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Beware Those Selling COVID-19 Air Solutions, Building Experts Say

Better air quality and flow are the most effective ways to fight coronavirus infections inside commercial buildings, experts say, but building owners need to separate the wheat from the chaff to get the full benefit of effective solutions. 

And not all tech tools pitched as solutions to killing the virus are effective. 


"We have focused too much on things like cleaning, and not enough on air quality, so we haven't equipped building owners, operators and tenants of buildings to be able to focus on things with the greatest efficacy," International WELL Building Institute President Rachel Gutter said while speaking at Bisnow's The Reimagined Workplace webinar. 

And even those building owners who are out looking for tech solutions to improve indoor air quality could be spending hard-earned dollars on ineffective air quality solutions, Gutter said. 

"Owners and operators need to be suspicious about all the new technologies being hawked in the market," she said. "UVC is a technology that we are supportive of for purposes of addressing mold and moisture on coils that are where the air is flowing ... but it is not a solution for COVID. As it's being marketed, it's simply a bunch of bunk."

report from the BBC supports Gutter's claims, noting that while UVC in certain high concentrations may be helpful, the solution is far from being a panacea for killing the coronavirus. The level of UVC concentration needed to kill the virus is too dangerous for humans, the report said. 

DLR Group principal and designer Art Bloodworth agrees the solutions needed to protect buildings from the coronavirus are far more complex than they have been made out to be in some contexts. 

"It really is about the air exchange technology and not just necessarily for the floor plate, but really on an individual user scale," Bloodworth said. 

"If you are going to have meeting rooms, how can that meeting room have technology that might be on par with what we have on an airplane? And if you are going to have an open office, how can the air exchange be developed into an air curtain that can actually keep clean air moving throughout the space, allowing people some proximity to each other?"

For owners and operators, the future of building design is still a moving target, with today's owners focusing on the most critical elements first. 

Champion Partners co-managing partner Stephen Modory has been working on upgrading the former Keurig Dr Pepper campus in Plano, a site his firm acquired last year around the time the beverage giant decided to move to Frisco

Building owners are still walking a fine line between advising their tenants on how to be safe while doing what they can to ensure they are comfortable, he added. Upgrades made to the Keurig Dr Pepper building show what tenants expect in this post-pandemic society, he said. 

"Some things that we changed [on the campus], there are much more active outdoor areas both around the building and off the cafeteria of the building," Modory said. "It seems people want more outdoor space to get away from being inside and to have fresher air quality."