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The need of the hour

COVID-19 has trained the spotlight on the importance of lung health and, as a result, the indoor air quality measures being implemented across the built- environment have been placed under greater scrutiny. This has forced stakeholders in the HVACR industry to reflect on how they can positively contribute towards ensuring the health, safety and well-being of building inhabitants. This served as the driving force behind the first and second editions of CPI Industry’s IAQ Webinar: The Air We Breathe, held on April 15 and May 6, respectively, where presenters and attendees from consulting, contracting and manufacturing communities the world over participated to weigh
in on the need of the hour. Hannah Jo Uy presents a summary of the second edition of the webinar…

| | Jun 4, 2020 | 9:35 am
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Dr Iyad Al-Attar

The basic right to clean air underscores the gravity of the discussions, said Dr Iyad Al-Attar, by way of introducing the second edition of the webinar, of which he was the Chair. Setting the base for the discussions, Dr Al-Attar said that the webinar hopes to achieve two objectives. The first, he said, is the need to present HVAC-related technological solutions and strategies that can be implemented to mitigate air and surface contamination in residential and commercial buildings and in mission-critical facilities, like hospitals and other healthcare centres. The second objective, he said, is to present a set of effective preventive measures that FM personnel can implement, not only in healthcare but also in various types of buildings, and on an urgent basis.

In view of the twin objectives, Scot Horst, who gave the plenary address, said that the industry has a lot to gain from learning and having a deeper understanding of how previous pandemics have affected both the design of buildings and, essentially, our way of life. Horst is the Founder and Founding CEO, Arc Skoru and former Chief Product Officer, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

In the 1970s, Horst pointed out, following greater use of air conditioning, buildings were using equipment to function against Nature. “Soon, what we had was software, which allowed us to efficiently build bad buildings,” he said, adding that these bad practices can be seen the world over, with cookie-cutter buildings following a spec book that was essentially copy-pasted. “Our ability to build poorly was incredibly efficient, and design almost died during that period in the 1990s,” he said.

Scot Horst

Horst said this prompted LEED to enter the market, urging stakeholders to meet ASHRAE 90.1 energy efficiency standards and ASHRAE 62 as prerequisites. “This provided a key shift, as people are asked to deal with both energy and outdoor air,” he said. “We want to make sure if you are doing a good thing, it has to be a collection of good things, and not one good thing in exchange for another good thing.” Horst added that the need to strike the balance and optimise air quality alongside energy efficiency is a message the industry “cannot give up on”. Greater attention must be placed on doing so, he said, in new buildings as well as in existing buildings, despite the difficulty existing structures may pose.

To overcome these challenges, Horst pointed out that an integrated approach is vital. “We need to bring entire teams together,” he said “What we want to be doing is thinking of the building as an organism. “Think of the fluids of the building as the circulatory system, the waste as the digestive system, the electrical parts as the nervous system, the envelop as the muscular system, the structure as the skeleton and ventilation as the lungs that we use to breathe. If any of these are oversized, if any matters more over the other, none of it functions.” While the future is the focus of the industry, Horst said, the past is an important teacher.

In an effort to arrive at a holistic approach, the webinar created a platform for informative presentations and spirited discussions among panel members and attendees. While the discussions were in-depth and comprehensive, many questions remain unanswered. The questions from the attendees will be published in the next edition of Climate Control Middle East magazine.

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