Virus crisis shows importance of managing indoor climate

The coronavirus outbreak has dramatically sharpened the focus on the role of indoor climate conditions in managing the spread of infections – particularly during the winter months.

A series of medical studies have shown that managing humidity as well as temperature plays a vital role in reducing the risk from cross-infection in all types of buildings. During the winter months, indoor air is much drier and this is the time when we see most transmission of disease. That is why the UK government has put so much store in trying to delay the worst of the outbreak until the spring and summer months push up ambient temperatures and return relative humidity (RH) to between 40 and 60%.

However, we can do so much more during the colder months to ensure indoor conditions are healthier simply by paying more attention to how we treat the air entering occupied spaces – maintaining healthy rates of air changes; using high quality filtration to improve air quality; managing and monitoring relative humidity and temperature so they remain at healthy levels.

These improvements can all be made while, at the same time, minimising energy consumption thanks to the array of sophisticated air conditioning tools now available to building services engineers and facilities managers.

The air conditioning industry has been aware of its important role in safeguarding health and wellbeing in buildings for some time, but the growing body of medical evidence has raised the profile of this issue.

 

Allergic conditions

A report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) found that indoor air can be between 5 and 13 times more polluted than outdoor air due to a cocktail of contaminants including smoke, damp, traffic fumes, chemical aerosols and particulates from wood burning.

As well as contributing to the rise in numbers of asthma sufferers, it is also linked to other allergic conditions including conjunctivitis, dermatitis and eczema – and has a particularly unwelcome impact on the health of children.

RCPCH paediatric respiratory consultant Jonathan Grigg said it was welcome that the country was finally paying attention to the quality of outdoor air, but that the indoor issue was not receiving the attention it needed. The research showed that British children spend on average just 68 minutes a day outside and are, therefore, subject to a range of indoor pollutants for almost 23 out of every 24 hours.

Schools, care homes and healthcare facilities are areas of particular concern.  In these buildings it is crucial that the air conditioning systems are continuously monitored to ensure they are delivering the right conditions for health and wellbeing – and that regular maintenance is carried out.

At Daikin Applied (DAPUK), we focus on providing a fully integrated HVAC solution and our long experience in this market has allowed us to build up a team of highly trained mechanical engineers who understand the particular requirements of these critical environments.

Our engineering team focuses on the full lifecycle operation of our solutions, which means we have a good handle on operating costs and will always argue for a long-term focus that will deliver a good return on investment – in terms of both finance and human health.

Continuous monitoring and regular maintenance of equipment will deliver lower operating costs and energy usage and will also extend the life-cycle of these critical assets. Fast and reliable remote diagnostics are on offer via Daikin’s On Site system, which uses an internet connection to keep in contact with the equipment 24/7.  This results in reduced equipment downtime and, therefore, minimises potentially costly repairs and also ensures the end user experiences reduced health threats through improved indoor air quality.

DAPUK’s HTM compliant service and maintenance packages include remote site continuous monitoring and can be tailored precisely for the healthcare facility in question combined with excellent air filter technology produced by our sister company AAF, which provides clean air solutions for patient rooms, medical procedure areas, operating rooms, dentist offices, research centres, morgues, and cafeterias.

The country’s problems with air pollution and the increasing publicity around the transmission of disease means this aspect of building engineering is under the microscope. Fortunately, the air conditioning and ventilation sectors have a range of solutions available to help building owners and managers maintain safer, healthier and more comfortable conditions for occupants.