One Engineer’s Opinion: Good Indoor Air Quality Is Necessary Even After the Pandemic
By Bruce Longino
During this pandemic, IAQ became the topic of many conversations. Hopefully this COVID-19 pandemic will end when the world has enough people that are vaccinated that we achieve “herd immunity.”
Herd immunity (also called herd effect, community immunity, or population immunity) is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur with some diseases when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection. This is through vaccination or previous infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.
However, at that point IAQ will still be important. Absolutely the only good from the pandemic is the spotlight on good IAQ.
As I am writing this article, the death count from COVID-19 in the United States is over 527,000. This number is more USA deaths then occurred in WWI, WWII and Vietnam combined.
One thing we have learned is that viruses are so small that they can travel great distances on very small dust particles in the air. This is true of SARS-VoC2, the virus that causes COVID-19 or the viruses that causes flu or colds. When we breath in these very small dust particles they go deep into our lungs. If there are viruses attached to these particles we get sick. Many think this method of contracting COVID-19 causes the greatest degree of illness. If you got the disease by touching somebody and then rubbing your eyes, you still get sick. But some believe getting the disease the second way you are not as sick.
These small dust particles are what we see when sunlight comes through our windows. The particles are so light that they do not precipitate out of the air to be moped up. The particles have so little surface area, that they do not get carried to the HVAC filter. If you have great filters, it cannot remove these particles if they never make it to the filter.
The solution is Needlepoint Bi-Polar Ionization. NBPI floods the air with billions of positive and negative ions. The ions make the tiny dust particles positive or negative. When this happens, the particles clump together and get bigger and bigger. This is called agglomeration. They get big enough to precipitate out and get moped up or they get carried back to the filter.
Another important component of good IAQ is the removal of Volatile Organic Compounds. VOC are generated by building materials and building occupants. An example of a VOC that people give off is ammonia [NH3]. NH3 is a good example of a VOC that the ions from the NBPI system can eliminate. The -OH ions pull the Hs off of the NH3 molecule to form a water molecule [H2O]. The remaining N finds another and becomes N2.
Pathogen reduction is another requirement to provide good IAQ. Pathogen deactivation occurs when the -OHs pulls the Hs from the pathogen, making it unable to reproduce.
This pandemic has been and still is horrible. I hope when it is finely over that Engineers and Contractors will still strive to provide buildings with great Indoor Air Quality. After all, we spend most of our lives in buildings and homes.
About the Author
W. Bruce Longino, P.E., LEED AP, may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.