The future of schools, workplaces, and buildings of all kinds depends on better air quality
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, many aspects of life that we had previously taken for granted came to a sudden halt. Most schools switched almost exclusively to remote learning, restaurants found themselves only able to offer takeout, gyms and fitness facilities could only hold outdoor or very limited capacity classes or those that could be shared virtually, spa and beauty services were suspended, and even elective procedures were postponed, not to mention weddings, many in-person workplaces, and many, many other industries that were unable to maintain pre-pandemic norms. Two and a half years and much learning later, one thing that many of today’s most successful and safe buildings now have in common is their new focus on indoor air quality (IAQ).
In the two and half years since COVID first became a global health emergency, we have learned a lot about how COVID and other viruses spread. While the focus was initially on hand hygiene and surface infection prevention strategies like enhanced cleaning protocols, it is now understood that the virus is airborne and primarily transmitted through tiny droplets in the air. In fact, according to a 2022 University of Michigan Study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, COVID Transmission is 1,000 Times More Likely from Air vs. Surfaces. Most virus particles, including COVID, Monkeypox, TB, SARS, and the flu, are extremely small, in the 0.1 to 0.3 microns range. According to the EPA these tiny virus particles, expelled in respiratory droplets, can circulate in the air for hours, lingering even after an infected person has left the space.
All of this means that, in order to bring people back together safely, in buildings of all kinds, from schools and gyms to healthcare settings, spas, hotels, hair salons, indoor arts and music venues, places of worship, and beyond, managing the safety of the shared air that we breathe is essential. Long before the pandemic began and anybody had ever heard of COVID 19, Massachusetts-based ThinkLite Air was already working to develop air monitoring technology sophisticated enough to detect particles in the microscopic size range of viruses like it.
Originally developed in conjunction with a top Boston hospital, the Flair Air Safety Monitor was designed not only to be able to alert building operators to the presence of biological pathogens and viral particles down to 0.1 micron in size, but also to measure other key air safety metrics including TVOCs, CO2, larger environmental particles like smoke, soot, mold, dander, mold, and dust, and temperature and humidity levels. Following COVID, the Flair’s monitoring technology transcended healthcare settings and was quickly adopted by other forward-thinking companies seeking to create safe spaces. This includes Morgan Stanley adding Flairs to their buildings as a wellness security for returning office workers, and leading K-12 schools, colleges, and resourceful hotels, churches, casinos, and more all adopting IAQ monitoring practices.
Having intel on air quality provides building owners and operators with actionable data and allows them to create peace of mind with inhabitants. Managing air quality is also a key differentiator helping businesses with their bottom line on many levels, by minimizing time and resources lost to unnecessary testing and isolation, less days lost to illness, and the ability to grow their business by creating trust with building visitors. Gyms can monitor and post their air safety to encourage members to come to classes with confidence, offices can protect employees by ensuring they won’t get sick at work, hospitals can get ahead of healthcare acquired infections (HAIs), and universities can boost registration numbers with safe in-person learning opportunities.
In addition to its precision monitoring capabilities, what really sets the Flair apart is its ability to integrate with a BMS system to automate HVAC settings, creating optimal safety standards based on real-time data. Historically, carbon dioxide concentration levels have been the only data point used to trigger HVAC conditions. For the first time ever in facilities, the Flair enables 24-hour data of viral load particles and TVOCs, which act as carriers for the smaller, more dangerous particles, to be used as triggers to intelligently optimize the HVAC. Simultaneously with the BMS, the Flair also wirelessly integrates to the ThinkLite Purilux and ICON Air Healer purifying technologies, which are best-in-class ceiling mounted and portable air purification systems.
The Flair Air Monitor continuously detects, analyzes, and reports key air quality metrics via a sophisticated, enterprise-grade dashboard, which allows for easy sharing of the information with customizable alerts and kiosk views so that building owners and operators have 24-hour insights into their air quality. User-friendly access to this data presented in a meaningful way allows for actionable insights and data driven decisions to be made to optimize ROI in a facility, and the opportunity to communicate this data with building inhabitants and other stakeholders.
Each Flair Air Monitor has the ability to measure a space of up to 5000 sq feet and easily syncs with other Flair devices to tell a comprehensive air quality story in a larger space. This allows building owners to isolate or remediate specific areas of a building with IAQ issues, which is extremely helpful, for instance, when sending students home from a particular classroom where viral loads are identified rather than the whole school, or focusing high-energy HVAC ventilation settings on a particular conference room with high CO2 readings rather than blasting the entire building.
Investing in air quality is money well spent, with benefits that go far beyond easing the health and operational challenges associated with COVID and other viruses. Studies show that clean, healthy indoor air also boosts focus and productivity for workers and students, improves cognitive function including math and reading scores, leads to less absenteeism due to illness, reduces the impact of asthma and allergies, supports deep, restful sleep, and lowers the risk of respiratory illness and other chronic conditions. The Flair air monitor is the first step to a clean indoor air action plan, allowing you to get full time insights on your air quality with the most advanced monitoring capabilities.