Using Building Design to Fight Covid

Oct 17, 2021 at 04:05 pm by pj




Is SARS-CoV-2 Virus in your air now? What can you do?


Are you “stressed out” physically and mentally trying to determine your next move in navigating this ‘new normal’ of Covid transmission to protect your health? This Covid-19 pathogen enemy is NOT an isolated attack of Isis or Taliban, but WORSE! Vaccines, masks and social distancing protocols are not providing ‘bullet-proof’ protection to date.

The Covid-19 virus is “unseen” in the air we breathe, and it’s surrounding us on all sides so we don’t know when or where we could be attacked. It is indiscriminate, affecting young and old people, rich and poor, all races and religions, including urban and suburban residents.


What do we know about the Virus and possible means of controlling it?


The CDC published the following on their website:

The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory fluids carrying infectious virus. Once infectious droplets and particles are exhaled, they move outward from the source. The risk for infection decreases with increasing distance from the source (6+ feet) and increasing time after exhalation. Per published reports, factors that increase the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection under these circumstances include:

  • Enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation or air handling within which the

concentration of exhaled respiratory fluids, especially very fine droplets and aerosol particles, can build-up in the air space.

  • Increased exhalation of respiratory fluids if the infectious person is engaged in physical exertion or raises their voice (e.g., exercising, shouting, singing).
  • Prolonged exposure to these conditions, typically more than 15 minutes.

The virus droplets typically fall due to gravity after exhaling, but it can attach to other particles and be carried further than 6 feet in a room. It would be reasonable to conclude that if we can reduce the number of airborne particles and dust pollution inside with good ventilation, filtration and purification of the air, the virus would not have additional means to travel further. This is supported by leading experts in building and health sciences including the AIA, ASHRAE and the CDC.


What’s the solution for us?


There are no quick fixes or easily achieved solutions to fix the problem. But, what if we could measure the air and manage the pathogens or particles that are in our interior environments?

There are digital tools to measure toxins and particles that the Covid virus attaches to and is carried throughout interiors. A doctor uses an MRI to see and discover the internal workings of our bodies and offers insights on how to effectively treat compromised situations.



“If you can measure it, you can manage it” says Peter Drucker, the 20th century business guru.

There are tools for measuring pollutants and pathogens. In addition, new technologies are available to mitigate the viruses and bacteria that are damaging us. UV lights, bi-polar ionization and advanced filtration and ventilation can be used to control the spread of diseases.

Joseph Allen, Director for Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that if we can engage our buildings in the fight of infectious disease we can minimize damage to our health and be more productive. Covid is an environmental health issue that needs more than vaccines, PPE and social distancing to reduce its harm.

An integrated approach is needed more than ever to treat this menace of disease that is not only creating a physical health pandemic, but has caused social, mental and emotional damage to our families and culture.

The CDC and American Institute of Architects (AIA) published a graphic in 2020 about Covid transmission effectiveness.



With all the emphasis in our world about using PPE, the CDC and AIA recognize that this is the least effective means of controlling transmission. A more effective solution is engaging buildings with “engineering controls and physical design barriers.” The most effective means of controlling transmission is ‘social distancing’, which is not fully practical or sustainable. We need human interaction to maintain our mental and emotional stability.


Why are we not engaging our buildings in the fight?


Prominent engineering and design professionals have testing from 3rd party entities for

inactivation of the Covid virus available, yet the predominant message from many leaders is focused on vaccines and PPE.

Perhaps we need to step back and engage other tools (engineered air) in the fight. Transforming our interiors from “pathogen polluted” to “healthy and safe” are possible.


Healthier Air equals a Healthier You!


Architects and engineers are working diligently to resolve Covid issues in their designs and engineering cleaner air through the use of ionization and UV technologies. Engage qualified professionals that offer solutions in your fight for clean air and reduce the opportunity of the virus in your air.

Let’s engage all the resources available similar to what happens in a military campaign. A multi-faceted and comprehensive approach is more likely to offer a better chance of defeating an enemy. We can do this together and possibly reduce the spread of the Covid virus and live healthier and happier lives.


Keith W. Thomas AIA, LEED AP, CEEE, Fitwel Amb. is the CEO of inpura, a healthy building consulting firm specializing in measuring and purifying indoor air quality in the Southeast U.S. His 35+ years of architectural practice and healthy living initiatives offer his clients a global perspective to solving environmental design and health issues in commercial and residential buildings. Visit  Reach out to him at