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A Call to Action - Architects and Engineers Must Take the Lead in Eliminating COVID-19

G.J. Graziano

A Call to Action - Architects and Engineers Must Take the Lead in Eliminating COVID-19

Posted: March 3, 2022 | Project Management

The elimination of COVID-19 requires an additional tool to augment the present medical and pharmaceutical efforts. Until recently, medical personnel had not embraced the use of engineering controls which deactivate the virus.

A Cambridge, UK hospital recently tested and confirmed the efficacy of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and ultraviolet lamps. The results were reported in the September 2021 pre-print article of medRxiv.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of ultraviolet lamps and HEPA filters. Additionally, these technologies have been vetted by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Other emerging technologies such as needlepoint bipolar ionization and coated air filters are in various stages of obtaining EPA approval.

Once approved, these technologies, which are less expensive, can then be retrofitted into existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This equipment could potentially save energy if properly designed and installed.

Several businesses, including restaurants, have installed outside tents which are heated but not continuously ventilated. These installations, if not properly maintained, can act as incubators and spread viruses. Properly designed, presently available technology can be installed at little or no additional cost.

Most federal, state, and local governments have not utilized the proven engineering controls that were designed to deactivate the virus. These entities have primarily depended upon medical and pharmaceutical means which, while effective, have only prevented the spread of the virus. The recent Delta and Omicron variant, as well as reluctance by some to be vaccinated, will result in the COVID-19 virus remaining with us unless further means to complement the virus, such as engineering controls, are implemented.

Architects and engineers can assist in eradicating this virus by taking the following actions:

  •  Study current online literature which addresses the deactivation of the COVID-19 virus. The ASHRAE Position Paper on Infectious Aerosols dated April 14, 2020, outlines EPA-   approved equipment which has been vetted by ASHRAE. Additional publications by this organization are also available.
  •  Become familiar with emerging technologies such as needlepoint bipolar ionization and coated air filters.
  •  Attend various public forums, such as school board meetings, to explain how the installation of engineering controls can deactivate the virus using presently available technology.
  •  Offer to prepare complimentary design proposals to retrofit HVAC systems which would deactivate viruses in public buildings. If applicable, team up with a general contractor to   provide a design/build proposal.

Our two professions are uniquely qualified to augment the effective medical efforts already in place. By installing engineering controls, we can deactivate COVID-19, and subsequent viruses, in indoor settings.

About the Author: G.J. Graziano is a former director of project management for Johns Manville Corporation (JM). His role included developing and implementing programs to expand production facilities — both domestic and international — for many of JM’s products. As the director of process engineering, he provided engineering expertise for the commercialization of many of JM’s innovative products, primarily in the building products arena. He is a retired Professional Engineer who holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. In his retirement, Mr. Graziano has been published in national magazines as he advocates for the use of existing engineering technology to solve current problems. In this regard, he urged ASHRAE to share their technical knowledge of eliminating the threat of COVID-19 by using engineering controls to supply virus free indoor air quality. As a result, ASHRAE had appointed an experienced engineer in this field to provide advice to the COVID-19 National Task Force set up by President Trump. As Trump’s Task Force did not follow through on these recommendations, ASHRAE may resubmit them to the new Task Force set up by President Biden.

Image by Thiago Lazarino from Pixabay