Montreal researchers develop web tool to monitor COVID-19 risk in buildings

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Researchers at Concordia University in Montreal have developed a web-based tool to help assess a building’s level of risk for COVID-19 transmission and suggest possible solutions.

This project is now being expanded to other cities across North America as people learn to live with the novel coronavirus.

Associate Professor Leon Wang developed the web-based tool called CityRPI with two doctoral students to assess the risk of COVID-19 infection through airborne transmission.

“There are general rules for ventilation, but will opening a window be enough?” Wang said.

Using real-time data, the program considers the prevalence of COVID-19 in a city and then displays the baseline risk for each building.

The user, such as a building manager, can further customize the data.

“The shooting area, the number of people in your building, if you know the details of your ventilation conditions and you frequent the air exchange in your building, you can also enter these data,” said Wang.

The program also looks at whether people will need to wear a mask, then offers tailored solutions to help curb transmission indoors, such as reducing occupancy on a given day.

Dr Donald Vinh points out that paying attention to indoor air quality is particularly useful in Canada, where winter means more people will stay indoors longer, putting them at increased risk of infection. .

“If we’re not in a pandemic, with increasing climate change, indoor air is still an issue,” Vinh said.

The tool can be applied to other environments where air quality has come into question during the pandemic, such as schools, long-term care homes and other places where large groups gather.

“Everything we’ve developed can be used for future pandemics,” said research associate Ali Katal. “I hope we don’t have future pandemics, but if something happens like the flu, it can be prolonged.”

Vinh would like to see governments do more to encourage or even compel building owners to upgrade ventilation systems.

“It’s a Canadian tool,” Vinh said. “There’s something to be proud of. It seems very high-tech to me. It seems smart. It makes sense, but what we have to do is use common sense, intelligence and science in all aspects, including public health, so that we can ultimately do what is best for our community.”

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