Can Healthy Buildings Help Battle Disease?

Can Healthy Buildings Help Battle Disease?

This article has been updated with the most recent findings, click here to read the updated version 


With coronavirus front and center on everyone’s minds, we’d be remiss as an advanced technology company if we did not consider how technology could help prevent or minimize airborne diseases in the future.

According to one medical expert, there is an aspect to stopping the spread of viruses like COVID-19 in the future that could involve more than the usual recommendations of covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands, cleaning surfaces and maintaining social distancing.

It’s a simple but compelling idea – bring more fresh air into buildings.

Dr. Joseph Allen, director of the Harvard Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times recently that says while current preventative practices can halt the spread of “respiratory droplets,” the larger droplets often visible when someone coughs or sneezes, they don’t stop smaller airborne particles called “droplet nuclei.”

Droplet nuclei develop when the fluid of pathogenic droplets evaporates and are so small and light that they can remain suspended in the air for several hours. This means they could infect people entering a room which the infected person has left or can be widely dispersed throughout a building via HVAC systems.

According to Dr. Allen, here’s what we should be doing to stop the spread of droplet nuclei:

First, bringing in more outdoor air in buildings [that have] heating and ventilation systems (or opening windows in buildings that don’t) helps dilute airborne contaminants, making infection less likely. For years, we have been doing the opposite: sealing our windows shut and recirculating air. This not only gives a boost to disease transmission, including common scourges like the norovirus or the common flu, but also significantly impairs cognitive function.

He says because buildings typically recirculate some air and don’t pump in enough fresh air, this can “lead to a higher risk of infection during outbreaks, as contaminated air in one area is circulated to other parts of the building.”

Dr. Allen cites a study that found “ensuring even minimum levels of outdoor air ventilation reduced influenza transmission as much as having 50 percent to 60 percent of the people in a building vaccinated.”

If all this sounds vaguely familiar, you may recall seeing the blog post last month by Carl Caruso, Director of Sales, Smart Facilities for mCloud, titled How to Cure ‘Sick Buildings’ where Carl discussed the need for better ventilation in commercial buildings. He also repeated this message in a video interview this month on Constructech TV: The Foundation of a Healthy Building.

And in a serendipitous move, this past week mCloud announced a partnership with NYCE Sensors to provide wireless CO2 sensors for air duct management, building occupancy and air quality measurement with the AI and analytics provided by its AssetCare™ platform.

With this capability, mCloud’s solutions can now go beyond energy efficiency and keep tenants, staff and customers healthy and safe through the intelligent optimization of building airflow and ventilation.

Better energy efficiencies. Lower environmental impacts. And now healthier people in healthier buildings. It’s a win-win-win situation all around.

To learn more about mCloud’s full suite of AssetCare solutions to enhance building health while optimizing energy use, contact us today.

And continue staying safe out there as we all work to bring the world back to normal again.

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