Clean Air Buildings Challenge: Everything You Need to Know
The Biden Administration launched The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge in March of 2022. With the goal of reducing the spread of COVID-19. This challenge is a call to action and a set of guiding principles and best practices to assist building owners and operators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors.
Developed by the EPA, The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge has four parts, to help reduce the risks of COVID-19:
- Create an action plan
- Bring in fresh outdoor air
- Clean indoor air
- Engage your community
To successfully meet the challenge, Americans can take advantage of massive funding programs like the American Rescue Plan, that directly support indoor air quality improvement efforts for schools and public buildings.
1. Create a clean indoor air action plan
Create an action plan that assesses IAQ, plans for upgrades and improvements, and includes HVAC inspections and maintenance.
- Determine how clean outdoor air is brought into the building and distributed to all occupied spaces.
- Assess and inspect systems, preferably with an HVAC expert, for ventilation, filtration and air cleaning.
- Create an IAQ action plan that includes regular inspections and maintenance, including filter replacements, and HVAC system upgrades or improvements, as needed.
2. Optimize fresh air ventilation
Firstly, in order to successfully optimize fresh air ventilation, ensure the outdoor air that is circulating in is acceptably clean or is adequately filtered as it is brought into the building.
- Properly use economizers, which are devices that supplement mechanical cooling with fresh air, to efficiently and cost effectively increase fresh air ventilation.
- Ensure that exhaust fans in bathrooms are functioning, and set fans to run during occupied hours.
- Increase volume of clean, outdoor air at times of higher risk.
3. Enhance air filtration and cleaning
Use your HVAC system and in-room air cleaning devices to enhance and maintain clean air.
- Use portable air cleaners to increase air cleaning rates in areas where air flow and central filtration are insufficient.
- Increase ventilation and/or filtration in areas with higher emission of airborne particles and aerosols (e.g., gyms, cafeterias, or choir/music rooms at schools).
- Consider an upper-room Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) system to clean the air.
4. Conduct community engagement, communication and education
Communicate with building occupants to increase awareness, commitment, and participation in improving indoor air quality and health outcomes.
- Communicate to affected people (e.g., building occupants, workers, students, teachers, and parents) about how the action steps you are taking will improve indoor air quality and reduce disease transmission in your building.
- Show your work by hosting building walkthroughs, posting descriptive signage, or communicating on social media. Demonstrate the importance of individual actions to ensure facility operations are optimal (e.g., keeping ventilation systems clear of clutter).
"Protecting our public health means improving our indoor air quality,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.
“Throughout the pandemic, building managers and facility staff have been on the frontlines implementing approaches to protect and improve indoor air quality to reduce risks and keep their occupants safe and healthy, and we are so grateful for their efforts. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is an important part of helping us all to breathe easier."
EPA’s guidance was developed in collaboration with CDC, the Department of Energy, and other federal agencies.