The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized improved indoor air quality (IAQ) as an effective tool for reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases.
Since the launch of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, the Biden-Harris Administration has mobilized Departments and Agencies across the Federal government to improve indoor air quality using the best research, innovation, communication, and education tools available. In the immediate term, these activities aim to equip and empower state and local leaders, schools, small businesses, building owners, and everyday Americans to improve indoor air quality in the places they live, work, eat, learn, exercise, and travel.
In March 2022, the Administration released the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge developed in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Energy, and other Federal agencies. This call to action and set of guiding principles and best practices were developed to assist building owners and operators with reducing risks from airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors. The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge highlights a range of recommendations and resources available for improving ventilation and indoor air quality, which can help to better protect the health of building occupants and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. The guidance came alongside hundreds of billions of dollars that are available through the American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 mitigation, which includes improving ventilation in schools, government buildings, and elsewhere – and communities have already been effectively utilizing these funds for improving indoor air. You can now learn more about the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge and take a pledge to commit to improved indoor air quality by visiting whitehouse.gov/cleanindoorair.
In October, the Administration hosted a White House Summit on Indoor Air Quality, bringing together public health and ventilation experts, private sector and education leaders, and other stakeholders to highlight the benefits of improved indoor air quality, showcase schools and businesses that are leading the way in making improvements, and underscore the importance of all building operators doing their part to create healthier indoor spaces. The Summit promoted clean indoor air as a force multiplier for reducing the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and Influenza (flu), and served as a forum to share best practices from leaders in the public and private sectors. You can view the recording here and learn more about the actions stemming from the event.
While the early actions by the Administration are significant, our collective efforts to achieve clean indoor air are just beginning. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in partnership with Departments and Agencies, are committed to using this moment to make long-term commitments to public health and pandemic preparedness that future generations can benefit from.
Under the Biden-Harris administration, Departments and Agencies collectively commit to:
1. Establish the Federal buildings portfolio (approximately 1,500 federally owned facilities across America) as an exemplar of innovation, implementation, and standards for indoor air quality through the following actions by the General Services Administration (GSA):
- Established MERV-13 filters as minimum filtration efficiency requirement in Federal building Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems through the Facilities Standards for the Public Buildings Service (P100). These standards apply to new buildings and all system replacements and modernizations of existing GSA-controlled Federal buildings.
- Advancing a national program to verify proper ventilation in federally owned buildings and to align with current CDC recommendations and EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. GSA has completed verification in approximately 20% of its federally owned physical footprint and will now begin a second phase of the program which will increase that to 60%.
- Partnering with Federal experts and researchers to conduct a real-world implementation study on how the design and operation of ventilation systems relate to indoor air quality for building occupants. The study will compare the performance of buildings with different mechanical systems, controls, and operations to identify potential leading practices.
- Convening a working group of subject matter experts to suggest further improvements to the P100 facilities standards related to the design and operation of ventilation systems in GSA-controlled Federal buildings based on lessons learned from the verification and implementation research efforts.
- Sharing leading practices from research and indoor air quality improvement programs as a training resource for Federal and non-Federal building managers.
2. Continue funding research to improve understanding of airborne transmission, deployment of effective interventions, and communication of the benefits of indoor air quality. OSTP, in collaboration with Departments and Agencies, outlined progress and future priorities for reducing disease transmission in the built environment in the First Annual Report on Progress Towards the Implementation of the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan including research and extramural funding from EPA Office of Research and Development, DOE Building Technologies Office (BTO), DOE BTO Solid State Lighting Program Germicidal Ultraviolet Disinfection Program, DOE National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology , and the Federal Transit Administration. Additionally, GSA’s Green Proving Ground, in collaboration with DOE, issued a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain responses from industry on emerging building technologies that improve operating efficiency and promote healthy workplaces, such as Germicidal Ultraviolet Irradiation (GUV), which promises to reduce the transmission of airborne pathogens in buildings
3. Develop a long-term research roadmap to coordinate Federal airborne infection research and support new areas of need. OSTP will launch an interagency Airborne Infection Research Fast Track Action Committee (AIR-FTAC) under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). The purpose of the AIR-FTAC is to describe existing basic and clinical research on airborne infection within the Federal government, identify research gaps, and provide recommendations to address those gaps. The AIR-FTAC will consider needs for research activities (such as basic research, clinical research, and epidemiological studies), research infrastructure, workforce, and training.
4. Provide guidance and funding for institutions and individuals to improve ventilation and filtration effectively and safely. Over $472 billion was made available through the American Rescue Plan (through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SL FRF)) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that can be used for improvements in indoor ventilation and filtration. In addition to other layered prevention strategies, improving indoor air quality can reduce the spread of COVID-19; reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and contaminants like wildfire smoke; and improve the health of building occupants. Departments and Agencies commit to continuing to develop science-based guidance on how to improve indoor air quality using both public and private funding by:
- Providing tools and guidance documents for improving ventilation including:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- How to Protect Yourself & Others provides general information on improving ventilation in your home.
- Tools to Improve Ventilation details general approaches and strategies and their relative costs (like how to use fans and windows to clean the air).
- Improving Ventilation in Your Home provides an overview of steps a person can take in their home including an interactive ventilation tool that details how particle levels change as you adjust ventilation settings (steps like turning on your HVAC system, adding portable HEPA air cleaners, or opening windows can reduce virus particles by almost 90%).
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Series of on-demand training webinars from the EPA to support the capacity of schools to stay open by reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread through airborne transmission.
- Air Cleaners, HVAC Filters, and Coronavirus (COVID-19) provides specific guidance on choosing portable air cleaners.
- General Services Administration (GSA)
- SFTool.gov tools and resources explain the influence of the indoor environment, including enhanced air quality, on human health, comfort and performance.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
- Ventilation and IAQ modeling tools such as CONTAM and FaTIMA
- QiCO2 online tool for carbon dioxide-based ventilation metric
- Department of Energy (DOE)
- Healthy Buildings Guide for Small Businesses: A Quick Reference to Improve Indoor Air Quality (Restaurants Excluded)
- Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
- The FTA COVID-19 Resource Tool for Public Transportation includes a section on ventilation and indoor air quality in its one-stop-shop for Federal COVID-19 guidance and recommendations, including information from the CDC, OSHA, and EPA.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Helping schools plan and implement indoor air quality improvements, including through use of Federal funds: Schools can use funding provided through the American Rescue Plan to improve ventilation in schools by making inspections, repairs, upgrades, and replacements in HVAC systems; purchasing and installing air conditioners, fans, portable air cleaners, and germicidal UV light systems; repairing windows, doors, and dampers that let fresh air into school buildings; and more. To support this work, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools provides specific steps schools can take to improve indoor air quality and reduce the risk of airborne spread of viruses and other contaminants. CDC has published guidance on Ventilation in Schools and Childcare Programs, including an Interactive School Ventilation Tool that shows how particle levels change as you adjust ventilation settings. Department of Energy has launched the Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign to support investments and improvements for healthy school facilities, including through recognition, training, technical assistance, and one-on-one consultations on indoor air quality with individual schools and districts.
5. Expand incentives for making indoor air quality improvements in residential buildings. The Inflation Reduction Act (P.L. 117-169) includes the first Federal incentive for certified new homes that include ventilation and other IAQ requirements. Builders can now qualify for up to a $5,000 tax credit for each home certified to meet requirements of the Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home Program.