Covid Lockdowns Bringing Air Quality Back Into Focus

2022-05-19

Covid Lockdowns Bringing Air Quality Back Into Focus

Working from home has become the “new normal” for many people in Shanghai in the past two months. The long lockdown has increased the likely exposure to indoor pollutants for millions of people in Shanghai alone. This has brought indoor air quality to the fore: with increased health awareness, many people wonder how to improve the air quality in their homes.

Long China’s lockdowns have seen an increase in sales of air purification and ventilation systems.

 

Long China’s lockdowns have seen an increase in sales of air purification and ventilation systems.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the issue of air quality into sharper focus. The first lockdown in February 2020 saw visible improvements in outdoor air quality around the world. Yet indoor air quality remained largely ignored. The greater risk to human health and well-being was still perceived to be outside of the home environment.

 

Working from home has become the “new normal” for many people in Shanghai in the past two months. The long lockdown has increased the likely exposure to indoor pollutants for millions of people in Shanghai alone. This has brought indoor air quality to the fore: with increased health awareness, many people wonder how to improve the air quality in their homes. As many medical experts have stated before, bringing fresh, outdoor air into one’s home helps keep virus particles from accumulating inside. However, Chinese cities face poor air quality, so opening windows for fresh outdoor air is not a great idea, as opening windows can bring dust, bacteria increase, and virus cross-infection in the room.

 

Many Chinese households count more than 2 residents, causing pollutants and viruses to spread more easily among residents. Therefore, there is a high demand for high-quality air purification and ventilation products and systems in the Chinese market.

 

Health and comfort are the most common requirements of the “home office”, however single products are not able to meet these demands. Therefore, many environmental home appliance businesses have switched from selling single products such as air purifiers and fans to building complete home comfort systems.

 

Home comfort systems more easily encompass the health and well-being of residents than single products do.  

 

The concept of home comfort was proposed by international environmental experts in the United States and Canada in the 1970s, and flourished in Europe and the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. A qualified home comfort system should include five parts: central air conditioning, heating, ventilation, central water purification, and central hot water. The system is then integrated with the smart control system to create a comfortable home ecosystem.

 

 

Ventilation is the core of the home comfort system, maintaining indoor and outdoor air circulation without opening windows. The ventilation system allows the polluted indoor air to be discharged, and the outdoor fresh air to be purified before being exchanged with the indoor air. Ventilation systems can effectively filter out harmful substances in the air and avoid cross-infection of viruses, converting the carbon dioxide we exhale into fresh oxygen, while also removing toxins from the air we breathe.

 

If COVID-19 has done anything, it has re-focused our priorities on our own health. During the Beijing Winter Olympics, the athletes lived in apartments equipped with independent ventilation systems to ensure better performance. Poor ventilation contributes to poor indoor air quality. Low ventilation rates and higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in indoor air have been associated with adverse health and perceived air quality outcomes. This makes the case for new ventilation technologies which aim to make people safer and healthier.

 

However, it is essential that careful thought is given to the overall health considerations of the built environment. Therefore, in addition to the ventilation, home comfort systems also include whole-house water purification, heating, and cooling. With better integration, home comfort systems will also activate richer consumption scenarios, and stimulate the home consumption market.

 

The primary function of homes as places where people live, and now also work from, means that policies must always encompass health and well-being. Mister Hao Jiping, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and president of the China Construction Metal Structure Association, submitted a number of proposals during the two sessions in 2022, including a proposal to incorporate ventilation and water purification into the renovation projects of old communities. Older properties with older heating systems are associated with lower temperatures, high humidity, erratic air circulation and ventilation - all of which contribute to poor air quality.

 

The renovation of old properties involves construction, building materials, engineering, and industrial manufacturing that will boost the home consumption market. But most importantly, this is about making homes across the country safer.

 

As we face the pandemic challenges, there is a unique opportunity to put health at the heart of housing policy.