While the COVID-19 pandemic is thankfully no longer present in the day-to-day lives of most people, it has left its mark. We’ve learned that the threat of a highly infectious virus can transform the most mundane activities - such as strolling around the local supermarket or catching the subway - into terrifying and even life-threatening experiences. Part of the reason for this is that our foe is invisible and hard to predict, leading to great uncertainty about whether our spaces of home, work, and leisure are safe.
Luckily, experts are on the job. The RESET Viral Index offers a new method of using continuous monitoring to test whether our workspace air is likely to contain harmful pathogens, granting us peace of mind - or a timely alarm. Developed by a team of scientists who combined the RESET Air standard with insights gathered from the latest research on viral spread, this innovative new tool has fortified a chink in our workplace armor, and can potentially save lives in the long run.
What is the RESET Viral Index?
We all know that viruses thrive in certain conditions, and cannot survive in others. A room’s temperature, humidity, and levels of particulate matter and Co2, can create either an ideal breeding ground or an optimally safe zone, and anything in between. The RESET Viral Air Index allows your workplace to compare these parameters with empirical research on the conditions in which viruses spread. In doing so, it distills incredibly complex sets of data to a simple percentage figure that indicates how safe or unsafe your premises might be from viral outbreaks.
The RESET Viral Index was sponsored in part by a grant from Kaiterra, and features as a display option on the Kaiterra dashboard. Continuous monitoring systems equipped with the RESET Viral Index put IAQ data to brilliant new use by estimating the viral safety of an indoor space in real time, using a rating system that ranges from ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’. Of course, outbreaks are possible even with optimal conditions, but this cutting-edge technology has taken us one step closer to making viral transmission visible.
How the RESET Viral Index is Calculated
While much research has been produced on viral transmission, until now none of it has addressed how these microorganisms move through our workplace air - scientists have measured the effects of humidity, temperature, and CO2, but never within an office setting. The RESET team have put these laboratory studies to use by extrapolating their findings to workplace contexts. To do this, they used insights gained from the pre-existing RESET Air standard. The four main areas of research consulted were:
Virus survivability refers to the lifespan of a virus, and how that changes depending on the suitability of its conditions. Most current studies look at the effects of either temperature or humidity on pathogens such as COVID-19, Influenza, or SARS. The RESET team divided these studies according to the virus they examined, and then determined how temperature and humidity in offices would correspond with the laboratory settings that featured in existing research.
Immune system health is vital for protection against viral infection. Temperature and relative humidity are both deciding factors in the health of a person’s immune system. The scientists who designed the RESET Viral Index examined studies on how these parameters affect the immune system, and then determined the levels most likely to be optimal for viral safety in workplaces.
PM2.5 is a form of airborne particulate matter that can be very damaging to health. The negative health impact of PM2.5 can make people much more vulnerable to viral infection. The RESET Viral Index looked at studies on how this parameter affected health and then applied these statistics to continuous monitoring within the workplace.
Potential viral dosage is a percentage index that shows the likelihood of becoming infected by a virus in a particular location, based on the potential amount of viral particles in the air. To create this index, the RESET team correlated factors such as exposure strength, exposure duration, and Co2 levels in indoor spaces, allowing for Co2-sensitive IAQ monitors to shed light on viral safety.
How Does it Differ From the Alternatives?
Other indexes and benchmarks have been used to assess the risk of viral transmission - but in most cases, their scientific basis was quite shaky as they were not based on up-to-date medical studies. Instead, the application of these tools relies on an assumption that overall good air quality will limit viral spread.
While there is plenty of truth to this assumption - e.g., pathogens are less likely to thrive in well ventilated spaces with low levels of CO2 - the RESET Viral Index goes much further by basing its measurements on the latest research conducted in the context of COVID-19. The optimal viral-safety levels of these parameters are then combined to provide an in-depth picture of your air, specific to airborne pathogens - the very first of its kind.
The Importance and Advantages of the Index
Because the RESET Viral Index is the first method of continuously monitoring the conditions that may cause or prevent viral spread, it also offers new opportunities to make workplaces safer and more efficient. Let’s look at a few ways in which it can help to do this:
Mental Wellbeing and Productivity
For many, the pandemic has made the office a far more frightening place. For instance, a recent study showed that more than 50% of employees felt anxious about getting COVID in the workplace. These fears are often justified; older staff and those with weaker immune systems are at particular risk from the debilitating effects of long COVID, but even young and healthy people are vulnerable.
In turn, anxiety over workplace safety leads to reduced productivity. Research has shown that COVID related stress has a negative impact on task and contextual performance. Clearly, companies who ignore their employees’ concerns about viral spread are not only neglecting their staff, but their profits as well.
The RESET Viral Index can put the minds of staff and ESG-conscious investors at ease by providing an objective measure of viral safety in real time. Think of it as a method to further your previous COVID-19 safety investments by making their effects visible, as well as a way of discovering when fresh efforts are needed to ensure office safety.
Using IAQ monitors that support the RESET Viral Index, you should be able to display the current levels of viral safety on either the device’s dashboard or a kiosk view on a wall mounted screen. Doing so is likely to reduce the anxiety of employees who are concerned about viral infection, fostering a happier and more productive workforce.
An even more significant (and perhaps obvious) effect of this index is its potential to prevent viral outbreaks. We all know how devastating these can be, as a virus may spread from the office into our homes, and then to the homes of our relatives. For the first time ever, the RESET Viral Index allows us to assess our workplace air quality for viral vulnerability in real time, and to make swift changes and upgrades if necessary.
Like a canary in a mine, if used correctly, this index should trigger changes that will reduce absenteeism and sick leave in the short term, and ultimately even save lives in the long run. By preventing clusters of sick days that can be costly and devastating to productivity, the installation of a system that supports this index is likely to pay for itself in the long term.
The improved HVAC systems we install to combat COVID-19 can be very costly for the planet (and your company’s energy bills), especially if run at maximum power for extended durations. A further advantage of the RESET Viral Index is that it can save on energy, and reduce your carbon footprint along with your electricity bills.
Using the insights gained from this index, you will be able to make informed decisions about how to use your HVAC system for maximum viral protection, and prevent its needless overuse. Reducing your energy consumption in this way will not only help the planet, but ease your conscience, along with those of ESG-conscious investors.
Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best
After the devastation and disruption of recent years, it’s clear that viral transmission is a crucial issue - and that societal vigilance and preparation are key to mitigating its impacts. The RESET Viral Index provides a way for businesses to do their part by increasing their awareness of viral vulnerability and making the necessary changes. Using this innovative tool in tandem with continuous monitoring, they can improve the mental wellbeing and productivity of staff, prevent infections, and permanently reduce their carbon footprints.
To learn more about how you can leverage the RESET Viral Index and RESET Air Standard to improve your indoor air quality and elevate your workplace experience, feel free to reach out to our team of experts: