Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Building and environment


Although airborne transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been recognized, the condition of ventilation for its occurrence is still being debated. We analyzed a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak involving three families in a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, assessed the possibility of airborne transmission, and characterized the associated environmental conditions. We collected epidemiological data, obtained a full video recording and seating records from the restaurant, and measured the dispersion of a warm tracer gas as a surrogate for exhaled droplets from the index case. Computer simulations were performed to simulate the spread of fine exhaled droplets. We compared the in-room location of subsequently infected cases and spread of the simulated virus-laden aerosol tracer. The ventilation rate was measured using the tracer gas concentration decay method. This outbreak involved ten infected persons in three families (A, B, C). All ten persons ate lunch at three neighboring tables at the same restaurant on January 24, 2020. None of the restaurant staff or the 68 patrons at the other 15 tables became infected. During this occasion, the measured ventilation rate was 0.9 L/s per person. No close contact or fomite contact was identified, aside from back-to-back sitting in some cases. Analysis of the airflow dynamics indicates that the infection distribution is consistent with a spread pattern representative of long-range transmission of exhaled virus-laden aerosols. Airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is possible in crowded space with a ventilation rate of 1 L/s per person.


Within a time span of only a few months, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has managed to spread across the world. This virus can spread by close contact, which includes large droplet spray and inhalation of microscopic droplets, and by indirect contact via contaminated objects. While in most countries, supermarkets have remained open, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have ordered many other shops, restaurants, bars, music theaters and indoor sports centers to be closed. As part of COVID-19 (semi)lock-down exit strategies, many government authorities are now (May-June 2020) allowing a gradual re-opening, where sometimes indoor sport centers are last in line to be permitted to re-open. This technical note discusses the challenges in safely re-opening these facilities and the measures already suggested by others to partly tackle these challenges. It also elaborates three potential additional measures and based on these additional measures, it suggests the concept of a certificate of equivalence that could allow indoor sports centers with such a certificate to re-open safely and more rapidly. It also attempts to stimulate increased preparedness of indoor sports centers that should allow them to remain open safely during potential next waves of SARS-CoV-2 as well as future pandemics. It is concluded that fighting situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic and limiting economic damage requires increased collaboration and research by virologists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, aerosol scientists, building physicists, building services engineers and sports scientists.


SARS-CoV-2 can spread by close contact through large droplet spray and indirect contact via contaminated objects. There is mounting evidence that it can also be transmitted by inhalation of infected saliva aerosol particles. These particles are generated when breathing, talking, laughing, coughing or sneezing. It can be assumed that aerosol particle concentrations should be kept low in order to minimize the potential risk of airborne virus transmission. This paper presents measurements of aerosol particle concentrations in a gym, where saliva aerosol production is pronounced. 35 test persons performed physical exercise and aerosol particle concentrations, CO2 concentrations, air temperature and relative humidity were obtained in the room of 886 m³. A separate test was used to discriminate between human endogenous and exogenous aerosol particles. Aerosol particle removal by mechanical ventilation and mobile air cleaning units was measured. The gym test showed that ventilation with air-change rate ACH = 2.2 h-1, i.e. 4.5 times the minimum of the Dutch Building Code, was insufficient to stop the significant aerosol concentration rise over 30 min. Air cleaning alone with ACH = 1.39 h-1 had a similar effect as ventilation alone. Simplified mathematical models were engaged to provide further insight into ventilation, air cleaning and deposition. It was shown that combining the above-mentioned ventilation and air cleaning can reduce aerosol particle concentrations with 80 to 90% , depending on aerosol size. This combination of existing ventilation supplemented with air cleaning is energy efficient and can also be applied for other indoor environments.


The outbreak of COVID-19, and its current resurgence in the United States has resulted in a shortage of isolation rooms within many U.S. hospitals admitting COVID-19-positive cases. As a result, hospital systems, especially those at an epicenter of this outbreak, have initiated task forces to identify and implement various approaches to increase their isolation capacities. This paper describes an innovative temporary anteroom in addition to a portable air purifier unit to turn a general patient room into an isolation space. Using an aerosolization system with a surrogate oil-based substance, we evaluated the effectiveness of the temporary plastic anteroom and the portable air purifier unit. Moreover, the optimal location of the portable unit, as well as the effect of negative pressurization and door opening on the containment of surrogate aerosols were assessed. Results suggested that the temporary anteroom alone could prevent the migration of nearly 98% of the surrogate aerosols into the adjacent corridor. Also, it was shown that the best location of a single portable air purifier unit is inside the isolation room and near the patient’s bed. The outcome of this paper can be widely used by hospital facilities managers when attempting to retrofit a general patient room into an airborne infection isolation room.


The COVID-19 reported initially in December 2019 led to thousands and millions of people infections, deaths at a rapid scale, and a global scale. Metropolitans suffered serious pandemic problems as the built environments of metropolitans contain a large number of people in a relatively small area and allow frequent contacts to let virus spread through people’s contacting with each other. The spread inside a metropolitan is heterogeneous, and we propose that the spatial variation of built environments has a measurable association with the spread of COVID-19. This paper is the pioneering work to investigate the missing link between the built environment and the spread of the COVID-19. In particular, we intend to examine two research questions: (1) What are the association of the built environment with the risk of being infected by the COVID-19? (2) What are the association of the built environment with the duration of suffering from COVID-19? Using the Hong Kong census data, confirmed cases of COVID-19 between January to August 2020 and large size of built environment sample data from the Hong Kong government, our analysis are carried out. The data is divided into two phases before (Phase 1) and during the social distancing measure was relaxed (Phase 2). Through survival analysis, ordinary least squares analysis, and count data analysis, we find that (1) In Phase 1, clinics and restaurants are more likely to influence the prevalence of COVID-19. In Phase 2, public transportation (i.e. MTR), public market, and the clinics influence the prevalence of COVID-19. (2) In Phase 1, the areas of tertiary planning units (i.e., TPU) with more restaurants are found to be positively associated with the period of the prevalence of COVID-19. In Phase 2, restaurants and public markets induce long time occurrence of the COVID-19. (3) In Phase 1, restaurant and public markets are the two built environments that influence the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases. In Phase 2, the number of restaurants is positively related to the number of COVID-19 reported cases. It is suggested that governments should not be too optimistic to relax the necessary measures. In other words, the social distancing measure should remain in force until the signals of the COVID-19 dies out.


We present a mathematical model and a statistical framework to estimate uncertainty in the number of SARS-CoV-2 genome copies deposited in the respiratory tract of a susceptible person, ∑ n , over time in a well mixed indoor space. By relating the predicted median ∑ n for a reference scenario to other locations, a Relative Exposure Index (REI) is established that reduces the need to understand the infection dose probability but is nevertheless a function of space volume, viral emission rate, exposure time, occupant respiratory activity, and room ventilation. A 7  h day in a UK school classroom is used as a reference scenario because its geometry, building services, and occupancy have uniformity and are regulated. The REI is used to highlight types of indoor space, respiratory activity, ventilation provision and other factors that increase the likelihood of far field ( > 2  m) exposure. The classroom reference scenario and an 8  h day in a 20 person office both have an REI ≃ 1 and so are a suitable for comparison with other scenarios. A poorly ventilated classroom (1.2 l s-1 per person) has REI > 2 suggesting that ventilation should be monitored in classrooms to minimise far field aerosol exposure risk. Scenarios involving high aerobic activities or singing have REI > 1 ; a 1  h gym visit has a median REI = 1 . 4 , and the Skagit Choir superspreading event has REI > 12 . Spaces with occupancy activities and exposure times comparable to those of the reference scenario must preserve the reference scenario volume flow rate as a minimum rate to achieve REI = 1 , irrespective of the number of occupants present.


COVID-19 spreads via aerosols, droplets, fomites and faeces. The built environment that facilitates crowding increases exposure and hence transmission of COVID-19 as evidenced by outbreaks in both cool-dry and hot-humid climates, such as in the US prison system and dormitories in Singapore, respectively. This paper explores how the built environment influences crowding and COVID-19 transmission, focusing on informal urban settlements (slums). We propose policy and practice changes that could reduce COVID-19 transmission. There are several issues on how COVID-19 affects informal urban settlements. Slum populations tend to be younger than the overall population. Lower numbers of older people lessen the morbidity and mortality of the pandemic in slum areas. Second, many slum populations are highly mobile. By returning to their ancestral villages residents can avoid the risks of overcrowding and reduce the population density in a given area but may spread COVID-19 to other areas. Third, detection and registration of COVID-19 cases depends on patients presenting to health care providers. If the risk of visiting a health care centre outweighs the potential benefits patients may prefer not to seek treatment. The control and prevention of COVID-19 in informal urban settlements starts with organizing community infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment and assuring that basic needs (food, water, sanitation, health care and public transport) are met during quarantine. Next, community members at highest risk need to be identified and protected. Low-income, informal settlements need to be recognized as a reservoir and source for persistent transmission. Solutions to overcrowding must be developed for this and future pandemics. In view of the constant risk that slums present to the entire population decisive steps need to be taken to rehabilitate and improve informal settlements, while avoiding stigmatization.


High efficiency air filtration has been suggested to reduce airborne transmission of ‘infectious’ aerosols. In this study the ‘air cleaning’ effect as well as the effect on sound and air velocity (draught risk) of a mobile High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter system was tested for different settings and positions in the Experience room of the SenseLab. From both the noise assessments by a panel of subjects and sound monitoring it was concluded that the mobile HEPA filter system causes an unacceptable background sound level in the tested classroom setting (Experience room). With respect to the air velocity measurements and draught rating calculations, it was concluded that both depend on the position and the setting of the HEPA filter system as well as on the position and height of the measurements. For the removal of aerosols simulated by air-filled soap bubbles in front of the subject, the mobile HEPA filter system performed better as compared to the ‘No ventilation’ regime, for all settings and both positions, and for some settings, even better than all the tested mixing ventilation regimes. The use of a mobile HEPA filter system seems a good additional measure when only natural ventilation options are available. Future research should focus on rooms of different sizes or shapes, as this may also play a role in the filter’s performance, noise and draught effects.


Various organizations and societies around the globe have issued guidelines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and virus (SARS-CoV-2). In this paper, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning-related guidelines or documents in several major countries and regions have been reviewed and compared, including those issued by the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Associations, the Society of Heating, Air-Conditioning and Sanitary Engineers of Japan, Architectural Society of China, and the Chinese Institute of Refrigeration. Most terms and suggestions in these guidelines are consistent with each other, although there are some conflicting details, reflecting the underlying uncertainty surrounding the transmission mechanism and characteristics of COVID-19 in buildings. All guidelines emphasize the importance of ventilation, but the specific ventilation rate that can eliminate the risk of transmission of airborne particulate matter has not been established. The most important countermeasure, commonly agreed countermeasures, the conflicting content from different guidelines, and further work have been summarized in this paper.


The rapid increase in global cases of COVID-19 illness and death requires the implementation of appropriate and efficient engineering controls to improve indoor air quality. This paper focuses on the use of the ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) air purification technology in HVAC ducts, which is particularly applicable to buildings where fully shutting down air recirculation is not feasible. Given the poor understanding of the in-duct UVGI system regarding its working mechanisms, designs, and applications, this review has the following key research objectives:•Identifying the critical parameters for designing a UVGI system, including the characterization of lamp output, behavior of the target microbial UV dose-response, and evaluation of the inactivation performance and energy consumption.•Elucidating the effects of environmental factors (air velocity, air temperature, and humidity) on the UVGI system design parameters and optimization of the in-duct UVGI design.•Summarizing existing UVGI system designs in the literature and illustrating their germicidal and energy performance in light of COVID-19 mitigation.