While it is not always apparent, indoor humidity in public buildings plays an important role in health and safety. Whether in a house, strata, restaurant, school, office or hospital, there is a considerable risk in people’s health if there are no regulations in place. Unchecked and unhealthy levels of humidity can worsen asthma and cultivate the growth of mould and dust mites. But more than these, the biggest concern around humidity is the increased risk to viruses, especially at this time of COVID-19.
Absence of Humidity Control Regulations
Currently there are no definite regulations backed by government agencies on humidity control and indoor air quality in public buildings. Generally speaking, maintaining humidity between 40-60% is both comfortable for people and scientifically known to stop viruses from growing and cross contaminating. Older buildings such as schools, hospitals and aged care facilities most likely do not have updated measures on humidity levels, exposing their people to health threats that could be avoided.
Research has shown that viruses, such as the coronavirus, deactivate at a faster rate on surfaces under mid-range humidity. This important aspect has not been included in any new official humidity control regulations, making people still susceptible to infections. To address this important health issue, building developers and designers are forced to incorporate humidity controls in their building design plans.
Seasonal Differences on Humidity Control
Humidity control varies per season. If it is too high in the summer, it increases temperature and causes discomfort and excessive perspiration. In winter, people could develop skin problems and sinus infections from the cold weather if their buildings do not have proper ventilation. Incorrect humidity levels for sustained periods could also lead to more serious respiratory problems.
Melrose Retirement Village in Pendle Hill utilizes louvres for optimal ventilation and indoor humidity control
Suggestions for Enjoying Optimal Indoor Humidity
While there are no official humidity control regulations in place yet, experts have shared their best practices in regulating temperature and humidity for occupants’ health:
- Adjust air-conditioning temperature and humidity – make sure humidity falls between the comfortable 40-60% range
- Deflect uncomfortable draughts by installing deflectors on air vents, while ensuring adequate air flow
- Control heat from sunlight through louvres and blinds
- Use dehumidifiers to extract the moisture from the air and reduce humidity
- Increase ventilation by using extraction fans in bathrooms and laundry areas – generally humid areas of a house that can dramatically increase humidity when used
- Use a hygrometer or thermometer to check humidity levels indoors
Most of the time, maintaining proper humidity is as easy as opening a window. When designing public buildings, it is critical to use easily operable equipment that can be used by anyone. Windows are a cost-effective measure to control humidity without driving energy consumption.
On the other hand, there are also automated windows that are highly effective in controlling humidity by using air quality sensors. They open and close depending on the humidity, temperature, and CO2 levels of its surroundings. These automated windows can also purge stale air during off-peak hours.
The Final Word
Managing the humidity and overall quality of indoor air is a must in public buildings. It is the responsibility of building owners and managers to protect the health and well-being of their occupants from the risk of virus spreading indoors. At this time when the coronavirus poses a grave threat to our immune system, better regulations could be a valuable tool in our line of defense.