“A [COVID] Factor That Came Late To Public Attention: Ventilation.”

Any array of fans in an enclosure beside a brick building
Ventilación photo by Daniel Lobo is licensed under CC ZERO 1.0

Ventilation came late to COVID 19 public attention? Really? Not in this writer’s Canadian household, where stories out of East Asia early last spring described in diagrammatic detail how diners became infected with coronavirus in a restaurant, despite following prescribed social distancing guidelines. Once the restaurant’s air flow and ventilation system were studied, it all made sense.

Whether COVID ventilation information has been there for the cherry picking by media outlets or not, it certainly has not played a prominent role in the stories about “crowded tenants with health issues” in social housing.

Why ventilation? It was already a health issue before the pandemic. Poor ventilation in social housing buildings is often associated with unhealthy mould conditions.1

There is also growing awareness that preventing global warming will require all buildings, new and old, to be more energy efficient. It applies to all buildings, including social housing. Businesses that specialize in remediating existing buildings have an opportunity to tie ventilation with energy efficiency.

A recent “article” in Scottish Housing News provides an interesting exploration on building remediation that links tenant health with energy efficiency. The solutions presented must be treated with a little caution, however, as the fine print reveals the article to be an “infomercial.” Read more in the Scottish Housing News: Ventilation solutions to eradicate risk, liability and cost in social housing: Ventilation solutions to eradicate risk, liability and cost in social housing

One remarkable feature about this self-serving but informative advertising piece is what it doesn’t cover.

With a growing understanding of SARS-CoV-2 aerosol spread, more attention is being paid to the role played by ventilation. Information on the subject has been available for some three-quarters of a year, and yet, in the industry infomercial offered above at the heights of a pandemic . . . nothing at all about the COVID health risks of poor ventilation.

Whatever we are to make of this lapse, it seems that ventilation has finally become a hot COVID item. Read more in i: Covid and ventilation: The overlooked factor ahead of restrictions easing for Christmas around the UK

We can only hope that as nations begin work on making social housing safer and greener, both refurbishment and new construction will look to eliminate (or at least mitigate) all the health risks that are linked to poor ventilation.

Footnotes

  1. For example, try the following New Zealand story in Stuff:  ‘I can’t wait to drop dead’: Elderly couple desperate to leave freezing, mouldy flat

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