Mitigating Potential COVID-19 Exposure with HVAC Systems by Healthy Building ScienceJune 17, 2020
As the economy begins to reopen and we return to our buildings, what role do building ventilation systems play in reducing our risks of infection? Infection via inhalation or contact with droplets is well understood at this point. Another potential exposure route being discussed is exposure via microdroplets, also called aerosols. The evidence for transmission via aerosols is currently incomplete. Until the potential for airborne viral transmission is better understood, the heating and cooling (HVAC) systems in buildings should be part of an overall strategy to limit the risk of indoor infections from COVID-19.
In the traditional infection control pyramid from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most effective controls, Elimination, and Substitution are currently not options. The next best option is Engineering Controls followed by Administrative Controls; the last resort is PPE. If used correctly, HVAC systems provide engineering controls to the spaces we occupy. Simulations  suggest that proper ventilation is effective in containment or minimizing  the virus in indoor environments.
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