Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems must be allowed to play their role in helping essential services deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, according to REFCOM
REFCOM has refuted rumours that air conditioning and ventilation could help to spread the virus adding that these were completely unfounded and not backed up by any scientific evidence.
Speaking on a webinar hosted by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), head of REFCOM, Graeme Fox, said: “Cooling and ventilation systems were not the problem, but rather they were part of the solution.”
By switching air handling units to full fresh air mode and temporarily disabling recirculation with heat recovery, facilities managers could ensure contaminated air was not recirculated in occupied spaces.
Graeme added: “Health is more important than energy efficiency right now. It is also important to keep up air change rates, even in partially occupied buildings to minimise the risk of moisture, which could contain the virus, settling on internal surfaces.
“The truth is that HVAC systems perform a crucial role in keeping essential services like hospitals, supermarkets, care homes and schools operating – this is going to be more important than ever over the coming weeks and months.
“People who fix crucial safety issues in buildings must be able to keep working. They are carrying out important work.”
Public Health England stated that transmission of the virus is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and through contact with contaminated surfaces.
It has not recommended any special cleaning measures for ventilation and cooling systems.
Scaremongering is unhelpful to those trying to understand the threat
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is also urging the industry to keep up its vital work for the NHS, food suppliers and other essential services.
During another BESA webinar last week, an official from BEIS confirmed that building maintenance should continue as normal, subject to compliance with Public Health England guidance, the government’s social distancing policy and the site operating guidance published by the Construction Leadership Council.
REFCOM’s position is also supported by guidance from REHVA, the European Federation of HVAC associations, which said humidification, air conditioning and duct cleaning had no practical effect on the transmission of the coronavirus.
It is recommending that heating and cooling systems are operated normally to ensure buildings can continue to support critical activities and maintain the health and wellbeing of occupants.
Engineers on the frontline
Josh Emerson from Swegon shared pictures with BESA of two of the firm’s service technicians attending a critical breakdown at an NHS hospital.
Josh said: “I know there has been plenty of negative political and social media messaging with regards to the construction industry.
“I am sharing a few pictures that show building services in a positive light. The industry is on the frontline, facing Covid-19, and going to great lengths to keep our hospitals operational to support the NHS.”