Corridor Pressurization for Healthy Living

By Nancy Nichols, P.E. | March 20, 2020

If you live or work in a medical facility, a nursing home, a stacked multi-family, a high rise or a garden-style condominium/apartment building with public/common hallways, lobbies and/or stairwells, you may need more than social isolation, hand washing and surface cleaning to stay healthy. Your building should have an HVAC system that “pressurizes” the common areas with conditioned fresh air so that air-borne germs from your neighbor’s unit do not flow into the hallway or other rooms/units.

Most of our buildings leak air.  There are cracks, gaps and joints that allow the exchange of air between private and common spaces.  Modern garden-style apartment and condominium and high rise buildings are designed and equipped with Make-Up Air (MUA) units to pressurize common areas for the purpose of controlling the spread of fire and smoke between private and common spaces, and to provide for a safe corridor/egress out of the building.  However, today these pressurization systems may be just as important for controlling the spread of germs and disease like coronavirus.

The MUA works by delivering conditioned (heated or cooled depending on the outside temperature) fresh air into the common space, thereby “pressurizing” it slightly relative to adjacent private spaces.  The resultant “positive” pressure in the common space works to keep out the air-borne germs, as well as smoke and flames.  The “extra” air pumped into the private spaces will flow to the outdoors through windows, doors, and fans (e.g., bathroom, kitchen and dryer fans).

For the described pressurization to work properly, the MUA units need to be present, operational and adequately sized.  The ducts from the MUA units to the common space registers should not be leaky.  The registers should be fully open.

Talk to your facility manager, property manager, landlord, or condo/homeowner association board member about whether the HVAC system in your building has a properly working common area HVAC system. Or, give us a call to inspect your building for you to confirm that your building does not promote the spread of disease.  If necessary, we can design a repair.  Live safe.  Be safe.  Let us know how Team can improve your life!

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