Don’t expect school reopening to be “business as usual,” experts say
(WASHINGTON, DC, August 27, 2020) – Reopening schools this fall will require a multi-faceted plan that involves healthy building control strategies, proper ventilation and filtration, disinfection and maintenance, and masks, says a panel of healthy building experts.
The National Institute of Building Sciences recently hosted a COVID-19 virtual town hall on healthy buildings and their effect on public health during the pandemic. The event received more than 800 registrants from across the building industry, universities, and officials representing the federal, local, and state governments.
“Everyone is concerned about reopening schools and all establishments in a safe way,” said Lakisha A. Woods, CAE, President and CEO of NIBS. “Following the science must be the guideline for institutions and communities. Flattening the curve is still the priority.”
“You cannot open when community spread is raging,” Joseph G. Allen, Assistant Professor with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, added. “It cannot be business or schools as usual. You have to put systems in place.”
Allen was on the town hall panel with Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI); Stephanie Carlisle, Research Scientist with the Carbon Leadership Forum; and Ruth Thomas-Squance, PhD, MPH, Director of Field Building at the Build Healthy Places Network. The event was moderated by Vicki Worden, President & CEO of the Green Building Initiative.
The Heart of Ethical Design
Green buildings have been responsible for a number of positive changes, namely, reduced numbers of missed school days, missed work days, and tens of thousands of fewer asthma attacks.
But safely getting back into schools and work is much bigger than space planning and systems design.
“Public health is a powerful lens through which we can work for change,” said Stephanie Carlisle, Research Analyst with the Carbon Leadership Forum, mentioning that social injustice and sustainability must be considered by school and building officials.
Carlisle pointed to proper filtration and reworking ventilation systems as critical investments.
“When we focus on vulnerable communities, we will raise up everyone,” she said. “As designers, we have an incredible role to play. If we believe the built environment is important, we have a duty and an obligation as an industry to see that through.”
National Institute of Building Sciences brings together labor and consumer interests, government representatives, regulatory agencies, and members of the building industry to identify and resolve problems and potential problems around the construction of housing and commercial buildings. NIBS is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization. It was established by Congress in 1974. For more information, visit nibs.org or follow @bldgsciences on Twitter and Facebook.
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