In 1992, the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ) was born. ISIAQ is an international, independent, multidisciplinary, scientific, non-profit organization whose purpose is to support the creation of healthy, comfortable and productivity-encouraging indoor environments.
As a society, ISIAQ facilitates international and interdisciplinary communication by publishing and fostering publication on indoor air quality. In order to accomplish this, it organizes, sponsors and supports initiatives such as meetings, conferences, and seminars. One of ISIAQ’s most important activities is its biennial Healthy Buildings conferences.
The Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) was born in 2005, the culmination of a process that started with publication of Dr. Michael A. Berry’s book, Protecting the Built Environment: Cleaning for Health. Berry, at the time deputy director of the U.S. EPA in charge of the agency’s Indoor Environment Assessment Office, determined that the problem causing a variety of health complaints that collectively had become known as “sick building syndrome,” was caused primarily by inadequate ventilation and inadequate cleaning. Thus was born the “clean for health” movement in the U.S. cleaning industry.
CIRI was established as a nonprofit science and research organization that primarily serves the jan-san industry and Berry was its inaugural Science Advisory Council chair. CIRI undertook research into methods to assess cleaning effectiveness that culminated in publication of the Clean Standard for Schools. During this process, CIRI collaborated with academic researchers. The result was a limited but important preliminary connection between cleaning science research and practice.
In February 2018 I attended a conference in Orlando sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The subject of the conference was “research to practice.” There I learned for the first time of the movement within certain segments of the IAQ academic research community for a deeper, more consequential dialogue between researchers and practitioners. There also was planted the seed for CIRI to host a Healthy Buildings conference.
In the summer of 2019, CIRI’s proposal to serve as host organization for the Healthy Buildings 2021 – America conference was accepted by ISIAQ. The proposal and approval went through a rigorous vetting process by both organizations. The result is a conference like no other conference: academic in structure with a significant element of nonacademic content and participation. Tying it together is a shared commitment to research — both practical and laboratory — as a means to improve the processes used to clean, disinfect, restore and remediate indoor environments
The key to success for Healthy Buildings 2021 – America will be participation by the practitioner community, including contractors, trainers and consultants. As previously mentioned, a growing part of the research community now recognizes the importance of collaboration with those working in the field. But it takes two to tango. Let’s be honest, practitioners and academic researchers come from very different worlds. Frequently their worldviews are different; their politics are different; their interests are different.
That said, at the same time they have an important interest in common: improving the quality of indoor environments. In order to accomplish that objective, each is better with the other. Just as more researchers have come to recognize the importance of input from practitioners, more practitioners have come to recognize the importance of their cleaning practices being supported by sound science.
An Important Focus: COVID-19 and Beyond
While it was clear from the start that CIRI’s proposal for Healthy Buildings 2021 – America would involve the research-to-practice theme, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic made equally clear that an emphasis on it was also necessary.
Both organizations have been involved in the battle to understand, control and ultimately defeat the COVID-19 disease. Many ISIAQ-member scientists put other projects on the back burner in order to study various aspects of COVID-19, including survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on different surfaces and given different environmental conditions, as well as routes of viral transmission.
CIRI similarly has been heavily involved in COVID-19 since the pandemic began. CIRI has not been directly involved in research, but it has been extensively involved in providing useful, science-based information to practitioners. CIRI’s activities have included a symposium, several webinars, a guidance document, several articles and papers, and a variety of online podcast and conference appearances.
Soon, hopefully, COVID-19 will begin to fade. Much has been learned — both from research and practice — and both organizations are working to preserve and communicate this new information. When at last COVID-19 is behind us, we can be sure that new challenges — be they viral, bacterial, fungal or something we have not yet contemplated — will surely emerge. When they do, lessons learned from this pandemic may be especially useful.
For those who have not attended an academic conference before, Healthy Buildings will look like something they have never seen before. It is expected that over the course of the three-day conference there will be 300 or more educational presentations of various sorts. There will be no exhibit hall. Exhibitors will be limited to the conference’s Platinum and Gold sponsors, and will be integrated into the flow of the show.
Call for Abstracts: Due by June 7
In future submissions, I will discuss other elements of the conference in more detail. For now, I will focus on one item in particular: The opportunity to practitioners to present at the conference. As previously mentioned, the conference will include 300 or more presentations. Most of these will be short, concise talks — of about 10-minute duration. Others will be “poster” presentations (think of childhood science fairs). The academics will focus on recent research they have done. Most practitioners don’t do research per se, but in some ways their businesses are real-life laboratories doing trial-and-error real-world practical research on tactics, techniques and methods used to address real-world problems cleaning problems.
Perhaps your cleaning organization would like to share a challenge or problem it overcame in an oral or poster presentation at the Healthy Buildings conference. If so, here is a link to the submissions page of the Healthy Buildings website. Important, please note: All abstract submissions are due by June 7.
About the Author
John Downey, a veteran of more than 45 years in the cleaning industry, is executive director of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) and editor of CIRI’s peer review publication the Journal of Cleaning Science (JoCS). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about CIRI, visit: www.ciriscience.org.