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The COVID-19 pandemic refocused the attention of maintenance and engineering managers on many aspects of institutional and commercial facilities, but no system has come under more scrutiny than HVAC systems. When the pandemic broke out, efforts to stop the illness’s spread in facilities centered on keeping surfaces clean and occupants socially distanced.
Then researchers offered evidence that proper ventilation and air filtration were critical components in controlling the illness’s spread, and managers sprang into action. They upgraded the appropriate processes and equipment, adopted ASHRAE strategies to control the spread of the coronavirus and invested in such remedies as UV-C technology to protect the health of occupants and visitors.
Now comes further evidence that, in fact, managers were on the right track in focusing their efforts on ventilation systems. An Italian study published recently suggests that efficient ventilation systems can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools by more than 80 percent. An experiment overseen by the Hume foundation think-tank compared coronavirus contagion in 10,441 classrooms in Italy's central Marche region.
COVID-19 infections were much lower in the 316 classrooms that had mechanical ventilation systems, with the reduction in cases more marked according to the strength of the systems.
With applications guaranteeing a complete replacement of the air in a classroom 2.4 times in an hour, infections were reduced by 40 percent. They were 66.8 percent lower with four air replacements per hour and by 82.5 percent lower with six air replacements, the study showed.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor, facility group.