The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,” guidelines intended to help building owners and managers improve the quality of the air inside the buildings they operate.

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is part of the federal government’s new indoor air quality (IAQ) initiative, which itself is a facet of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan issued by the White House in early March and mentioned by President Joe Biden in his State of the Union Address.

The idea behind the Challenge (PDF) is to reduce the risk of diseases that are spread via airborne viruses and other contaminants.

The plan’s recommendations are built around four principles: creating an indoor action plan, optimizing ventilation with fresh air, enhancing air cleaning and filtration, and engaging the community ― building occupants, for example ― through IAQ education and awareness.

“Throughout the pandemic, building managers and facility staff have been on the frontlines implementing approaches to protect and improve indoor air quality to reduce risks and keep their occupants safe and healthy, and we are so grateful for their efforts,” said Michael S. Regan, the EPA administrator, in a press release. “The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is an important part of helping us all to breathe easier."

The EPA notes that its guidelines cannot completely eliminate risk, and that building owners and operators may not need to take, or may not be able to take, all of the recommended steps.

“The best combination of actions for a building will vary by space and location. When determining which actions to take to help protect occupants, building owners, and operators should consider, for example, public health guidance, who and how many people are in the building, the activities that occur in the building, outdoor air quality, climate, weather conditions, and the installed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment,” the plan says in its introduction.

The plan also lists 20 different resources for IAQ information, including recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The EPA’s press release notes the Challenge was put together with help from the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Energy, and several other federal agencies.