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Hundreds of Building Experts Join Scientists to Stress IAQ Role v. Virus

Aug. 6, 2020
Nearly 700 built environment experts from more than 50 nations petition WHO, urging global adoption of indoor environment best practices to combat COVID-19.


(New York, NY – August 4, 2020) – More than 680 built environment experts from 51 countries have come together in a statement urging public health leaders to adopt and advance indoor environment best practices proven to help protect building occupants worldwide from the spread of COVID-19.

The statement, delivered as a petition to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), was written in support of the recent open letter penned by 239 scientists recognizing the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus based on increasing research demonstrating that COVID-19 spreads via aerosol as well as through larger droplets.

While the latest WHO brief released on July 9, 2020, begins to integrate building-based solutions, this group representing some of the leading voices in the built environment calls for much more guidance.

“What started as a conversation among a few concerned practitioners across the entire built environment continuum quickly grew to a call to action drawing in experts from our collective organizations and communities and the compilation of more than 680 signatories from 51 countries in less than 30 days,” said Luke Leung, Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

“This makes clear the universal belief that our buildings play a crucial role in this fight. Each of us, along with many of the organizations we represent, stand ready to advance science-based solutions to help save lives around the globe,” said Joyce Lee, President, IndigoJLD Green + Health.

The built environment experts support the medical and health professionals’ model of doing no harm and applying the precautionary principles. In the statement to WHO, architects, engineers, interior designers and experts from across the globe urged WHO to work with building environment experts to develop guidance for integrated design and operation solutions as a critical part of the defense path for mitigating COVID-19 exposure. This will enable built environment and health professionals to work together more seamlessly to improve indoor environments and for the public to be better informed.

In addition to the hundreds of individual building professionals’ signatures, a number of influential international associations have pledged their support for this statement as well, including American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the International Union of Architects (UIA), the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), and the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI).

The full statement is here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/message-to-who-on-reducing-covid-airborne.


"We see this moment, even in the midst of this crisis, as a profound opportunity to reconnect with the importance of place, and the impact of these places where we spend our lives on our health, our well-being, our performance and also our survival. We hope that this global call to action will demonstrate that our buildings, our businesses and our communities can be at the frontlines of this fight if we deploy them wisely.” Rachel Gutter, President, International WELL Building Institute. (IWBI);

“The UIA – the sole global body representing the world’s 3.2 million architects – joins in calling for further research focused on the role of indoor air in the spread and aerosolization of pathogens, and collaboration on developing design guidelines and solutions that are supported by scientific evidence. The WHO could have pivotal influence in developing and promulgating building-based solutions that help to thwart the spread of COVID-19.” Thomas Vonier, President, International Union of Architects (UIA);

“As the sole global body for the interiors profession, one of our on-going questions has been, how to improve the quality of life of those we design for irrespective of their gender, race and faith. We have now seen more than ever, the importance of our profession and, how it affects the health and safety of all holistically.” Titi Ogufere, President, International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI);

“The World Green Building Council´s global network encourages the World Health Organization (WHO) to work in unity with our industry to incorporate proven strategies for healthy indoor environments into its guidelines for mitigating the transmission of infectious disease. We must action our universal principles for healthy and sustainable buildings and collaborate between different disciplines to deliver safer spaces for a green and equitable recovery.” Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council (WorldGBC);

“As we start planning a safe return to the spaces in which we work, learn, and gather, we are bound to the Living Building standard of good indoor air quality and a healthy interior environment. Clear, universal guidelines will give our community the tools we need to certify compliance and ensure real protection for building occupants.” K.C. Gauldine, Interim CEO, International Living Future Institute (ILFI);

“As the leading, global professional society for the advancement of human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment, ASHRAE remains committed to providing trusted research, leadership and resources to improve indoor environmental quality for building occupants. Our industry has a significant role to play towards the development of HVAC and building water management systems guidance, which serves as the cornerstone of healthy buildings. We encourage the WHO to collaborate across industries as we collectively envision the manner in which a post-COVID environment might operate.” Charles E. Gulledge III, President, ASHRAE.

Global leadership represented among signatories from these countries:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, UK, USA, Uruguay, Zambia, and others.

Petition coordinated by:

Joyce S. Lee, FAIA, WELL AP, LEED Fellow; Mary Ann Lazarus FAIA, LEED Fellow; Kay Sargent ASID, IIDA, CID, LEED® AP, MCR.w, WELL AP; Pauline Souza, FAIA, LEED Fellow, WELL AP; Luke Leung, PE, LEED Fellow, P Eng; William P. Bahnfleth, PhD, PE, FASHRAE, FASME, FISIAQ.

Media contacts:

Judith Webb, APR, [email protected]

Kira Gould, Allied AIA, LEED AP, [email protected]