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WEBINAR ON DEMAND: Make the Most of Federal COVID Funds for School IAQ Upgrades

June 29, 2021
Recorded this summer, our one-hour event was led by veteran IAQ experts Paul Tseng and Ed Light, aiming to help anxious school districts prepare their facilities for the safe return of students this fall.

In June, HPAC Engineering held its first hour-long, Members-Only Webinar that is now available to you On Demand.

Everyone in the HVAC industry knows that this summer is an absolutely crucial period for trying to prepare schools at every level for the safe return of students, teachers, and in-person instruction this fall, as the effects of the pandemic finally start to fade. New federal COVID relief funding is now available to help with related indoor air quality (IAQ) projects. But there is considerable debate in the engineering community about how best to proceed with these types of projects and which approaches offer the most effective responses to reduce the known risks.

Two veteran IAQ experts, Paul Tseng, P.E., and Ed Light, CIH, each with more than 40 years of industry experience, took a deep dive into this topic for our new webinar: Make the Most of Federal COVID Funds for School IAQ Upgrades. Following are some of the urgent issues they addressed:

  • How much ventilation / filtration is needed to minimize COVID spread in buildings?
  • What other O&M procedures can also help minimize COVID spread?
  • What role, if any, should measures involving ultraviolet light, bipolar ionization, increased open windows, and more, possibly play?

In addition to the subjects presented, the speakers also fielded several questions from webinar attendees in a lively Q&A that reflected the ongoing debate nationally about how school districts should allocate their dollars most effectively to ensure occupant safety. With multiple expensive IAQ "solutions" now flooding the market, boasting near-100% effectiveness, the recommendations called for sober and thoughtful decision-making that will both stand the test of time, and fit the individual schools.

UPDATE: On August 12, presenter Ed Light added this comment:

"The scientific evidence continues to support our position that the most effective use of COVID funds is to: 

  • Repair existing equipment to provide intended ventilation & filtration, and... 
  • Address areas with very poor ventilation or air distribution, starting with an evaluation of current systems.

This approach will not only minimize the chances of airborne transmission for the short-term, but will also provide ongoing IAQ and energy efficiency benefits. The research is still clear that COVID is primarily spread by close contact which is unaffected by HVAC systems. The proven ways to minimize COVID transmission in buildings are therefore masking, social distancing, and occupant testing/case isolation. In contrast, there is no scientific evidence establishing that either maximizing ventilation and filtration or providing supplemental air treatment reduces COVID transmission.

Unfortunately, the focus of many school COVID programs continues to be the purchase of supplemental air cleaning equipment, upgrading filter ratings and maximizing ventilation. If this trend continues, we will be missing a unique opportunity to restore school HVAC systems to an effective level of operation."

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All in all, a compelling kick off to our HPAC Engineering Members-only Webinar series, and this on-demand version is well worth your time.

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About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with BuiltWorlds.com, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].