What You Know Can Hurt You
Updated: Feb 10
On the morning of December 9th, 2020, a UK grandmother became the first person in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 jab as part of a mass vaccination program, and up to four million more inoculations are expected by the end of the month. But with 67.3M worldwide cases of COVID-19 resulting in 1.54M deaths so far, this is just another in the long list of efforts to fight the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus, and in our attempts to return to a more normal life. The ramifications of a global pandemic which has stopped the world in its tracks will have a profound impact on society forever. These events will certainly impact the way we will inhabit buildings and the methods we employ indoors to help keep occupants safe, healthy, and productive.
While there is much we do not yet know about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we have learned about its transmission within built environments. Guidance has been disseminated by several agencies including the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and others. This information has been updated and revised, culminated into what is most currently available today. Some of the latest and most important is shared in the paragraphs that follow.
In 2019 a major article was published in the American Journal of Infection Control titled Particle Control Reduces Fine and Ultrafine Particles Greater than HEPA Filtration in Live Operating Rooms and Kills Biological Warfare Surrogate, authored by Mark H. Ereth MD, Donald H. Hess MSME, Abigail Driscoll BS, Mark Hernandez PhD, and Frank Stamatatos BEE, experts in the field of particle physics and disease transmission. The document states that “The majority of airborne pathogens fall into the fine particle or ultrafine particle ranges. It is a common misconception that these small particles are effectively cleared from a space (such as an operating room) via HEPA filtration. Unfortunately, most very small particles and pathogens are of insufficient mass to be controlled by bulk airflow and can remain suspended for days or even weeks. Significant fractions of these suspended particles and pathogens cannot be effectively transported to or removed by conventional air filters”. The authors concluded that controlling indoor air quality and the airborne transmission of infectious agents is critical, and that the most hazardous particles and pathogens are not easily eliminated by traditionally passive air cleansing technologies.
In the November 2020 ASHRAE Journal an Industry News interview was published which talked about the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force and its work in keeping up with the latest information on the virus. With a goal to provide guidance on reducing airborne exposure, it was noted that emerging research has not provided evidence of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus through HVAC systems, although within a space, air motion caused by HVAC system components as well as fans can be a factor.
The January 2021 ASHRAE Journal printed a peer reviewed article titled Preparing HVAC Systems Before Reoccupying A Building which discussed WHO and CDC recommendations, along with the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force’s comprehensive Building Readiness guidance for preparing HVAC systems for buildings reopening after COVID-19 closures. The authors noted that “The growing science around far- field aerosol transmission essentially negates the need for in-duct or air system control technologies such as UV lights. While these products and services may serve a useful function, in most applications, they may not meet the specific need that’s called for in mitigating the hazards of SARS-CoV-2”.
The authors went on to conclude that “Of course, specialized applications may exist where added levels of in-space or in-room protection may be useful, most notable in healthcare and long-term of senor care facilities”.
All this recent information may be an indication that traditionally mounted HVAC system air-cleaning devices such as coil or in-duct UVGI lights, perhaps even mechanical air filters, are not effective in helping reduce an occupant’s exposure to indoor airborne Sars-CoV-2. The virus may be staying in the space as an (aerosolized) droplet nuclei, suspended in the breathing zone indefinitely, and possibly remaining infectious for up to several hours. It becomes obvious that actively treating the contaminants of concern in the space itself is paramount when implementing an effective strategy to create synergy between indoor social distancing measures (temperature scanning, masks, physical separation, etc.) and an HVAC system that adds an additional layer of occupant protection. Any effective air cleaning technology installed within the HVAC system must be capable of reaching out into the space itself, treating the contaminants there, and then removing them so they are no longer an environmental health and safety risk.
On November 11th, 2020, Purdue University College of Engineering hosted a webinar event titled Virus Transmission and Mitigation in Buildings, Past, Present and Future. A panel of experts in the field included Dr. Qingyan Chen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, Bill Bahnfleth, Ph. D., P.E., Professor of Architectural Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, Presential Member/Fellow ASHRAE, and Chair, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force (ETF), Panagiota Karava, Jack and Kay Hockema Professor in Civil Engineering at Purdue University, Dr. Brandon Boor, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University, and Jon Douglas, Director of Advanced Development for the Global Controls group at Johnson Controls. They addressed a variety of issues relevant to virus transmission and mitigation in buildings, including developing an understanding of mechanisms for transmission informed by previous and evolving studies, short-term mitigation strategies that have been developed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, impacts of mitigation strategies on energy use and operation of buildings, and future "virus-proof" designs and strategies for buildings. A link to a recording of the event is provided below: https://engineering.purdue.edu/Engr/rising-to-the-challenge/Events/covid19- impacts-and-strategies-for-buildings
Dr. Qingyan Chen presented his finding on how wearing masks indoors may reduce infection risk by 50%, and that by implementing Biploar Ionization in the space it may be possible to reduce transmission rates an additional 20%-30% (time mark 13:28 minutes). This latest information may help buildings everywhere become better equipped to deal with the pandemic and keep occupants safer, healthier, and more productive.
If we fail to recognize this latest guidance when formulating actions to help remediate the threat of SARS-CoV-2 transmission within buildings, we may be putting occupants at severe risk. What you know and fail to acknowledge (or implement) can hurt both you and others. This most recent information warns us that traditional HVAC ventilation and filtration strategies may have little impact on cleaning the indoor environment because the small pollutants of concern cannot be moved out of the space and into the HVAC system to be exhausted, filtered, or treated. Something different than what we are doing now must be done!
It is obvious that air cleaning devices installed within the HVAC system (regardless of the technological platform) must do more than wait for virus laden air to get to it for treatment. Easily understood is the simple concept that if the pollutants in the space are removed, they are no longer a health concern. This must be a major accomplishment of all HVAC air cleaning systems moving forward.
Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization by Global Plasma Solutions is a patented air cleaning technology can help improve traditional ventilation and filtration by influencing the removal of small airborne particulate (viruses, pathogens, and other contaminants) from the environment based on the principle of electrostatic attraction (agglomeration). Ions, like those already prevalent in cleaner outdoor air, are artificially generated within the HVAC system so that when released and distributed throughout the building can mix with room air and attach (electrostatically) to airborne particles. As these charged particles are increasingly attracted and joined to one another, their size and weight is increased to the point where they are now larger and heavy enough to be influenced by HVAC system air movement. They can then be effectively removed from the space and exhausted, filtered, or treated. Air filters now become more efficient at removing these larger particles from the air, while internally mounted HVAC air purification devices can encounter the pollutants they have been tasked with cleaning, those which before had always remained in the space untouched.
NPBI has been successfully used in cleanroom applications to help reduce airborne particle counts and create the cleanest indoor environments possible for critical healthcare, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, food processing, and manufacturing processes. Many studies have demonstrated that air ionization is efficient at removing aerosols and particles from the environment, proving significant reductions in contaminant concentrations.
In addition to NPBI helping rid indoor environments of particulate, it can provide additional IAQ benefits by inactivating viruses, breaking down volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), remediating odors, and killing living pathogens. Applied upstream of wet cooling coils, it eliminates issues with biofilm and microbial growth in HVAC air-handling systems.
ASHRAE states that “All retrofits and modifications must not contradict ASHRAE 62.1 guidelines and must continue to meet code”. ASHRAE 62.1 specifically states that (electrically powered) air-cleaning devices that generate ozone are prohibited, and all air cleaning devices shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL2998 (for zero ozone emission). This is a very important consideration when making decisions on air cleaning technologies serving any occupied indoor environment. GPS-Needlepoint BipolarIonization complies with this requirement, and unlike many other competing products does not emit ozone to the air even as an unintentional byproduct of its operation.
GPS & NPBI TECHNOLOGY FAST FACTS
Laboratory tests of GPS’ NPBI demonstrate reductions in harmful pathogens, including human coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
GPS technology reduces pathogens by disrupting their surface proteins, rendering them inactive and unable to replicate. A misnomer is that this process kills viruses; rather, it deactivates them, so they are no longer infectious.
GPS technology reduces the volume of infectious airborne pathogens to make air cleaner and safer to breathe.
GPS technology will not introduce ozone into the surrounding environment.
GPS technology can help reduce carbon footprints, increase energy savings, and eliminate odors. This can also contribute to reduced levels of pollution in the outdoor air.
GPS technology should be used in conjunction with public health laws and guidelines, including but not limited to social distancing, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and the use of face masks.
Unlike alternative technologies that require routine replacement of lightbulbs, tubes, or filters, GPS’ NPBI requires no replacement parts for the life of the product
David Schurk DES., CEM., LEED-AP., CDSM.,CWEP., SFP., CIAQM.,HCCC., is Business Development Manager for Global Plasma Solutions in Charlotte, NC (USA). He is a Licensed Designer of Engineering Systems and has over 35-years of experience in the design and analysis of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems for a variety of market sectors, with a special focus on aerospace and healthcare facilities. David is a ASHRAE Distinguished lecturer and has authored various technical articles for several industry trade journals and magazines, along with being a featured presenter at regional and national industry events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 920-530-7677.