Increasing your IQ on IAQ

An interview with Josh Lewis, Engineering Manager, Nerva Energy

The New Healthy Building Podcast Audio Box

I’m Liz Beatty. This is the new healthy building podcast. We tell real stories about transforming communities and saving the planet, one building at a time. Now, most of us used to think we understood the term air quality, filtering out allergens, pollen, dust, being sure to change our furnace filters. But COVID changed all that. Suddenly, all the places we work, learn, play, shop, whatever, don’t necessarily feel safe, even with all the masks and hand washing. So yes, we have a lot of new questions about air quality. And today, we set out to find answers with the help of Joshua Lewis.

Josh is the recipient of the AEE International Energy Innovator of the Year Award, and head of engineering at Nerva energy. In short, Josh lives and breathes indoor air quality or IAQ in industry speak. And today, he’s going to up our IQ on IAQ, listening.

LIZ:
Hi, Josh. Thanks for taking time to chat.

JOSH:
Thanks, Liz. My pleasure.

LIZ:
First, some context. Gives us the big picture of managing air quality in these bigger built environments where we live our public lives.

JOSH:
Well way beyond capturing allergens, pollen and dust, indoor air quality for big crowded buildings is actually a huge challenge. There are large commercial HVAC systems delivering copious amounts of air to individual spaces, and equally. People on the 20th floor need the same air quality as those on the second In schools, you have classrooms, hallways, and gymnasiums, lots of different variables. Now you add an airborne virus like COVID-19 on top of that, and you see how those challenges grow tenfold.

LIZ:
There’s also passive air purification and active air purification. Explain that difference.

JOSH:
Definitely. Passive means that the virus has to be drawn through an air purification system to be effective. So passive systems really rely on contaminants traveling to the source of purification in order to filter and destroy pollutants. Commonly, these could be HEPPA filters, UV lights, systems like that. Active purification means that every cubic foot of air in the building is deactivating viruses, bacteria and surface contamination 24/7/365.

So, in this way, the air itself becomes the purification agent, allowing you to treat and deactivate airborne and surface contaminants on contact.

LIZ:
Interesting, what works best, and specifically for COVID?

JOSH:
Definitely active COVID-19 has been proven to live in the air for minutes, sometimes for hours, and it has also been proven to live on surfaces. When tackling this type of pathogen, waiting for contaminated air to travel back to the source of purification is really not enough. You have to go out and hunt the virus in order to be activated at the source. In my professional opinion, this is the best defense against peer to peer transmission in indoor spaces. If we are quickly killing contaminated droplets that travels through the air and land on surfaces, we effectively reduce the chances of transmitting the viruses through speech, hand to face contact, and all those other types of interactions that we have inside our buildings.

LIZ:
There are lots of active air purification systems on the market, but your team at Nerva single out one technology as superior.

JOSH:
Yeah, we did. When the pandemic started last year, we formed a taskforce of engineers and indoor air quality specialists to investigate best in class air purification technologies. And to evaluate their performance. We must have reviewed over 100 different technologies from various vendors and use very specific research data points for comparative analysis. We looked for a proven track record combined with accredited third-party lab studies to validate performance claims. We also wanted energy efficiency, so there was no surprise costs for our clients, and to not increase their carbon emissions footprint as well.

It had to be easy to maintain, and to have a solid warranty

LIZ:
And the final findings?

JOSH:
Well, after months of due diligence and hands on evaluation, we concluded that the best technology on the market was a system called REME-LED.

LIZ:
Why is it the best?

JOSH:
Well first we liked that it was American-made, built in Florida. There’s a certain quality standard when things are built in North America or Europe that’s hard to replicate otherwise. Next, the company has been around for over 35 years; they have more than 4 million systems in over 60 countries. So, they were already veteran industry experts, and have the experience and client base to support their product. Most importantly, though, from a technical perspective, the technology itself just simply outperforms the rest. It has a proprietary process that works differently. And from our analysis, it is better than anything else on the market. And finally, the lab tests. They have dozens of tests from third party laboratories that substantiate their outstanding results.

LIZ:
What about effectiveness against COVID-19?

JOSH:
Well, as I mentioned, we have pages and pages of lab results showing the effectiveness against other viruses like Norwalk, swine flu, bird flu, etc. But when COVID came about, no one had lab testing for it anywhere in the world, simply because it did not exist up until then, we did have proof of the effectiveness of REME-LED against other corona viruses. So, we were hopeful that lab testing would confirm its effectiveness against COVID-19.

LIZ:
Tell us about the specific COVID-19 testing. What does that involve?

JOSH:
Well, the manufacturer quickly began preparing for formal lab studies last summer, and in October of 2020, they conducted their first study using a live SAR CLB two specimen inside a large chamber that would resemble a real-world environment. The results of that first lab study showed that REME-LED was able to reactivate COVID-19 by 99.9%.

In March of this year, they took it one step further. So, they went back to the lab and said we want to aerosolized this virus inside the chamber; we want to see how effective REME-LED is when the virus is present in the air just like it would be in real life. The results of that lab study were even better, they showed a 99.96% effectiveness.

On a side note to that a common question asked about this technology is about its safety. Is there any potential negative impact to people or animals that are breathing the actively purified air? And the answer to that question is actually a decisive? No. The ionization effects that are created are actually identical to what happens outdoors when UV rays from the sun hit our atmosphere or when lightning strikes. Essentially, the Remi led recreates this natural and beneficial effect within our buildings.

So, Liz, we are pretty happy with the results we’ve seen here over the last few months. And more importantly, what this means for our clients and the general public.

LIZ:
Wow. It’s impressive technology that must take people a bit of time to fully understand. yet so many corporate and public sector leaders have embraced the solution globally. like Amazon, Google, Nestle, Marriott, McDonald’s Home Depot, even the US Army. Are there any schools or hospitals currently using this technology?

JOSH:
Yeah, absolutely. The government announced funding last year that just came into effect. And schools are now starting to install systems across their portfolios, hospitals, and also food processing facilities have actually been using this technology since the 1980s.

LIZ:
Interesting. We have many public sector listeners, and I know many of them are responsible for facility management. Can you share some of your experiences with school so far?

JOSH:
Well, Nerva is currently installing Remy LED technology across three different Ontario school boards. And we also have four to five others in the process of moving towards the technology. All of this involves over 1000 schools that will have this technology in order to ensure that their learning environments are as safe as possible when students return to the classroom.

LIZ:
And what about implementation? What does that involve?

JOSH:
It is not evasive. And it’s also scientifically calculated. In general active air purification and REME-LED depend on creating an ionic equilibrium within the space, meaning we have to have the right number of active ions in each classroom hallway and the common areas to ensure that the system is operating optimally and at full effectiveness.

LIZ:
How do you figure that out?

JOSH:
Well, luckily, we’ve done a lot of schools, as well as some commercial buildings and we have it down to a science but the process has basically had some very key stages. First, we conduct a walkthrough of the school to assess the building including the layout and the mechanical systems and calculate the amount of air that is reaching each space. Then our technicians deliver the data to our engineering team. That data is then input into a proprietary calculator that we’ve developed to tell us exactly how many REME-LED units we need in each school, and where they need to be installed in order to optimally treat every cubic inch of air within the building.

LIZ:
Once all is installed, how do you know the systems are working properly?

JOSH:
Well, what we do is we have a team of auditors that goes to each school after every completed installation. They ensure the design plan of our engineers has been precisely executed. We’ve also partnered with Mohawk College to perform third party validation of the performance of the system.

LIZ:
What about ongoing maintenance after installation? Are they responsible for operating the units in any way? No. The whole idea is offering a turnkey design and application process. And the system is practically maintenance free. Each unit has a green light that indicates that the system is on and working. So, at most, the school maintenance staff can do visual spot checks to make sure that all is good. And all this is backed by the most comprehensive warranty on the market. Even the bulb that is inside the unit comes with a four-year warranty. And the entire unit itself comes with a seven-year warranty. That’s big.

LIZ:
Okay, now let’s pull back the lens. Take us back to the human level of all this. How is this technology a game changer for all of us using these public spaces, offices, stores, schools, theaters and more? Knowing this technology is in place, what can we count on in terms of added safety during COVID and beyond?

JOSH:
Well, there’s a big ripple effect at play here in how we live our lives. It is the emotional and psychological sense of security of parents sending their kids to school or employees feeling safe in their workplace. So, they can all be more productive and collaborative. There are huge economic factors in play to for example, making consumers feel safe to dine at a restaurant or to go into a shop.

And there is also possible competitive advantage as the technology becomes more well known. I mean honestly would you not prefer to stay at a hotel with that level of health and safety measures in place? For sure. We have it installed here in our offices and Stoney Creek in order to make our staff feel safe as they come to work every day. Even Lloyds of London has adopted REME-LED in all their UK offices, and Lloyds of London is a world leader in understanding, assessing and mitigating risk.

LIZ:
That’s huge. But FYI, it’s also the story for our next episode.

JOSH:
Fair enough, Liz. It’s really about giving people the confidence to get back into our world, connecting with other people and living our full lives as we start to get control of this pandemic.

LIZ:
Well said Josh, thanks for your time today.

JOSH:
You’re welcome, Liz.

If you’re curious about Nerva Energy’s, Remy LED technology or anything you’ve heard today, or perhaps you just like to reach someone at TCI you’ll find everything you need to know at www.cleanerairforschools.com. I’m Liz Beatty. Thanks for listening.

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LIZ BEATTY
Host & Executive Producer

Liz Beatty is an award-winning feature writer, broadcaster and podcaster. She’s won the 2020 Gold Lowell Thomas Award for Radio Broadcasting from the Society of American Travel Writers. And North Americana took both 2020 Gold and Silver Lowell Thomas Awards for Best Podcast.

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