Innovation in Construction: The Enhancement of Construction Sites Through Improved Indoor Air Quality

Companies are taking the extra step to protect indoor air and surfaces against pathogens, viruses, etc.
By Nancy Novak and Amy Carenza
October 31, 2022

Complications related to COVID-19 have caused delays for a number of highly anticipated construction projects by months and, in some instances, years. However, even as most projects have resumed, the pandemic continues to create challenges for project managers who must address critical work-related issues stemming from the impact of poor air quality on project teams and construction crews.

Construction projects are delayed for a myriad of reasons, but one of the most prevalent causes is the sickness of workers. Illness-related delays have become an even greater challenge in the last few years since the onset of the pandemic. With ongoing concerns about indoor air quality and healthy work environments, the firms and contractors who are diligent in prioritizing the health and safety of their workers will inevitably gain a competitive advantage as an employer and partner of choice.

Construction sites have traditionally been places where indoor air quality is poor. In recent years, however, a trend has emerged for better inspection of overall air quality at these sites, moving beyond just the removal of particulates and also examining opportunities for better air decontamination. One reason is the growing awareness of the health risks associated with poor air quality and the induced spread of airborne pathogens. Reducing the spread of airborne illnesses is one well-known benefit of improved air quality, but such measures have also been demonstrated to boost employee morale, cognitive function and productivity.

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that illness and death from airborne pathogens results in billions of dollars in lost productivity. Airborne mold and dust can impact productivity by as much as 25% or more. This issue impacts not only construction workers, but employees across the entire project team.

To help counteract these effects and provide an improved workplace environment for construction teams and future tenants, many companies are taking the extra step to protect indoor air and surfaces against pathogens, viruses, mold, bacteria and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Air Quality at Construction Sites

When it comes to indoor air quality, the most significant considerations typically emerge after a building is completed and occupied by tenants. Poor air quality, however, can start much sooner at the construction site where a host of potential sources of pollutants exist across dust, debris and chemicals from building materials. Given the necessity of such tools, equipment and supplies, it can be challenging to keep the air clean around these sites, creating serious air quality issues for both workers and nearby residents.

Companies can reduce the dangers posed by air quality at construction sites by using the following tips:

  • Minimize the effects of aerosolized contamination on workers by utilizing active air purification technology
  • Use respiratory protection when working with materials that produce pollutants or particulates
  • Inspect and clean dust-collecting tools regularly

The added layers of protection offered by these tools are proven to create a healthier environment for construction workers, reducing the risk of respiratory and other airborne-related illnesses.

Taking a Step in the Right Direction

As more construction firms and leaders look for ways to prioritize the protection, safety and thereby availability of labor, many companies have already taken the important next step. Advanced air and surface purification companies, such as ActivePure Technologies LLC, have worked alongside construction companies with the clear goal of finding simple and efficient solutions to addressing poor air quality. Compass Datacenters, for example, a company that designs, builds and operates data centers, has implemented this air purification technology to improve air quality at their construction sites and office buildings, initiatives that directly benefit employees, crews and customers.

Through advanced photocatalysis, the air purification technology recreates indoors the same self-cleaning mechanism that naturally occurs outdoors, photolysis. Through advanced photocatalysis, oxidizing molecules are created that actively seek and neutralize pathogens in the air and on surfaces and has been demonstrated in unaffiliated laboratory testing to reduce over 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 virus, mold, bacteria, fungi and VOCs commonly found at construction sites.

The Benefit of Emphasizing Indoor Air Quality

Technology is not only a tool that can improve the speed and quality of construction, but it is also a tool that can help construction crews and contractors stay focused and healthy on the jobsite. Construction managers now have an unprecedented opportunity to control the invisible variables lurking in their air that have historically attributed to time and cost overruns.

by Nancy Novak

Nancy Novak, Compass Datacenters’ Chief Innovation Officer, has over 30 years of construction experience and has overseen the delivery of over $3.5 billion in projects during that time. Prior to joining Compass, Nancy was the National Vice President of Operations for Balfour Beatty Construction which she joined after serving in a variety of executive positions for Hensel Phelps Construction Company. Ms. Novak is a member of the iMason’s advisory council and is actively involved in a number of organizations dedicated to the advancement of woman in business including Above the Glass Ceiling (AGC) who are working with Fortune 500 companies to aid in the advancement of women in STEM, Women in Government Relations (WGE), Women Construction Owners and Executives (WCOE), The World Trade Center Initiative, Fortune Media’s Most Powerful Women and the National Woman’s Party.

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