Offices adapt as COVID highlights hazards of poor indoor air quality

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In 2019, the Green Building Alliance sent a survey about indoor air quality to its partner properties in Pittsburgh’s central business corridor that are working to cut their energy and water use.

It was a step in defining a baseline so the partnership could start driving improvement of air quality inside buildings, which is less studied — and can be unhealthier — than the air outdoors.

The indoor air quality metric is relatively new, so the organizers of the Pittsburgh 2030 District expected moderate engagement from the operators of about 120 buildings that completed the survey. But by the time they held meetings with building managers to go over the results, in mid-2020, the world had changed.

“You don’t always tie the health of the building to the performance of the staff, but when COVID hit, it was very obvious,” said Chris Cieslak, senior director for the 2030 District. “You saw the virus rushing through the meatpacking plants and nursing homes. At that point, there was no denying the connection between the built environment and the health of the occupants of the building.”

In late March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released guidance to building managers outlining best practices for improving indoor air quality. It starts with each building assessing its existing systems and determining how to bring more clean air into the space, from outside or through filtration.

The Biden administration described it as “a call to action for anyone who manages or maintains a building.”

The document was informed by earlier guidance developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), a standard-setting organization for the industry.

Read the rest of the article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website.

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