We Must Make Indoor Air Quality Our Priority
As Canadians enjoy the re-opening of our communities following another wave of COVID-19, Canada and provinces need strategies to manage the shift from the global pandemic to the endemic phase of this virus — and to prepare for the next airborne health challenge.
Filtered, fresh air in buildings should be at the top of everyone’s list. Adopting the Passive House standard for healthy indoor air is the easiest way to get there. We’ve got more than 30 years of science backing the Passive House standard.
To be clear, fresh air ventilation and filtration does not guarantee that COVID-19 or other nasty air-borne pathogens will not spread within a building, but new research continues to demonstrate that fresh, continuously filtered air can help lower the risk of spreading air-borne disease in buildings. In response, we see a number of jurisdictions updating their ventilation regulations. For instance, Regina Public Schools, the largest school division in Saskatchewan, completed a project this past January to upgrade all the ventilation systems in all their schools and buildings. With funding from both the federal government and province, the $1.4 million project has increased and improved airflow, and replaced and updated all ventilation systems.
Our experience with Covid-19 has led leading air-quality scientists to call for “a paradigm shift to combat indoor respiratory infection.” Just like governments have invested heavily in establishing standards for water, food and sanitation, air-quality experts say governments need to do the same with indoor air quality. Ventilation standards need to also include mitigating bacteria or viruses in indoor air.
Our Passive House standard prides itself for providing healthy indoor air. We welcome any effort to bring improved indoor air-quality to government policy makers. We welcome the opportunity to make our ventilation standards – backed by 30-plus years of science-backed data – mainstream and visible. Could we insist public buildings post their air quality? When buying a new home, should potential buyers know about the air quality in the house? Perhaps this is a part of how we get back to living our lives with confidence in this post-COVID-19, “new normal.”
Making Passive House, high-performance heat and energy recovery ventilation (HRVs/ERVs) part of mainstream use would also highlight the need for governments to support the growing demand for these systems. The Passive House community requires more choice and availability, and too often the industry is forced to look internationally to fill the supply gap, increasing building costs and complicating the market shift to net-zero buildings. By incentivizing the production of these components in Canada, federal and provincial government can support local production to scale up their deployment. It will also support Canada’s broader climate objectives and contribute to job creation and economic growth.
With Canadians now focused on the importance of living and working in healthy buildings, the Passive House Canada standard can help address both the need for healthy buildings and the creation of buildings that are climate resilient. Our buildings already take air ventilation, comfort, and energy efficiency into account, and Passive House Canada would welcome the adoption of our standard as part of an air-borne pathogen mitigation ventilation system.
In the face of climate change and the endemic of COVID-19 we will need to act fast and trust the science to make our lives healthier and resilient to the challenges to come.