April 21, 2022

Return to Office - safety through good Indoor Air Quality

As we emerge from our home offices and shift back into ‘formal’ office spaces, there is a new demand for COVID-safe air quality within these environments.

Ventilation systems are undergoing rigorous scrutiny to determine the best possible safeguards against transmission of the virus, as well as other indoor contaminants and pollutants. 

COVID-safe improvements to indoor environments have been rolled out in schools and childcare facilities with many education facilities now equipped with air purifiers. The installation of air purifiers has been a priority in re-opening these facilities, but this is seen as an interim measure to expediate a safe return. 

Further investigation into ongoing and lasting options for the provision of clean air is being undertaken with a new study by the City of Melbourne in partnership with the University of Melbourne and CBUS Property. ‘BREATH’ (Building Retrofit for Efficiency, Air quality, Thermal comfort and Health) is a pilot research project trialling several ventilation systems to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing transmission of airborne particles such as COVID. The study also considers energy use and the costs of retrofitting.  Recommendations and findings for enhancing indoor air quality and mitigating airborne virus transmission shall be made available once the three-month trial concludes.  

Existing devices for mitigating airborne transmissions include High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that remove ultra-fine particles from the air. Carbon dioxide meters (Co2 monitoring) are another option. The meters provide longer lasting benefits as they alert the occupant when air quality is bad, they calculate the quantity of carbon dioxide within a room, and measure ventilation providing an indication of air circulation and dilution of viruses or toxins.  

A combination of COVID-safe measures are required to alleviate the element of trepidation in returning to the office. While mask wearing remains a non-mandatory option, and businesses are considering layout and size of workspaces, the inclusion of best quality air filtration devices will directly impact on the degree of transmission and the quality of shared air in workplace environments, ultimately enabling a safer return to work.