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What Does It Mean to Have a “Clean Building”?

Updated: Jan 6

What Does It Mean to Have a “Clean Building”?

Optimizing Fresh Air Ventilation

Enhancing Air Filtration and Cleaning Facilities “in Light of” COVID-19 and Beyond

March 23, 2022


Just last week on March 17th, The White House announced the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. It may have gone unnoticed by some, and there also seems to be a bit of confusion in terms of what this may mean in a more exact sense. It is, in essence, a call to create “cleaner building environments,” especially as those environments continue to respond to COVID, its variants, and other harmful pathogens.

To start with, we’ll look at this initial statement issued by The White House regarding the specific “building challenge”:

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is a call to action for leaders and building owners and operators of all types to assess their indoor air quality and make ventilation and air filtration improvements to help keep occupants safe.



Air filtration, HVAC and ventilation are all key components of this challenge, of course. Considering this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a “best practices guide” to direct us through some of the elements associated with the “challenge”; that guide, by the way, was developed in conjunction with the CDC and the U.S. Department of Energy. The challenge identifies four (4) groups or “groupings” into which these new guidelines are to fall:

1. Create a clean indoor air action plan that assesses indoor air quality, plans for upgrades and improvements …

2. Optimize fresh air ventilation by bringing in and circulating clean outdoor air indoors.

3. Enhance air filtration and cleaning using the central HVAC system and in-room air cleaning devices.

4. Engage the building community by communicating with building occupants to increase awareness, commitment, and participation.


To reiterate, building managers, building developers, and building owners are called upon now to:

a. Create a clean indoor air action plan that assesses indoor air quality

b. Optimize fresh air ventilation

c. Enhance air filtration and cleaning

d. Engage the building community to increase awareness and commitment


Funding and Financing—ARP and Infrastructure Law

Like all other scenarios “government oriented,” it is not always easy to understand specific funding mechanisms. From what I have been able to garner so far, funding comes through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In fact, the EPA says this in terms of financing:

[The] American Rescue Plan and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds can be used to supplement investments in ventilation and IAQ improvements in public settings …

… to assess and inspect systems for ventilation, filtration, and air cleaning. Verify through commissioning, testing, and balancing that building systems are functioning as designed.


Additionally, the U.S. Department of Treasury has recently revealed a designation for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). Those funds are also a part of the ARP financing program, but it would be good to understand their special designation:

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the American Rescue Plan, delivers $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.


The Treasury Department is also issuing a so-called “Final Rule” for this program, and it is expected to take effect on April 1, 2022. For more on this and anticipated “role out” date, please see the following link:

Treasury has released the Final Rule for the program,

which will take effect on April 1, 2022.


Associated with this program, these appear to be the permitted and encouraged “Use of Funds”:

Recipients may use SLFRF funds to:

· Respond to the far-reaching public health … by helping … small businesses, impacted industries, nonprofits, and the public sector recover from economic impacts


Call to Action & Best Practices

The EPA has characterized the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as a specific “call to action.” So, the EPA says:

[This will] set of guiding principles and best practices to assist building owners and operators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors …


Then, here are some of the “key challenges” and “key actions” that are recommended as part of this plan:

· Create a clean indoor air action plan,

· Optimize fresh air ventilation,

· Enhance air filtration and cleaning, and


When all is said and done, though, we turn to very reliable ASHRAE standards for our determination. ASHRAE tells us:

Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air. Unconditioned spaces can cause thermal stress to people that may be directly life threatening and that may also lower resistance to infection.


For follow-up purposes, ASHRAE can be reached at the following email:

Enjoy your day.

End Notes:

Air Filtration

CDC recommends a layered approach to reduce exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This approach includes using multiple mitigation strategies, including improvements to building ventilation, to reduce the spread of disease and lower the risk of exposure. In addition to ventilation improvements, the layered approach includes physical distancing, wearing face masks, hand hygiene, and vaccination.

SARS-CoV-2 viral particles spread between people more readily indoors than outdoors. Indoors, the concentration of viral particles is often higher than outdoors, where even a light wind can rapidly reduce concentrations.


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