Focus On Ventilation To Tackle COVID-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s March 2020 announcement of the UK’s first national lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic came with a snappy three-part slogan – ‘Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’.

The message was modified over the following months. In May 2020, for example, we were urged to ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’. In September, the watchwords became ‘Hands, face, space’. This latter refrain – which emphasised hand washing, not touching our faces, and maintaining social distance – stuck.

Of course, these measures, with their emphasis on good hygiene, are important. And they are reassuringly visible – everybody can see hands being washed and surfaces being cleaned. This adds to the peace of mind of those who hear and follow them.

They do, however, miss a crucial point relating to health promotion – the critical role of ventilation in combating the virus.

When news of the pandemic first broke 18 months ago, there was comparatively little understanding of how COVID-19 spread. But our knowledge has improved. We now know that the main way people are infected with the virus is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus more than surface transmission (https://bit.ly/3zctu34).

The COVID-19 virus is airborne and mainly transmitted through droplets and aerosols; ventilation can go a long way to neutralising the threat by dissipating and then removing these particles.

Indeed, this was recognised officially in October 2020 when the Sage group of scientific advisers intervened in the debate about ways to limit COVID-19 infectivity. It noted: “Ventilation is an important mitigation measure against far-field aerosol transmission” (https://bit.ly/2WtoZ5I).

A recently published report from the Royal Academy of Engineering commissioned by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance hammers the point home (https://bit.ly/3gCcEnc).

Introducing this landmark report, Professor Peter Guthrie, vice president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and chair of the NEPC infection resilient environments working group, said: “Buildings… are one of the most significant levers that we have to control infection.

“We must take action now to make sure that good practice in ventilation is widely understood and applied across workplaces and public buildings.”

However, beware. Ventilation is worse than useless if it is compromised in any way. Maintaining the ventilation system is crucial, particularly to keep air handling units (AHUs) in good working order because AHUs are used for the critical tasks of re-conditioning and circulating air in a HVAC system.

That is why it makes good sense to use measures to mitigate potential problems. These include pre-filtration methods such as air intake screens.

ECEX Air Intake Screens prevent air movement being restricted by airborne debris such as pollen, leaves, insects, and litter which can clog internal coil fins, filters, and other components. This reduces the risk of breakdown and downtime.

Available with standard and fine mesh grades and multiple fast-fixing systems to suit site-specific conditions, ECEX Air Intake Screens can be quickly installed to most HVAC plant as each one is individually made-to-measure.

With 10-year warranties and 15+ years typical service life, these highly durable, heavy-duty filters can be cleaned in minutes using a soft brush, garden hose or vacuum, significantly reducing onsite maintenance time.

As well as cutting maintenance time and cost, ECEX Air Intake Screens also reduce energy consumption, maintain design airflow, extend the life of filters, significantly decrease the need for coil cleaning, prevent damage to coils caused by harsh cleaning and lessen the need for cooling tower water treatment chemicals.

Return on investment using ECEX Air Intake Screens is typically achieved in under two years and in many cases in as little as six months so their specification really is a no-brainer.

For more information about our ventilation services, click here.