Hundreds of Built Environment Experts Applaud WHO's Release of Roadmap Document on Better Indoor Ventilation to Fight COVID-19

Mar 19, 2021 10:20 AM ET

NEW YORK, March 19, 2021, /3BL Media/ - In August 2020, 680 built environment professionals from 51 countries petitioned the World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt and advance indoor environment best practices proven to help protect building occupants worldwide from the spread of COVID-19. On March 1, 2021, WHO did just that, issuing its  Roadmap to improve and ensure good indoor ventilation in the context of COVID-19.

The Roadmap notes that “The risk of getting COVID-19 is higher in crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected people spend long periods of time together in close proximity. These environments are where the virus appears to spread by respiratory droplets or aerosols more efficiently, so taking precautions is even more important. Understanding and controlling building ventilation can improve the quality of the air we breathe and reduce the risk of indoor health concerns including prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading indoors.”

This was the outcome envisioned by the group -- leading voices in the global green and healthy building community -- that petitioned WHO. It is a major milestone.

“We originally issued our petition in support of the 239 scientists who, back in July 2020, wrote an open letter recognizing the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus based on increasing research demonstrating that COVID-19 spreads via aerosol as well as through close proximity larger droplets,” said Luke Leung, PE, LEED Fellow, Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. “WHO had begun to integrate building-based solutions, but many of us in the buildings community felt much more guidance in this area was vital, if we were to drive more rapid uptake of best practices.”

“Our persistent science-based focus helped support our academic partners, which also motivates our fellow practitioners around the globe to translate timely research into evidence based design, at short notice and at scale. We look forward to continuous improvement as well as innovation in building and urban design,” said Joyce Lee, FAIA, WELL AP, LEED Fellow, President, IndigoJLD and senior advisor to Econsult Solutions.

In the statement to WHO, architects, engineers, interior designers and experts from across the globe urged WHO to work with building environment experts to develop guidance for integrated design and operation solutions as a critical part of the defense path for mitigating COVID-19 exposure. A number of influential international associations supported the statement as well, including the International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI), the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the International Union of Architects (UIA), the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).  The full statement is here:

“There is still much we don’t know, but one of the key learnings out of the pandemic is that our buildings can be deployed as frontline caregivers in the battle against COVID-19, the seasonal flu and even the common cold,” said IWBI President and CEO Rachel Hodgdon.  “Improving ventilation as a transmission mitigation strategy is a clear example of how research can be translated into specific practices when public health professionals and building experts work together to rapidly deploy solutions.”

Signatories represent global leadership from countries including:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, UK, USA, Uruguay, Zambia, and others.

Petition coordinated by:

Joyce S. Lee FAIA, WELL AP, LEED Fellow; Mary Ann Lazarus FAIA, LEED Fellow; Kay Sargent ASID, IIDA, CID, LEED® AP, MCR.w, WELL AP; Pauline Souza, FAIA, LEED Fellow, WELL AP; Luke Leung, PE, LEED Fellow, P Eng; William P. Bahnfleth, PhD, PE, FASHRAE, FASME, FISIAQ

Media contacts:

Judith Webb, APR,
Kira Gould, Allied AIA, LEED AP,