Ventilation Won’t Make Offices as Safe as Pre-Pandemic, Expert Says

As companies consider bringing staff who have been working from home back into the office, mechanical engineer and HVAC expert Steve Taylor’s consulting firm, Taylor Engineering, has been fielding questions about ventilation. Clients want to know if upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will make their buildings as safe as they were prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Taylor told “Civic” that’s not possible, but if workers wear masks, existing systems that meet ventilation standards we already have should be enough to bring the risk of infection to acceptable levels.

“Lots of people are saying, ‘All we have to do is ventilate and we can get rid of masks,’ and the answer to that is, ‘No.’ There’s no amount of ventilation that will allow you to get rid of masks and or distancing, masks being the most important. They don’t want to wear masks, right? And so you say, ‘Just tell me how much ventilation I need so I don’t’ have to wear a mask.’ And the answer is, it’s an infinite amount. There is no amount that will protect you from that short-range exposure. Once you have the masks, then our current ventilation rates appear to be enough.”

— Steve Taylor

A segment from our radio show and podcast, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco, and subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify or Stitcher