ASHRAE speaks to the relationship between COVID-19 and HVAC in buildings
April 20, 2020
In response to uncertainty about the role of HVAC systems in buildings and their relationship to the spread of SARS–CoV–2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease (Coronavirus), ASHRAE has published two statements to define guidance on managing the spread.
ASHRAE officially opposes the advice not to run residential or commercial HVAC systems and asserts that keeping air conditioners on during this time can help control the spread of the virus.
The official statements are:
Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.
Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air. Unconditioned spaces can cause thermal stress to people that may be directly life threatening and that may also lower resistance to infection. In general, disabling of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems is not a recommended measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.
“In light of the current global pandemic, it’s critically important that ASHRAE responds with guidance on mitigating the transmission of the virus, as well as ventilation and filtration recommendations,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE president Darryl K. Boyce, P.Eng., of Ottawa. “ASHRAE has a significant role to play in ensuring safe and healthy building environments and these statements offer the expert strategies needed at this time.”
The organization adds that HVAC filters, along with other strategies, help to reduce virus transmission while removing other air contaminants that may have health effects.
ASHRAE’s Environmental Health Committee has developed an Emerging Issues Brief to support the two above statements.
In late March the Society also announced the Epidemic Task Force, comprised of experts to address the relationship between the spread of disease and HVAC in buildings during the current pandemic and future epidemics. The ASHRAE Environmental Health Committee’s Position Document Committee has also updated a Position Document on Infectious Aerosols.
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