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Healthy Building Practices in COVID-19 Times and Beyond

Jay Paget, Program Director

Hitchcock Center for the Environment
Hitchcock Center for the Environment

About a month into the pandemic as Massachusetts and the world were facing the ever-evolving realities of COVID-19, we started to think about what kind of building modifications and equipment cultural facilities might need to mitigate the health risks of the pandemic. Since the Cultural Facilities Fund has partnered in the renovation of facilities since 2007 it was natural for us to look beyond our current standards to see where were heading.

We reached out to dozen or so theaters, museums, and community art centers to ask what they were thinking for their capital equipment needs. That exchange helped us understand what building modifications were being considered for the recovery period and beyond. As you can imagine the first steps included coordinating the public health directives from responsible sources with new organizational policies and internal facilities teams. Once those initial steps were understood and moving forward, ideas and questions began to surface.

Not surprisingly we saw patterns emerge across different facility types. Those patterns included recalibrating HVAC for increased fresh air exchanges, upgrading filters to capture more minute particles, adjusting humidity levels for healthier indoor air quality, installing UV lighting to sterilize HVAC mechanical systems; touchless lobby and bathroom systems; installing sensors to continuously monitor the indoor air quality as well as temperature readers for patrons and of course sanitizing systems/aerosols and PPE.

While some organizations were further along in their consideration of equipment needs, others were beginning to strategize beyond the maxims of physical distancing, handwashing, and protective personal equipment, but agreed building modifications were important. Since our aim is to act as a conduit for information and next practices, we quickly realized we needed expertise to translate the technology and the science of indoor health for specific situations across a variety of building types.

Enter Joe Allen the Director of Healthy Buildings Program at the P.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Healthy Buildings Program and the A.R.T have been working on “The Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience for Theater.” This resource will be a continuously evolving document with ideas and source material relevant to theaters of all kinds.

We invited Joe to a Culture Chat on June 29 at 3pm to walk us though some of his current work and to share what the healthy buildings field has been doing for the past 30 years. Whether we realize it or not, our health is intimately connected to the indoor environment given that most of us spend about 90% of our lives indoors.

Watch the Recording

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