do we, as a manufacturer, help them?” Oberle said when discussing the recent pandemic’s long-lasting effects on schools and their staff.

Health and safety goes a lot farther than just cleaning surfaces. Ensuring clean air for the students and faculty to breathe in each day is just as important, if not more.

“Indoor environments that we live and work in, and go to school in, are responsible for helping spread viruses,” said Malmstrom.

SafeTraces has a tool to help people make better design decisions with a focus on health and safety by providing real world data. Health and safety goes even further by having a huge impact on the building’s sustainability, said Malmstrom. Carbon footprint, energy penalties, and cost penalties all need to be balanced with the level of safety efforts needed at the time. Knowing your space’s data helps the built environment make informed decisions about their ventilation system and the price tag that comes with it.

What’s changed?

Throughout the pandemic, Corey Freed said that the architecture of the education sector hasn’t changed, but the mechanical systems have.

“It’s been much more about cleaning protocols, operations, and ventilation more than anything,” said Corey Freed, “and those things are really all you need.”

It’s all about the end user.

From the product side, Oberle and Claus said that keeping sustainability at the forefront of their company is all about conversation with end users and what they need most.

Claus asked her husband, who’s a high school teacher, what sustainability means to him in his classroom. He replied with needing warranties and wanting something that’s going to last.

“When looking for something that is sustainable, you don’t want to have to continually replace something,” said Claus, “if you have to replace it in a year or two, what are we really doing here?”

Oberle said that facility directors play a huge role in the building and its health and safety. 3M encourages those facility directors that clean the building to be involved in the conversation of the building size, space, and materials used.

“Be at that table with your experience of previous buildings, know what you’re getting into, know what those decisions are,” said Oberle.

Besides masking and vaccinations, Malmstrom said that air quality and ventilation is just as important, if not more, than those things.

“Using data to have targeted interventions in the building that are actually going to help make it healthier and safer and do that in a sustainable and cost efficient way, and then in an environmentally sustainable way, too,” said Malmstrom.

Looking to the future.

Claus said that GMi is about getting in front of their end users, dealers, architects, and designers to have conversations about what GMi as a manufacturer can do with their products in the future. Hearing from the end users helps guide them in what they need most.

When talking to customers, Oberle said 3M is concerned about what is coming next, like preparing for the cold and flu season.

“Where are you going and how can you do it quicker and more effectively than what you’re doing today?” said Oberle about 3M’s approach to evolving with each new challenge.

From the air quality, to material transparency, to cleaning products, and the building structure itself, it takes an entire industry to make schools safe and healthy spaces.

This article originally appeared on Forum by Mortarr. Read it here.

The Energy Penalty of Safer Indoor Air

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change has placed a heavy burden on HVAC systems to modernize and become energy efficient.

by Erik Malmstrom and Aaron Lapsley | Sep 28, 2021

Engineers regularly encounter significant trade-offs in the design and operation of mechanical systems and equipment. In many design situations, not addressing trade-offs means not optimizing the system. However, trade-offs become murkier for engineering under two key conditions as projects move from individual components to a complex and the design stage to real-world operations. Combine these conditions, and trade-offs often become much less evident in aggregate. This nexus of complex systems in the real world is where the HVAC industry usually operates.

The global pandemic has thrust the HVAC discipline of mechanical engineering into upheaval. In 2019, HVAC professionals in commercial, institutional, and public buildings were focused mainly on delivering comfortable temperatures and system performance in a cost-effective, energy-efficient way. That changed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ).

Ventilation is top of mind, and the guidance of public health officials and academics is taken seriously by engineers. However, in the summer of 2021, another big topic appeared increasingly in the news: disasters from human-caused climate change. Engineers, traditionally laser-focused on reducing energy consumption, are now tasked with making the air in buildings safer while achieving sustainability goals like energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.

This is usually framed as a conundrum resulting from a direct trade-off: improved air quality equals increased energy consumption. For certain changes to specific HVAC system components, this is inarguably true. However, we argue that the overall “energy penalty” for making IAQ improvements in practical systems is generally overstated.

Let’s frame the energy penalty in basic terms. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, in the spring of 2020, ASHRAE recommended that buildings covered by the foundational standard 62.1 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (most buildings) take three significant actions (among other guidance) to limit the potential for indoor transmission of SARS-COV-2:

  1. Increase filtration efficiency in air handling units (AHUs), which contain fans to move the air and coils to cool/heat it.
  2. Increase the fraction of outside (“fresh”) air in the air stream supplied continuously to occupied spaces, thus reducing the fraction of air that is recirculated (outside air flow rate + recirculated air flow rate = total supply air flow rate).
  3. Operate HVAC systems for extended hours to filter/flush occupied spaces of potentially pathogenic aerosols at the end of the day and/or prior to occupancy in the morning.

Viewed in isolation, each of these actions carries a price tag of increased energy consumption—aside from the potentially significant capital cost to implement these changes. Increased filter efficiency means higher pressure drop across the filter and thus more energy for the motor to turn the fan to push the air harder (see Fan Laws). Increased outside air will undoubtedly result in greater energy consumption by the HVAC system over the course of a year due to the increased heating and cooling loads to condition it (Q=m*C*dT). Similarly, running the system after hours means using more energy.

The energy penalty associated with better IAQ is clear for many small, simple systems in design phases. However, in most practical building situations, the reality is much more complex. Leaving aside the specific ASHRAE guidance, the engineer is faced with a matrix of possible choices regarding IAQ and energy consumption more generally in buildings.

Managers and engineers rarely take one remedial action in isolation. Instead, engineers should view system upgrades as a portfolio of actions and design choices. Engineers who have worked in energy reduction-focused capital programs will understand this concept well. Each decision usually results in a project with an associated capital cost—and there is a fixed amount of CAPEX (read: budget) over a certain time horizon. You get the biggest bang for your buck by prioritizing projects with a strategy. Since energy-conscious mechanical engineers design these IAQ upgrades with a strong sustainability preference in many cases, we encourage them to shift their mindset from  “Strategy 1” to “Strategy 2,” as seen in the figure below.

The notion of a struggle between IAQ and sustainability assumes that indoor air is at an acceptable quality in most occupied buildings today. That premise is increasingly challenged, especially considering the very real risks of indoor disease transmission, evidenced by the pandemic. The truth is, we have all expected way too little of the air inside buildings we occupy. Spend a few weeks with an inexpensive IAQ monitor in your home, and you will see how toasters and feather dusters produce particulate matter, that the humidity varies widely, and how carbon dioxide builds up quickly in an enclosed space where people are breathing and talking. The vast majority of engineering effort has gone to controlling temperature alone.

Beyond these environmental variables, which are known to affect health and wellness, the science from public health and engineering academics is obvious: infectious aerosols emitted by people can cause respiratory disease transmission. All of us, including engineers responsible for ventilation design, have come to tolerate an “Acceptable Level of Indoor Air Quality” (from the title of the standard of record in the U.S.) for too long.

A strong argument can be made that health and wellness-targeted improvements in ventilation and IAQ lead, however indirectly, to higher productivity and, thus, people in aggregate doing more with less. What is the point of even constructing and operating buildings, which have huge amounts of embodied carbon, in the first place if they do not serve the people who use them? (See Healthy Buildings, Allen & Macomber, 2020 Harvard, for more.)

We suggest three practical approaches for engineers addressing these trade-offs.

Collect and Utilize as Much Data as Possible

Better information leads to better decisions, and new types of indoor air safety testing are now available. Using DNA tracers in an aerosol-based solution, such as veriDART® by SafeTraces, effectively simulates the chemical composition of respiratory aerosols and their movement and can test the effectiveness of ventilation and filtration on removing potentially pathogenic aerosols from indoor spaces. Instead of making decisions and prioritizing investments based on changing, broad-brush guidelines or theoretical information, veriDART enables engineers to verify the effectiveness of key measures to improve IAQ.

With this information, it’s possible to target remediation efforts and make informed decisions on investments to improve occupant health and safety while also minimizing energy consumption. Be smart when implementing recommendations. How much does it improve health and safety to increase outside air percentage by a certain increment? How long should the ventilation be operated after hours to flush the building? Data from veriDART can help answer these questions. Complementary to tracer-based verification testing are ventilation and air quality data collected by digital control systems and sensors, common now in most buildings. Collecting, organizing, and leveraging this data to make decisions is a crucial success factor for optimizing energy and IAQ performance and is the cornerstone of most “smart building” programs.

Maintain and Monitor Mechanical Systems

The main reason for overstating the sustainability-IAQ trade-off is that most operating HVAC systems are not optimized and have a deferred maintenance backlog. Regular maintenance and repair of HVAC systems are critical to ensuring good IAQ and helps optimize energy efficiency. But many issues go undiagnosed in large, complex systems. Building analytics software, called Fault Detection & Diagnostics (“FDD”), helps proactively identify problem areas and address them to optimize ventilation performance and energy efficiency. One leading FDD solution provider recently analyzed data from their cloud-based solution to find that, in July 2021, across 2,200 buildings in 30 countries, roughly 10 percent of zone equipment and 20 percent of air handling units had at least one mechanical or controls issue affecting IAQ.

In addition, from June 2020 to July 2021, across 400 million square feet of buildings, there had been over 1,700 IAQ-improving failures identified and resolved, resulting in an aggregate estimated annual recurring energy cost savings of about USD $1,000,000. Smart operations and maintenance aided by clever data use can often completely offset the energy penalty of improving IAQ in operating buildings.

Understand and Work with Operational Realities

Engineers must focus on operations, not idealized designs, to identify optimizations. For example, upgrading air filters is a recommended approach to improve IAQ and reduce infectious aerosols. But it comes with a seemingly clear energy penalty. Which air filters should you use? They are not all equal. One design choice is to use higher-quality filters. In a published case study, moving from low to high-quality air filters (of the same efficiency rating) reduced energy consumption by almost 15 percent and reduced the number of required filter changes from four to two per year. While the filters themselves cost about twice as much, the lower energy cost and fewer change-outs resulted in almost 12 percent less overall cost per year, as well as reductions in carbon emissions and solid waste. This helps significantly offset the energy penalty by increasing the filter efficiency. Engineers should use remedial upgrade projects as an opportunity to make informed changes to systems, equipment, and operations that improve IAQ and optimize sustainability.

While engineers face a challenging task balancing sustainability and IAQ, especially in existing facilities with high sunk costs, we believe the challenge will ultimately be a defining moment for the next generation of mechanical engineers working with built environments. Incorporating data from leading technologies like SafeTraces’ veriDART, thinking through strategic portfolios of projects, and understanding the operational realities of the systems they design and build will be key to their success in overcoming the trade-off of sustainability and IAQ.

Erik Malmstrom is the CEO of SafeTraces, a Bay Area technology company and provider of DNA-enabled diagnostic solutions for indoor air quality.

Aaron Lapsley, P.E., is the principal and founder of System2 Consulting, a consulting and engineering firm specializing in technology for the built environment and high-performance building systems.

This article originally appeared on Read it here.