Federal Facilities Up the Ante on Indoor Air Quality

Administration aims to establish 1,500 GSA facilities as examples of innovation, implementation and standards for indoor air quality.   March 6, 2023

By Dan Hounsell, Senior Editor

Not all of the fallout from COVID-19 was negative. For example, the pandemic alerted the general public about the central role institutional and commercial facilities – in particular, air filtration and ventilation systems – play in the health and safety of building occupants and visitors. 

The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized improved indoor air quality (IAQ) as an effective tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases. The administration has mobilized departments and agencies across the federal government to improve IAQ. Their activities aim to equip and empower state and local leaders, schools, small businesses and building owners to improve IAQ in the places they live, work, eat, learn, exercise and travel. 

To achieve these goals, the administration recently committed departments and agencies to make long-term commitments to public health and pandemic preparedness, according to a White House fact sheet. The commitment aims to establish approximately 1,500 federally owned facilities as examples of innovation, implementation and standards for IAQ through the following actions by the General Services Administration (GSA): 

  • Establish MERV-13 filters as minimum filtration efficiency requirement in Federal building HVAC systems through the Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service. These standards apply to new buildings and all system replacements and modernizations of existing GSA-controlled Federal buildings. 
  • Advance a national program to verify proper ventilation in federally owned buildings and to align with current CDC recommendations and EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. GSA has completed verification in approximately 20 percent of its federally owned physical footprint and will begin a second phase of the program which will increase that to 60 percent. 
  • Partnering with federal experts and researchers to conduct an implementation study on ways the design and operation of ventilation systems relate to IAQ for building occupants. The study will compare the performance of buildings with different mechanical systems, controls and operations to identify potential leading practices. 
  • Convene a working group of subject matter experts to suggest further improvements to the facilities standards related to the design and operation of ventilation systems in GSA-controlled federal buildings based on lessons learned from the verification and implementation research efforts. 
  • Share leading practices from research and IAQ improvement programs as a training resource for federal and non-federal building managers. 

Dan Hounsell is senior editor of the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management. 


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