Is your building a viral incubator? Find out with Viral Index in indoor air quality monitoring - Wattics

Is your building a viral incubator? Find out with Viral Index in indoor air quality monitoring

How can business owners and building managers effectively manage healthy indoor environments nowadays?

This is a question that has had many businesses re-evaluating the reopening of their doors to employees and staff over the last months, in the midst of new variants and surges in Covid-19 infections.

For those that are not in a position to work remotely, and even businesses that have given their employees the flexibility to manage how they split their time between the office and home, business owners & building operators need to understand if their facilities are acceptable for their employees/building occupants to spend extended periods of time in.

Similarly, other indoor spaces that we frequent such as malls, restaurants, shops and other establishments, where we may not spend a 8-9 hour work day, but present in a space with a larger concentration of people in a shorter space of time, begs the question…

“How can I trust that the air I’m breathing in is safe?” 

And, furthermore, what is the probability of becoming infected with airborne viruses like Covid-19?

These are valid questions, as we need to consider how many times we ask ourselves before entering our favourite stores and supermarkets, “is this place adequately ventilated for my health & safety?” 


Learning outcomes in the following article:

1. Get to know the variables that contribute to poor indoor air quality + how these influence the transmission of airborne viruses & impact productivity in the workplace

2. Learn how monitoring and analytics can assist in managing and reducing the risk of infection, as well as creating an optimal work environment that prioritizes the health and safety

3 . Introduction to the RESET Viral Index – What is it? What value does it add to my air quality projects?

4. Learn how you can leverage monitoring data and analytics insights through Wattics’ air quality monitoring dashboard & the RESET Viral Index to help your clients improve indoor air quality (IAQ), as well as, balance the demands of indoor health and energy efficiency for their buildings/facilities.


Contents

1. An effective ventilation strategy  must be accompanied by monitoring
2. PM2.5 – the invisible villain
3. The impact of CO2 on viral transmission indoors
4. Introducing the RESET Viral Index
5. Wattics incorporates the RESET Viral Index into its IAQ monitoring dashboard
6. What makes WatticsAir different from other air quality monitoring software platforms?
7. Contact us about WatticsAir for your projects


An effective ventilation strategy must be accompanied by monitoring

More often than not, we see the use of mechanical ventilation to control airflow, cool and heat the air indoors, as well as, remove pollutants from the air. Mechanical ventilation, however, also requires a robust maintenance plan to ensure it functions optimally at all times. If not properly maintained, it can make internal air quality worse rather than improving it. 

However, regardless of the ventilation system in place, whether natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation or hybrid ventilation, the role of technology cannot be underestimated, to monitor indoor air quality & potential for airborne infection inside a building [more on this further below ].

Fortunately, monitoring and tracking is not a foreign concept to many businesses, many of whom are already tracking energy use, carbon emissions and other metrics on a continuous basis. The same logic can be applied to indoor air quality, where the technology already exists and with which the IAQ parameters & airborne infection potential can be measured and quantified. 

The table below, details the parameters affecting indoor air quality (not exhaustive):

PM2.5 – the invisible villain

Particulate matter (PM) is of concern, as it consists of very fine particles, measured at just 10 microns (PM10) and 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller [1]. Particulate matter, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air [2], is known to be associated with a multitude of illnesses affecting the respiratory system such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and others [3]. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, studies that suggest a link between PM 2.5 and Covid-19 have been plentiful.

One such study examining the extent to which PM pollution contributed to COVID-19 diffusion, notes, “There is evidence supporting that PM2.5 and other smaller particles that remain airborne for a long time and travel long distances could act as carriers of viable virus particles, creating a suitable environment for spreading them beyond a two meters distance.” [4]

Apart from PM2.5, other factors found to correlate with the potential for airborne infection inside a building include humidity and temperature. Touted to be the ‘one of the most robust bodies of scientific evidence yet linking weather conditions to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2’ [5], the study[6] published in the journal Nature Communications, hypothesized that “lower air temperature, lower humidity, and lower ultraviolet (UV) radiation are associated with increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission.” The role of humidity and temperature in indoor viral infection, is expanded upon later on in this article under the umbrella of the ‘RESET Viral Index‘.

The impact of CO2 on viral transmission indoors

Furthermore, studies surrounding Covid-19 transmission have also extended to the use of carbon dioxide monitors to track CO2 levels in a space. The number of people inside a space, and especially should there be infected person(s) present, impacts the risk of infection for non-infected persons. Monitoring CO2 levels has also been used to assess if ventilation rates are at optimum levels to maintain good indoor air quality. Moreover, research shows how high concentrations of CO2 are linked to illness-related absenteeism [7] in the workplace and classroom, as well as having a negative effect on occupant productivity and well-being.

Coming to a better understanding about how these factors contribute to the likelihood of airborne respiratory infections indoors, building operators and managers can be better prepared to minimize the risk of infection in their facilitiesas well as create an environment that promotes optimum productively levels.

And, while it’s not possible to monitor airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses/illnesses in real-time, the good news is that the parameters that influence infection (eg. Temperature, Humidity, PM, Occupant Density, VOCs) can be!

Introducing the RESET Viral Index

RESET is a global data standard accompanied by a set of assessment tools, created and managed to develop actionable, long term strategies towards health and sustainability for the built environment. The standard sets out performance-driven data standards for air quality monitoring, energy, water, building materials, and waste.

It is the first internationally recognised IAQ industry standard and one synonymous with building health & sustainability, and has now also developed an index for airborne infection potential for indoor spaces. Built upon scientific research and incorporating real-time results, the Viral Index is intended to help building managers and operators improve on current infection prevention protocols using the monitoring data that is available to them. 

The index calculates the potential for virus transmission based on indoor air quality metrics (PM2.5, temperature, humidity, and CO2 data) that can be monitored by a building’s or indoor space’s air system and expresses it in one number i.e. 85% [Excellent performance]

 

The virus calculation takes into account the following:

1. Virus survivability (how long virus can survive in the air) & immune system health. Both these factors are impacted by humidity and temperature. Both need to be monitored and kept at recommended levels. Humidity levels are recommended at 40 – 60% to maintain optimum immune system health. Ideal temperature is set plus minus 22 degrees Celsius, depending on seasonality and other conditions.

2. PM2.5’s ability to be airborne for extended periods of time, especially at high concentrations, increases risk of infection.

3. Potential viral dosage is concerned with the CO2 exhaled and the probability of becoming infected. This is calculated through the measurement of the required amount of virus particles inhaled to become infected.

Therefore, as a formula, RESET’s viral index formula/calculation looks like the following equation:

 

Wattics incorporates the RESET Viral Index into its IAQ monitoring dashboard

Wattics has made the RESET Viral Index available through its newly released air quality monitoring and analysis dashboard, WatticsAir. 

With WatticsAir, it is possible to continuously monitor variables that influence indoor air qualityPM 2.5, PM 10, TVOC, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and now, too, the risk of viral infection indoors.

RESET data standards for air quality are integrated into the WatticsAir dashboard, along with air quality standards from well-known green building and health rating systems, such as LEED and  WELL. With WatticsAir, you can also check that ideal humidity levels (between 40 – 60%) are maintained indoors. 

Having these standards embedded into the WatticsAir platform makes it possible for the indoor air quality of your facilities to be analysed & compared against recommended IAQ performance standards to identify where improvements/corrective actions need to be made, and can also be purposed for building certification purposes.

What makes WatticsAir different to other air quality monitoring software platforms?

WatticsAir makes it possible to bring together air quality and energy consumption data into one view for analysis. For building operators, air quality and energy are two key priorities in maintaining a healthy indoor environment and ensuring maximum energy and cost efficiency in their facilities. Energy and air quality have a direct impact on each other, most notably as they intersect in relation to HVAC systems in commercial and residential buildings. 

HVAC & PM2.5 data brought together & analysed together with WatticsAir

And while these datasets are traditionally siloed, WatticsAir makes it possible to bring together air quality and energy consumption data into one view for analysis. [Related: Top 4 benefits: Unifying energy and air quality data to optimise energy use, cost & indoor health]

Why is this important?

1. To better understand the relationship between energy and air quality in buildings and,

2. Identify where opportunities exist to optimise both at the same time – maintaining high air quality while not sacrificing energy efficiency and vice versa.

WatticsAir is two-fold – the dashboard leverages 10+ years of expertise in developing, designing and delivering user friendly analytics tools that helps analysts to make informed, verified decisions about improving air quality in unison with energy in their facilities. Secondly, it boasts an elegant, customisable TV/Indoor display view in which near real-time air quality performance can be displayed, viral potential risk can be monitored, and in which kWh values can be shown.

The table below shows a summary of the key features of the WatticsAir dashboard:

Customisable Indoor TV Display Interface

  1. Create stunning, customisable indoor TV displays of your facilities’ energy and indoor air quality performance
  2. Monitor & display viral transmission risk in your facilities according to RESET
  3. Check updated readings for IAQ parameters PM2.5, PM10, TVOC, RH, O3, CO2 every 5 minutes
  4. Demonstrate indoor air quality levels compared to outdoor air quality levels
  5. Leverage data visualization for behavioural change & awareness programmes.

Air Quality/Viral Risk Monitoring & Analysis

  1. Analyse your HVAC operation against air quality data to better understand correlation between energy consumption & IAQ
  2. Benchmark your IAQ performance against recognised standards eg. RESET, WELL, LEED
  3. Understand biggest contributors to indoor viral transmission risk
  4. Analyse business/building operations to indentify sources & hours of poor air quality & cost inefficiency eg. over-ventilation
  5. Measure & verify air quality retrofits.

 

Did you know that WatticsAir is compatible with RESET-certified Kaiterra IAQ sensors & monitors?

More here> Good indoor air quality and optimized energy consumption: now possible with Wattics and Kaiterra

WatticsAir – Indoor air quality monitoring software system for your projects

Want to know more about the viral transmission potential in your facilities? 

Want to monitor air quality performance? and/or want to understand how to better balance energy and air quality?

Get in touch with us to learn more about WatticsAir for your projects:

 

    References

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