How many times have you, a design engineer, builder, or facility manager, witnessed HVAC system cutbacks when a project bid exceeds the owner’s budget or more space for occupants is needed in a new design or renovation?
Before COVID-19, price-driven mechanical system downgrades that jeopardized IAQ were often tolerated because the health consequences were not immediate or even obvious. This pandemic has changed that.
Once it became clear that SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurred indoors, management of IAQ applied not only to employee comfort and productivity but also escalated to become synonymous with infection control. Discussions about HVAC systems now include mitigation of viral transmission through ventilation, filtration, humidification, and other air-cleaning strategies.
What does the economic analysis look like when occupant health and building reoccupation costs are included? Clear facts and business models are essential to balance the costs of safety interventions against the value of lives saved, yet data are scarce.
Putting a price on a human life is both impossible and unseemly. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant said it cannot be done because each of us is irreplaceable and, therefore, invaluable. Chemists, on the other hand, take a more tangible approach to this question. Analysis of the chemical composition of a human body and the fair market value of the ingredients (oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, calcium, and phosphorus) shows that a 150-pound bag of human being chemicals could be sold for approximately $926. Clearly, chemists are missing some of the other dimensions of being human.