Board of Health asks Ontario to upgrade to building code ventilation standards Pipa News


Board of Health asks Ontario to upgrade to building code ventilation standards

The Ontario Board of Health is asking the province to amend building codes to mandate higher standards for ventilation in light of the spread of COVID-19.

The chair of the board of health in Peterborough, Ontario, wrote this month to Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Urban Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark urging the province to implement one of the lessons learned from the pandemic.

Katherine Wilson wrote, “There is a lot we have learned about COVID-19 since the pandemic began, most notably, that COVID-19 is an airborne virus, and does not spread as easily as contaminated touching surfaces we once thought.”

“Improving the indoor air quality of our occupied spaces is essential and truly life-saving to control the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus and other respiratory/airborne pathogens.”

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Wilson’s letter suggested a change to the requirements for housing and small buildings. Current regulations mandate mechanical ventilation at a rate of one or half an air change per hour, depending on whether the space is mechanically cooled in summer.

The Board of Health calls for at least six air exchanges per hour and the use of HEPA filters or filters with a MERV 13 rating in HVAC systems. Ontario has used high-grade filters in schools with mechanical ventilation systems during the pandemic.

Those standards would be in line with recommendations from the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, Wilson wrote.

“We must begin to include the quality of the air we breathe when we think about and refer to the safety of indoor settings,” she wrote.

“(The Ontario Building Code), like other building and construction codes in Canada, emphasizes air tightness and energy efficiency to deal with winter cold and summer heat, and while these are also important objectives, it can inadvertently worsen or may be less ventilated. Public and private settings, posing additional hazards to public health and safety.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick to begin installing HEPA filters in some schools'

New Brunswick will begin installing HEPA filters in some schools

Ontario is working on harmonizing its building code with the national building code in an Ottawa-led effort, and the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Housing said the next edition of the province’s building code is expected to be finalized this year And will be effective next year.

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“The update reflects technological advances, expert research, government priorities and input from stakeholders,” ministry spokeswoman Nazanin Bakizada wrote in a statement.

“Currently, the Ministry is analyzing the consultation feedback and National Building Code provisions with regard to ventilation standards.”

The Peterborough Board of Health also wrote to the federal government, asking it to explore grants, tax breaks or other incentives to help organizations and small businesses upgrade their ventilation to meet those standards.

Infrastructure Canada wrote in a statement that the federal government has given nearly $2 billion to 2,156 projects across the country to improve ventilation in public buildings and upgrade health infrastructure.

Also, it pointed to the guidance on ventilation issued by the government.

“Good indoor ventilation helps prevent the spread of respiratory viruses and keep Canadians safe,” it said. “The Government of Canada will continue to provide tools for communities to improve air quality in public places.”

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