Drew McCurry, head of commercial projects and commercial indoor air quality (IAQ) consultant at Middleton Heat and Air, spoke with Arkansas Money & Politics about his experience in assisting businesses and schools with IAQ.
McCurry has worked with Middleton for more than six years crafting and managing custom solutions and projects for large and small scale commercial clients. He has extensive experience in air quality analysis and retrofit solutions. These skills are especially beneficial currently as many people are wondering how to better equip their homes, business and schools to fight against COVID-19. McCurry answered a few questions we had about the precautions and services needed to be put in place during the pandemic, especially for Arkansas school districts.
AMP: What kind of technology protects against COVID-19?
McCurry: There’s several different types of products and technologies that have been proven in third party lab testing that can inactivate COVID-19 and other viruses. Those different products are going to be needlepoint bipolarization which I’m a huge proponent of and have been installing in businesses and schools across the state. There are other things that can be done to already existing systems put in place. [Your] typical UV lights that you can add to your existing systems to improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can help combat against COVID-19, which is a simple addition. If [you] can, increasing the MERV to thirteen can also help. If [you] have a two inch filter that doesn’t constrict the airflow too much on a standard system, increasing the MERV can help catch small particles trying to get through.
AMP: How is IAQ being used already in schools and businesses?
McCurry: Through Arkansas state mechanical codes, they already have things written in these codes to help in [your] air quality. With these codes already put in place, you have to have a certain amount of outside air brought into the building and then some of the stagnant air needs to be pulled out through ventilation. Before you start considering how to make the IAQ better, there are already things that the code requires. However, we have found that when we do surveys at schools and businesses to try to help them improve IAQ, that even with the code requirements, some of these businesses and schools may not actually be up to code. This is mainly because throughout the years, things have gone down and aren’t working properly. Now, when we do surveys, we ask the necessary questions like: How is your outside air? How is your ventilation? Is everything up to code requirements?
AMP: Would the stimulus funds recently approved by the government be considered eligible for PPE (personal protective equipment)?
McCurry: Absolutely yes. One of the most important things that the CDC and third party agencies have found is that the virus spreads in multiple ways. One way relies on the washing of hands, and the other is solely airborne. Because of this, IAQ definitely falls under what is considered to be PPE because indoor air control is very, very, very important right now.
AMP: How can schools utilize this funding to improve IAQ technology against COVID-19?
McCurry: Over $500 million was given to the Department of Education to disperse throughout the schools in Arkansas. Section 13, I believe, says that schools are allowed to use this money for inspections testing, maintenance, replacements and any type of upgrade projects to improve that IAQ, and that’s going to be on the ventilation air conditioning systems. Inside schools, [you] can look at bringing any type of project that can be used as an upgrade: cleaning, maintenance, servicing and basically anything else that can help improve the indoor air – the stimulus money can be used on that. Middleton is trying to spread the word that the money can be used on so many different things under PPE. Next to hand sanitizers, training for teachers and cleaning stations at the school, the money can also be used for HVAC upgrades and IAQ services.
AMP: What does Middleton recommend to all business owners and schools who want to improve their IAQ?
McCurry: There is not one single product that will fix all of your problems because IAQ, especially in schools, is a puzzle with several pieces that you have to put together. We at Middleton don’t want to act as representatives and just come in and sell you a project or product. We want to provide a comprehensive solution to these different products as each facility is going to be different. Just like we want to bring each building back up to code if they’re not already, we want to take care of the most important issue first and be sure that the equipment already in place is functioning properly. Comprehensive reviews of [your] building with comprehensive solutions is our main goal, and we need to approach each school differently.
AMP: iWave and REME are advertised products for air purifying. How do the iWave and REME products play into IAQ?
McCurry: They conducted different studies in third party laboratories on these products. I personally put one in my house to understand how often I would need to change the filters and compared a new one to old. The results were astonishing. There’s places across the country that are installing this technology. The White House currently uses needlepoint bipolarization and hospitals on the east and west coasts have been replacing certain products in favor of needlepoint bipolarization along with schools and universities. These products have been around since 2008, but it’s taken a pandemic for it to become popular. I never recommend lower outside air requirements, but there are different codes that, actually, when you add this needlepoint bipolarization into systems in a school or business, [you] can lower those outside air requirements because it helps clean that air that is being filtered. So technically, [you] wouldn’t have to bring in as much outside air.
AMP: Where can more resources on these products be found?
McCurry: The best thing to do though, is research. We ourselves have done the research to be confident in the products we offer. The iWave and REME websites provide helpful videos explaining how the products work. Studies and reviews are also fantastic resources to look into to compare how these products stand against other technology.