ASPIRE (Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in RE) Launches

New Consortium “Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in Real Estate” (ASPIRE) Launches, Provides Framework for Measurable, Sustainable Indoor Air Quality

Founding members include Awair, Clockworks Analytics, enVerid Systems, SafeTraces, and System2 Consulting

Boston, MA – June 14, 2021– Five leading indoor air quality (IAQ) organizations announced today the formation of a new consortium, the Alliance for Sustainable & Practical IAQ in Real Estate (ASPIRE), with the goal of helping commercial and institutional buildings sustainably achieve indoor air quality. ASPIRE aims to encourage a more comprehensive, performance-based and data-driven approach to IAQ for building owners, managers and operators. The founding consortium members include Awair, Clockworks Analytics, enVerid Systems, SafeTraces, and System2 Consulting.

“ASPIRE’s founding members share a vision that buildings should provide a positive occupant experience, promote health and safety, and operate efficiently and sustainably; and we believe that IAQ is an intrinsic component of all three of these objectives,” said Aaron Lapsley, Principal & Founder of System2 Consulting. “Despite widespread claims in the marketplace, we know that there is no easy-button, silver-bullet solution that will fully address IAQ in every building. Instead, ASPIRE aims to encourage a performance-based framework that will help building stakeholders make well-informed decisions and implement practical solutions for achieving healthy air quality in a manner that minimizes or eliminates the trade-offs with energy efficiency.”

As part of its charter, ASPIRE will provide market education on leading practices related to indoor air quality and its intersection with sustainability. ASPIRE’s framework addresses five objectives:

  1. Monitor and improve indoor air quality (IAQ) and ventilation systems
  2. Measure and reduce pathogen transmission and illness risk
  3. Reduce energy costs and carbon emissions
  4. Demonstrate success and leadership through certification
  5. Direct investment to the highest value opportunities and solutions

Nexus Labs, a smart building industry community, media and education group that publishes podcasts and newsletters on smart building technology, will introduce ASPIRE on the first episode of its new monthly broadcast series on June 16th at 11am ET. Hosted by James Dice, Nexus Labs’ founder, the webinar “A Data Driven Approach to IAQ” will feature a discussion of the consortium’s vision, goals, and framework. Register for the free webinar here.

“We look forward to a discussion with these five companies and expert IAQ voices that cuts through the hype to offer insights on how to make indoor environmental quality as measurable and actionable as energy and water usage in a building,” said James Dice, Founder, Nexus Labs. “Organizations are eager for an approach that mitigates pathogens and contaminants of concern such as CO2, VOCs, PM2.5, and where IAQ data can be tracked, shared and acted upon, in a context that meets ESG goals.”

“Every day our team at AirRated sees firsthand the benefits of using data to drive decisions for building design and operation to deliver good indoor air quality,” said Francesca Brady, CEO of AirRated. “Our AirScore certification serves as the quantitative benchmark against best practice guidance for IAQ. In many cases it also acts as validation of investment in building systems and clean air technologies/products that aim to create healthy, productive spaces that occupants of the built environment deserve. This data point has been a kitemark both for prospective and current building users to refer to when looking to understand the quality of indoor air in buildings. We are witnessing the industry shift its focus to performance-based certifications and standards, with tangible, meaningful and actionable results. That is why I am happy to support the ASPIRE consortium in their goal of promoting and educating the industry on a more comprehensive and information-first approach to improving and maintaining good indoor air quality.”

“Post-pandemic, the real-estate industry has learned it needs to shift rapidly towards performance-based air quality standards, measured all day, every day,” said Raefer Wallis, Founder of RESET. “Achieving this will require close collaboration between solution providers that can deliver measurable air quality results, without losing sight of global climate goals. This is exactly what ASPIRE was formed to achieve and we hope it will have a much much-needed catalyzing effect across the industry.”

Awair

“Our mission at Awair is to ensure everyone can breathe safely anywhere indoors,” said Dustin DeVan, CEO of Awair. “IAQ requires management on a real-time basis, as well as having the insights and integrations to address issues quickly. We are excited to join such a collaborative team to democratize air data and to ensure people’s safety, particularly as indoor air matters now more so than ever post-pandemic.”

Clockworks Analytics

“Increased awareness of the critical role of IAQ on building and occupant health – coupled with a proliferation of IAQ solutions, standards, and data collection over the past year – has resulted in a large education gap,” said Alex Grace, VP of Business Development at Clockworks Analytics. “We are excited to join with leaders in the building performance and IAQ space through ASPIRE and share our expertise in fault detection and diagnostics in order to help consumers make more informed IAQ decisions in their buildings.”

enVerid Systems 

“There has long been a tension between achieving indoor air quality goals and energy efficiency and sustainability goals,” said Christian Weeks, CEO of enVerid Systems. “Buildings now need to solve for both. Working as part of ASPIRE we hope to educate building owners and operators on the opportunities to adopt performance-based design standards and advanced filtration solutions to enable healthy and sustainable buildings.”

SafeTraces

“The global pandemic has put a spotlight on the critical importance of IAQ to public health, as well as the insufficiency of our current paradigm for IAQ systems, regulations, and standards in public buildings,” said Erik Malmstrom, CEO of SafeTraces. “SafeTraces is thrilled to join forces with the most innovative technology companies in the built environment and to leverage our technology for advancing performance-based, data-driven metrics for combatting indoor respiratory infection.”

This post originally appeared on aspireiaq.com. Read it here.

Healthy Air Episode #12

Episode #12
Operating in a New Normal | Paul de la Port

In this episode, Paul talks about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship and gives advice on selecting an air cleaning system. He also speaks about upgrading aging HVAC systems and choosing the right level of coverage. Lastly, he discusses Omni CleanAir’s two business segments, their response to COVID, and how their culture is built on learning.

Paul de la Port is the President of Omni CleanAir. Since 1988, their solutions have been deployed to high-stakes applications, keeping people safe from some of the most dangerous airborne pollutants and pathogens. Omni CleanAir’s range of industrial-grade air purification solutions have resulted in 10s of 1000s of installs in the US and abroad. They are used in healthcare facilities for infection control, facilities affected by wildfires, for nuclear facility maintenance and decommissioning, and for hazardous environmental remediation and abatement. He’s held executive roles with companies including Danaher, GE, and Dresser. His last corporate role was President of Fluke’s Industrial and Digital Systems businesses.

Paul is passionate about leading breakthrough innovation and strategic transformations, hands-on product leadership, and commercial execution.
Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Paul’s background [1:01]
  • The scope and scale of the Omni CleanAir business [4:34]
  • How Omni CleanAir’s solutions differentiate from their competition [10:32]
  • The air purification industry as a whole is 50 to 75% illegitimate [13:01]
  • The types of customers and partners which are most strategic [15:43]
  • The right level of coverage for a facility with multiple floors [17:16]
  • Paul’s predictions of the demand for air purification solutions in the next ten years [19:38]
  • Paul’s take on the indoor air quality discussion and level of general prioritization in the US [21:28]
  • Paul and Omni CleanAir’s COVID-19 experience [22:31]
  • How Omni CleanAir stays on top of the market pulse [23:43]

Resources:

QUOTES:

We’re energized by working on a purposeful problem. And I think this is really going to matter, as buildings and companies figure out how to operate in a new normal.”

“We’re not a COVID company because there’s been a need since before COVID.”

“When the stakes are this high, why would you take the chance?”

“Our products do what they say they do, are backed up by data, are grounded in proven technologies, and we’re very transparent about that.”

“Omni CleanAir’s goal is to bring 30 years of technology know-how, experience, and applications to everyday workspaces without the need for professional expertise and installation.”

“If you can’t understand the specifications or the claims, and those claims can’t be backed up by data in plain English. That’s a red flag!”

Healthy Air Episode #11

Episode #11
Enhancing the Intelligence of Buildings | Tyler Smith

In this episode, Tyler Smith shares the services Johnson Controls offer and the benefits of operating a healthy building. He talks about Johnson Controls’ overall business unit and offerings compared to other healthy buildings. Lastly, he discusses how they help deliver on the clean air delivery rate and infection control objectives, and how Johnson Controls explains ROI to their customers.

Tyler Smith is the Executive Director of Healthy Buildings at Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings. Tyler has spent over 15 years with Johnson Controls and held roles focused on leveraging building management systems and HVAC equipment to drive important outcomes such as improvements, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality. From 2018 to 2020, Tyler led Johnson Controls’ Critical Environments business unit, which designs and manufactures systems for critical spaces, such as hospitals and laboratories. Since Spring 2020, Tyler has been instrumental in leading Johnson Controls’ COVID-19 response with a focus on helping our customers open and operate healthy buildings.

Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Tyler’s background [1:18]
  • The scope and scale of Johnson Controls’ business [3:30]
  • Services offered under healthy buildings and Johnson Controls [5:15]
  • Johnson Controls’ overall business unit and offerings compared to other healthy buildings [7:15]
  • Key milestones and strategies for healthy buildings at Johnson Controls [10:14]
  • The foundations of clean air within Johnson Controls [13:15]
  • Clean air delivery rate [16:21]
  • How costs and ROI are explained to customers [18:36]
  • Customers’ feedback [21:16]
  • Johnson Controls’ partnerships [25:15]
  • The most valuable technologies today and future predictions [27:41]
  • Tyler’s predictions of buildings’ evolution in the next 10 years [29:29]
  • How Johnson Controls stays on top of the market pulse [31:00]

Resources:

QUOTES:

I think what has kept me in the game and kept me so engaged and excited about working for Johnson Controls is how on the bleeding edge of our industry our company has stayed.”

“The pandemic forced us to rethink and acknowledge the opportunity and responsibility we have to leverage the vast capabilities and services in our healthy buildings business segment.”

“We’re not just trying to sell our clients a HEPA filter or a UV light. We’re there to arm in arm partner with them to understand what’s going on within their building.”

“We’re finding that being very outward in their advertisement and marketing of those healthy building investments that they’re making is important to nearly all of our clients.”

“Using infection control science, we educate clients and help customers understand what to do, how to do it, and ensure the health, safety, and wellness of their stakeholders.”

“We see a digitally connected building as really key to helping our customers unlock the full value of operating a healthy building.”

Ventilation in Residential Care Environments

Project led by Dr. Kevin Grosskopf of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with contributions from Roger Lautz, P.E. of Affiliated Engineers Incorporated, Phil Arnold of SafeTraces, Dr. Ehsan Mousavi-Rizi of Clemson University, and Dr. Josephine Lau of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. 

This content originally appeared on nrel.gov. Access it here.

Healthy Air Episode #10

Episode #10
Building Better Buildings Together | Vicki Worden

In this episode, Vicki Worden talks about one of Green Building Initiative’s signature programs, the Green Globes certification. She explains how it stands apart from other building certification programs, its cost, and its scoring system. She also shares how health and wellness are incorporated in what GBI offers and how they helped clients in response to the pandemic.

Vicki Worden is the President and CEO of the Green Building Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making buildings healthy places to live and work while reducing their impacts on the environment. GBI makes aspirational goals achievable through user-friendly tools built upon comprehensive standards and supported by outstanding staff and expert assessors. GBI has third-party certified 1000s of buildings across North America. Its Green Globes certification and Guiding Principles Compliance verification program support every building situation, from individual buildings with sole owners to some of the largest corporate and government portfolio owners in the world, including the Department of Defense in both the US and Canada.

Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Vicki’s background [1:23]
  • Overview of GBI’s mission, priorities, reach, and structure [4:31]
  • Green Globes certification program [6:07]
  • GBI’s scoring system [10:54]
  • How GBI reconciled sustainability, health, wellness, and its standards during the pandemic [14:45]
  • Challenges in 2021 [17:54]
  • GBI’s future direction [20:01]
  • GBI’s concerns and discussions [21:59]
  • The changes Vicki foresees over the next ten years [24:37]
  • What technologies move the needle of GBI’s mission [26:39]
  • How Vicki stays on top of the pulse and the bleeding edge of the market [28:14]
  • Vicki’s thoughts on the industry moving to gender equity [30:54]

Resources:

QUOTES:

“The Green Building Initiative’s mission is really straightforward. We’re focused on improving the built environment and reducing climate impacts.”

“In the last few years, we have much better data on how green buildings are performing on all measures from tenant satisfaction and retainment to occupant health and investor value.”

“Our process has been proven to streamline the certification process by removing cost and time hassles that are traditionally associated with green building certification.”

“We have about 400,000 square feet of certified space under the GBI umbrella today in both the US and Canada and beyond.”

“Within 12-18 months, we’ll be operational in Mexico, Central and South America, and Europe. Within three years, Green Globes and our tools will be available in four different languages.”

Healthy Air Episode #9

Episode #9
Verifying healthy buildings | Sean McCrady

In this episode, Sean McCrady talks about the history and future of healthy buildings, including a new Verified Healthy Building Mark.

Sean is the Director of Assets and Sustainability, Real Estate & Properties at UL. Sean is a certified environmental infection control consultant, certified microbial consultant, certified indoor environmental consultant, and a LEED and WELL accredited professional, and also a Fitwel Ambassador. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a BS in environmental science. 

Keeping air safe has never been more important. Now that we are in the next normal, it is critical that the air we breathe in shared indoor spaces is healthy and safe for continued occupancy. Are we ready to face this challenge and mitigate airborne exposure risk indoors? Welcome to Healthy Air, a podcast that talks about the future of buildings and how to keep air safe and healthy. Keep up with the latest industry trends, latest technologies, and regulatory changes with your host, Erik Malmstrom, industry experts, and the SafeTraces team here on Healthy Air.

SHOW NOTES:

  • An overview of Sean’s background [1:14]
  • What led Sean to healthy buildings and has kept him there so long [2:59]
  • An overview of the various roles that Sean has held in the industry [4:53]
  • What stands out to Sean about the industry today [6:55]
  • A challenge Sean faced in his career and an important insight he learned [9:49]
  • The most interesting part of the industry to Sean [12:20]
  • The risks posed by buildings today [13:47]
  • Why buildings are so mismanaged [17:51]
  • How Sean organizes his own business [20:11]
  • How the pandemic has impacted Sean’s business [21:32]
  • The healthy building verification mark [23:17]
  • The tension between health and safety in buildings and sustainability [32:55]
  • What tech Sean is paying attention to [35:05]
  • The changes Sean foresees over the next ten years [38:49]
  • Resources Sean recommends [40:52]

Resources:

QUOTES:

“When you’re part of the science community and you’re part of something that’s always evolving, it keeps your work fresh and interesting.”

“The things that are tried and true are still tried and true when it comes to what we do to manage indoor air quality and indoor environmental quality.”

“It’s not exciting, but fundamentals like looking at the ventilation, filtration, and hygiene remain arguably the most impactful things we can do to improve our indoor air quality.”

“Oftentimes the best tools in your toolkit are your nose and brain. We can smell things at parts per trillion and nuisance odors can be well below regulatory health and safety limits.”

“It’s not just about people not getting enough air. It’s about optimizing the built environment so you have happier, higher functioning people with a better sense of well-being.”

“Rather than figure out why buildings weren’t managed as well as they could have been in the past, I’m hoping we can look toward the future and change the way we operate.”

“The impact to our clients and customers will become more apparent when more people begin coming back to their workplaces.”

“Understand what is important if you own or manage an asset or are responsible for corporate facilities. The right verification program is about fit and what makes the most sense.”

“Post-COVID, I think we’ll see many innovative ideas in new buildings, more inclusion of natural ventilation where we can and a refocus on how to best manage our existing buildings.”

“The people in charge of buildings, hopefully, are taking it upon themselves to learn more and learn what they need to do to protect these assets once the workforce returns.”

From Best Practice to Policy

Developing a COVID-19 Prevention Program

Written by Mark Drozdov | April 12, 2021

For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized life around the world, particularly in the built environment. According to a paper posted in April 2020 to the preprint website medRxiv, COVID-19 infection is 18 times more likely indoors than outdoors. The virus presents a lethal, unpredictable health and safety risk due to its high degree of infectiousness, its multiple modes of transmission, and its high incidence of asymptomatic infections (approximately 40–45 percent) that make contact tracing and other response strategies more challenging to conduct. While vaccines provide cause for optimism, their less than 100 percent efficacy, the mistakes in mass vaccination efforts, and rapid mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will necessitate a comprehensive approach to infection control that does not exclusively rely on vaccination for the foreseeable future.

This article highlights the evolution of scientific knowledge regarding COVID-19 from initial outbreak to policymaking and identifies the best industrial hygiene practices that IHs in the field should follow regarding COVID-19 risk mitigation.

Developing and implementing a strong infection control plan has never been more urgent, not just as a matter of best practice but increasingly as a matter of regulatory compliance. In 2020, OSHA provided recommended guidance, allowing states and counties to establish their own requirements. The ensuing response was uneven, with some states like California, Oregon, Michigan, and Virginia promulgating emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 in workplaces while others relied on guidelines and recommendations. Critics charged that the overall OSHA response was fragmented, confusing, and ineffective, triggering worker complaints, mass outbreaks, and calls for reform.

As of early 2021, the Biden administration has signaled a much more active approach toward OSHA regulation, enforcement, and funding. On Jan. 21, President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” stating that the administration would:

  • provide revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • implement emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 deemed necessary by March 15
  • review OSHA enforcement efforts including short-, medium-, and long-term changes to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement
  • launch a national program to focus on OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest numbers of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles
  • coordinate with the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Engagement and all regional OSHA offices to conduct a multilingual outreach effort to workers

Concurrently, several states and counties have signaled a more aggressive approach to protecting worker health and safety. In late January 2021, Virginia became the first state to enact a permanent standard on COVID-19 in workplaces. Among other provisions, Virginia requires employers to comprehensively evaluate the hazards of all job tasks, create infectious disease preparedness and response plans, and maintain air handling systems in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and ASHRAE standards. Experts believe that Virginia could be a model for a forthcoming wave of federal and state-level OSHA permanent standards, complemented by heightened enforcement.

COVID-19 Prevention Program Development

In recently published guidance, OSHA noted that the most effective COVID-19 prevention programs involve conducting a hazard assessment; identifying measures that limit the spread of COVID-19; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home; and protecting workers who raise concerns about COVID-19 from retaliation.

For purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the first two aspects of COVID-19 prevention programs: hazard assessment and mitigation measures.

Hazard Assessment
According to OSHA, a hazard assessment, also referred to as a job hazard analysis or JHA, consists of the following process:

  1. collect existing information about workplace hazards
  2. inspect the workplace for safety hazards
  3. identify health hazards
  4. conduct incident investigations
  5. identify hazards associated with emergency and nonroutine situations
  6. characterize the nature of identified hazards, identify interim control measures, and prioritize the hazards for control

OSHA has divided job tasks into four potential risk exposure levels:

  • Lower risk: Jobs that do not require close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with other people. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers.
  • Medium risk: Jobs that require either frequent close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) or sustained close contact with other people in areas with community transmission.
  • High risk: Jobs with a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of SARS-CoV-2.
  • Very high risk: Jobs with a very high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of SARS-CoV-2 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures.

Mitigation Measures: Limiting Spread of COVID-19
Subsequently, an employer must implement a hazard prevention and control process consisting of the following steps:

  1. identify control options
  2. select control options
  3. develop and update a hazard control plan
  4. select controls to protect workers during nonroutine operations and emergencies
  5. implement selected controls in the workplace
  6. follow up to confirm that controls are effective

Applying the hierarchy of controls for COVID-19 is fundamental to hazard prevention and control. Case reports and epidemiological studies have indicated that the primary means of SARS-CoV-2 disease transmission is the indoor spread of exhaled droplet aerosols. Consequently, the AIHA guidance document “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls” states, “Engineering controls 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.”

Figure 1. Relative risk reduction of engineering controls and PPE. Source: AIHA, “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls”.

AIHA emphasizes the advantage of engineering controls relative to administrative controls and PPE on the grounds of efficacy and cost. An analysis in AIHA’s guidance document demonstrates that engineering controls can achieve a greater reduction in transmission risk than N95 respirators. Ventilation that provides 4.5 air changes per hour, a rate achievable in many buildings, reduces COVID-19 transmission to the same extent as N95 respirators. The reality is that engineering controls are less prone to human error than administrative controls and PPE. AIHA also highlights the high cost of PPE, which, in addition to PPE shortages and supply interruptions, makes off-the-shelf, reliable, and effective engineering controls better long-term solutions for preventing disease transmission. And as I stated in my article “Managing Indoor Air Quality Amid COVID-19,” which was published in the October 2020 issue of Restoration and Remediation magazine, “It is critical to remember that each indoor environment is unique; conditions within each indoor environment are dynamic, and there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for infection control.”

Mitigation Measures: Dilution Ventilation and Filtration
ASHRAE’s April 2020 position document on infectious aerosols (PDF) states that based on risk assessments, the use of specific HVAC strategies supported by the evidence-based literature should be considered, including the following:

  • Enhanced filtration (higher minimum efficiency reporting value [MERV] filters over code minimums in occupant-dense and/or higher-risk spaces)
  • Upper-room UVGI (with possible in-room fans) as a supplement to supply airflow
  • Local exhaust ventilation for source control
  • Personalized ventilation systems for certain high-risk tasks
  • Portable, free-standing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters
  • Temperature and humidity control

ASHRAE, AIHA, and other leading authorities emphasize that selecting, installing, and evaluating specific engineering controls should be based on a site-specific risk assessment in consultation with “a knowledgeable mechanical engineer and industrial hygienist familiar with ventilation controls and infection control,” as explained in the AIHA guidance document. Every building is unique, conditions and risk are dynamic, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Nevertheless, research published in the American Journal of Infection Control indicates that dilution ventilation and filtration emerge in peer-reviewed scientific literature and public health guidance as the most consistently recommended engineering controls, not only for SARS-CoV-2 but also for other respiratory viruses like influenza, tuberculosis, and rhinovirus. The logic is clear and compelling: increasing outdoor air intakes, air exchange rates, and filtration levels to the highest level an HVAC system can sustainably handle reduces the time and space for airborne pathogens like SARS-CoV-2 to linger, spread, and infect others, similar to the “infinite dilution” benefits of outdoor environments.

For generations, healthcare facilities have embedded dilution ventilation and filtration in their infection control systems and controls. Now, the pandemic is forcing non-healthcare facilities to operate based on the same core principles, representing a significant departure from traditional building operations optimized for cost, efficiency, and occupant comfort. Meanwhile, federal and state OSHA authorities have thrust ventilation and filtration controls front and center in their updated guidelines, recommendations, and standards given scientific consensus on the importance of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Verification of Engineering Controls
Even within the scope of dilution ventilation and filtration-focused controls, the hazard prevention and control process is not straightforward due to often-competing health and safety, engineering, and financial considerations. For example, what is the relative risk reduction of increasing the volume of outside air, installing enhanced filtration in central HVAC systems, and using standalone HEPA-filtered air cleaners? Which of these controls are possible within the mechanical system’s design and operational capabilities? Will increased outside air introduce high levels of humidity, thereby causing other health and safety risks like mold and bacterial growth in the HVAC system, ducts, and occupied areas of the building? What is the capability of fans in the HVAC system to handle increased pressure load from increased filtration, and what will be the implications for maintenance, filter changes, and air leakage around the enhanced filtration? And are the benefits of these controls worth the costs associated with implementing them?

Moreover, the lack of a widely accepted quantitative standard for ventilation endorsed by OSHA, ASHRAE, and other leading authorities creates further ambiguity for developing, implementing, evaluating, and enforcing critical engineering controls.

Ideally, robust analytical tools and diagnostic solutions should guide the hazard prevention and control process and help assess costs and benefits. However, the pandemic has exposed a critical gap in the toolbox of industrial hygienists and mechanical engineers. Existing solutions fall into two main categories: quantitatively rigorous theoretical approaches like computational fluid dynamic modeling and Wells-Riley mathematical solutions, and qualitatively rigorous applied approaches heavily reliant on expert feedback. What has been lacking is a quantitatively rigorous applied approach capable of verifying the efficacy of engineering controls in real-world indoor environments.

However, technology-enabled solutions are emerging to fill this gap. One recent example is a diagnostic solution leveraging DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic airborne pathogen mobility and exposure levels. This type of technology-enabled solution has the potential to integrate a layer of science- and data-based verification into the hazard prevention and control process and to round out traditional approaches.

Critical Components

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a once-in-a-century public health risk, which is particularly acute in the built environment. In response, federal and state-level OSHA authorities are advancing increased regulation and enforcement actions to protect workers. Identification, assessment, and prevention of hazards, and the implementation of controls, are critical for developing and implementing infection control plans that are consistent with best practices and compliant with regulations. Given the airborne transmission risk of SARS-CoV-2, dilution ventilation and enhanced filtration should be critical components of a hazard control plan, strengthened by emerging technology that can verify efficacy throughout the decision-making process. IH and OEHS professionals should employ the scientific knowledge gained during this pandemic by utilizing the best industrial hygiene practices and means to verify ventilation and filtration controls as part of COVID-19 prevention plans. We are all under an obligation to apply effective infection control and management tools that demonstrate the effectiveness of the actions taken.

This article originally appeared in the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) publication, the Synergist. Read it here.

Resources

AIHA: “Joint Consensus Statement on Addressing the Aerosol Transmission of SARS CoV-2 and Recommendations for Preventing Occupational Exposures” (PDF, February 2021).
AIHA: “Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Using Engineering Controls” (PDF, August 2020).
ASHRAE: “ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols” (PDF, April 2020).
OSHA: Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, “Hazard Identification and Assessment.
Restoration & Remediation: “How to Manage Indoor Air Quality Amid COVID-19 (October 2020).
Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board: “Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19” (PDF, January 2021).
The White House: “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” (January 2021).

Artificial Fog Does Not Appear To Increase Airborne COVID-19 Disease Transmission Risk In Entertainment Productions

New study, sponsored in part by IATSA Local 891, shows that artificial fog may even reduce levels of suspended respiratory aerosols

Date: April 6, 2021

PLEASANTON, Calif., April 6, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — A new study released by Aura Health and Safety, The Phylmar Group, and SafeTraces, Inc, a market leader in DNA-based technology solutions, suggests that artificial fog has no negative impact on suspension of aerosols in entertainment venues and productions. This is great news for the film, television and live entertainment industries, with a US market size in excess of $700 billion.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a once-in-a-century crisis that has led to unprecedented health and safety challenges in the built environment, including the entertainment industries. Scientific, medical, and public health experts, including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), have stated that SARS-CoV-2 is a highly infectious virus that is primarily transmitted via respiratory droplets and aerosols. Indoor environments face significant airborne exposure risk, with enclosed areas, prolonged exposure, and poor ventilation high risk factors common in many entertainment venues.

As the entertainment industry, trade associations, and labor unions prepare to reopen venues and stage new productions, there has been significant concern whether artificial fog increases the airborne transmission risk of diseases such as COVID-19. Artificial fog is widely used in the entertainment industries to enhance lighting, as a visual effect, and to create a specific sense of mood or atmosphere as it disperses across densely occupied venues such as concert halls and theaters, rendering it a suspected risk factor for airborne disease transmission.

For the joint study “COVID-19 Implications of the Physical Interaction of Artificial Fog on Respiratory Aerosols“, Aura Health and Safety occupational and public health scientists used the aerosol-based veriDART® solution by SafeTraces, the most powerful risk assessment tool for airborne pathogens like SARS-CoV-2. It leverages DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic aerosol mobility and exposure in order to identify high-risk infection hotspots and transmission routes, assess ventilation and filtration efficacy, and inform remediations with a rigorous science-based, data-driven methodology.

The scientists released unique DNA-tagged tracer particles with and without glycerin- or glycol-containing artificial fog into a closed environment. They took air samples at regular intervals to determine DNA tracer degradation over time. The study found that none of the artificial fog applications increased the time that respiratory aerosols remained suspended in the air. In fact, artificial fog containing glycol actually decreased suspension time, indicating that this fog application reduces the time respiratory aerosols remain suspended in the air to impact disease transmission.

The highly significant finding that artificial fog does not increase, and may even reduce, the risk of airborne transmission of diseases from respiratory aerosols has important implications, as it directly affects the entertainment industries’ readiness to re-open and their ability to generate revenue and create jobs.

“Over the past several years the use of atmospheric smoke and fog has been on the rise with many in our membership expressing concern over health concerns around the products used, and any lasting effects of its use. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry in March of 2020 one of the many concerns brought forward to Local 891 – concerns heard throughout the industry North America wide – was, what happens when someone who may have the disease releases aerosols into the fog on a set?” asked Keith Woods, President of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts (IATSA) Local 891 labor union.”Given this, it seemed natural to support a study of this sort to help get some answers to this most pressing of concerns. It gives us some relief to know that artificial fog does not appear to allow the released aerosols to suspend more than normal,” stated Woods.

About SafeTraces:
SafeTraces is committed to ensuring the highest safety standards for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the medication we take by harnessing the power of DNA. We provide market leading, DNA-enabled diagnostic solutions for indoor air quality, food and pharmaceutical traceability, and sanitation verification. Information is available at www.safetraces.com.

About Aura Health and Safety:
Aura Health and Safety provides specialized industrial hygiene and environmental public health consulting to a range of industries. Aura has been working with the film and television industry for several years, conducting artificial fog research, indoor air quality investigations, and most recently COVID-19 plans. Information is available at www.aurahealthsafety.com.

About the Phylmar Group:
The Phylmar Group facilitates environmental health and safety/sustainability forums in the areas of biopharmaceuticals, apparel/ footwear and occupational health and safety. Phylmar monitors, analyzes and advocates during rule making regarding federal and state regulations, and members have a private channel for information exchange and networking along with opportunities for continuing professional education and mentoring. Information is available at www.phylmar.com.

This post originally appeared on PR Newswire. Read it here.

Workplace Safety: Best Practice, Compliance, and Trust in the New Normal

How can employers reopen safely amidst increasing OSHA regulation and employee mistrust in workplace safety? Emerging technology can help.

Written by Erik Malmstrom | April 01, 2021

Amidst renewed urgency for reopening, employers confront two major issues – the proverbial regulatory hammer dropping and an alarming crisis of confidence in workplace safety. Emerging safety technologies can provide a major boost on both fronts.

First, President Biden has signaled a more robust approach to OSHA regulation and enforcement than his predecessor. Forthcoming Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) regulations for employers, directed by an executive order issued on the first day of the Biden presidency, will be accompanied by a recently announced National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19 enforcement actions in higher hazard industries and an updated Enforcement Response Plan (ERP) to “prioritize COVID-19-related inspections involving deaths or multiple hospitalizations due to occupational exposures.”[1]

Second, a widely cited poll of 3,400 respondents across seven countries conducted by Edelman in late 2020 yielded striking results. Only half of employees believed that office spaces are safe. Employees placed the least amount of confidence in CEOs and senior managers to lead on return to work (14%). Most respondents received the majority of their virus-related information from mainstream and social media, but questioned its fundamental credibility.[2]

As employers prepare for return to work in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, how should they navigate this complex regulatory environment and overcome the trust deficit from employees? At risk of sounding overly simplistic, the answer is clear: they need to create a safe workplace based on best practice and regulation, and they need to communicate to employees with consistent, high quality, and reliable information.

How do we create a safe workplace? For an airborne pathogen like SARS-CoV-2, best practice and regulation have increasingly emphasized the critical importance of ventilation, filtration, and engineering controls to mitigate airborne exposure risk. The American Industrial Hygiene Association’s (AIHA) states, “Engineering controls 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.”[3]

AIHA recommends “effective, simple-to-use, and inexpensive” tools to assess pathogenic exposure risk and verify efficacy of engineering controls in real world environments.[4] However, the reality is that existing tools fail to meet these three criteria, including applied tools like tracer gases, anemometers, and balometers for ventilation and particle challenge methods for filters, as well as theoretical tools like computational fluid dynamic modeling and volumetric airflow calculations.

From an efficacy standpoint, existing tools have two major drawbacks: (1) they are not aerosol-based and therefore are limited in their ability to verify ventilation and filtration efficacy for an aerosol contaminant like SARS-CoV-2; and (2) none provides a combined assessment of ventilation and filtration efficacy in one test, requiring triangulation between multiple methods to verify engineering controls holistically. Beyond efficacy, most existing tools are also overly complicated and costly, ultimately deterring regular effective verification.

As management guru Peter Drucker famously once said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Fundamentally, toolbox limitations compromise our ability to accurately and regularly measure exposure risk and manage prevention and communication efforts, directly undermining workplace safety, regulatory compliance and employee confidence. Assessments often fail to produce high quality defensible data and thus create liability for employers. Moreover, employers’ limited ability to communicate data clearly, compellingly, and consistently perpetuates employee mistrust in workplace safety.

While the pandemic has exposed critical toolbox limitations, it has also spurred groundbreaking innovations that have pushed us closer to effective, simple to use, and inexpensive solutions that enhance workplace safety, regulatory compliance, and employee trust. As one example, our company SafeTraces has developed the first commercially available aerosol-based diagnostic solution for verifying ventilation and filtration efficacy in real world environments.

Developed with support from the National Institutes of Health and technical experts at leading research universities like Stanford and MIT, the veriDART® solution by SafeTraces leverages patented DNA-tagged tracer particles that safely mimic aerosol mobility and exposure in order to identify high-risk infection hotspots and transmission routes, regularly assess HVAC system performance at an affordable price point and ease of use, and inform remediations with a rigorous science-based, data-driven methodology.

SafeTraces has supported a diverse set of corporate, commercial real estate, and government clients, who have integrated veriDART into critical health, safety, and financial decision-making processes and ongoing environmental health and safety programs. Clients use veriDART to address two universal questions: (1) is air and airflow safe? (2) how and where should I target infection control planning and spending to enhance safety?

Practically, veriDART provides a baseline risk assessment for pathogenic exposure in real world spaces with the ability to regularly verify the same locations. It analyzes relative exposure risk reduction provided by increasing ventilation rates, upgrading MERV-level filters, employing standalone HEPA units, running fans, installing physical barriers, etc. Moreover, our data is independent, scientific, empirical, provided in heatmaps and other visual formats valuable for internal decision-making, regulatory compliance, and crisis communication to employees.

In conclusion, the rapidly evolving regulatory environment and pervasive employee trust deficit in workplace safety means that the cost of inaction for employers is high. Emerging OSHA regulation and enforcement compels employers to act immediately in order to become compliant, avoid citations and penalties, and limit legal liability with defensible data. Meanwhile, employers need to be proactive in enhancing workplace safety and communicating their efforts consistently with high quality, reliable data to employees like never before. Emerging technologies like veriDART are powerful solutions to these important ends.  

This article originally appeared on EHS Today. Read it here.

References:

  1. https://www.ehstoday.com/print/content/21159300
  2. https://www.edelman.com/research/workplace-trust-coronavirus
  3. https://aiha-assets.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/AIHA/resources/Guidance-Documents/Reducing-the-Risk-of-COVID-19-using-Engineering-Controls-Guidance-Document.pdf
  4. https://aiha-assets.sfo2.digitaloceanspaces.com/AIHA/resources/Fact-Sheets/Joint-Consensus-Statement-on-Addressing-the-Aerosol-Transmission-of-SARS-CoV-2-Fact-Sheet.pdfhttps://cdn.ymaws.com/www.iicrc.org/resource/resmgr/images/resources/COVID-19_Professional_Cleani.pdf
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