MERV 13 Filters: Are they worth the investment?

With workers and workplaces facing increased hazards associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released their recommendation and guidance for businesses that will reopen amid the pandemic. To prevent the spread of the virus within enclosed public spaces, landlords are advised to prioritize upgrading their building’s air filtration system.

The CDC said that businesses should ‘improve central air filtration to MERV-13 or the highest [standard] compatible with the filter rack, and to seal edges of the filter to limit bypass’ to reduce the risk for office workers. HVAC air filters are necessary to remove contaminants from the air in enclosed spaces with limited ventilation such as workplaces.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has also recommended upgrading air filters in HVAC systems to at least MERV 13 for better filtration, fewer dust particles, and other airborne contaminants.

What is MERV?

The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) is an effectiveness scale for air filtration systems developed by ASHRAE in 1987. The scale goes from 1 to 16 which indicates the filter’s capacity and efficiency to capture smaller particles.

A MERV-13 rating means a filter is able to catch 90% of particles in the 3-10 micron (μm) range, 90% of particles in the 1-3μm range, and 50% of particles in the range of 0.3-1μm.

JEG Tower @ One Acacia utilizes MERV 13 filters to ensure the utmost safety and protection of its occupiers against the virus and other airborne threats. The MERV13 filter is one of the highest-grade filters in the industry, usually used in hospitals and other high-risk facilities. It promotes a healthy breathing environment, and it will not allow the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, or fungi.

READ MORE: JEG Tower Focus: MERV and Fresh Air System for Optimal Indoor Air Quality

Why is it important during a pandemic?

Offices can be hotspots for virus and disease outbreaks caused by recycled air and decreased ventilation. Through high quality and top-grade air filters, the indoor air quality of commercial buildings is dramatically improved.

MERV 13 air filters are long-term investments for commercial developments, not only during a pandemic. Aside from protecting its tenants from virus cross-infection and improving their health, better indoor air quality also upgrades the working environment for office buildings.

“Improving indoor air quality has been shown to increase business productivity through being a factor in reducing absenteeism due to health issues,” Michael Glindro, LEED AP BD+C said. “After all, we do spend a majority of our day in the office so taking steps into creating a healthy work environment will benefit the triple bottom line.”

Premium green buildings such as JEG Tower @ One Acacia emphasize the importance of uplifting the quality of life of its tenants through a holistic approach to well-being. The 22-storey LEED Silver Pre-certified building ensures that the highest standards for health and safety are observed and followed during a pandemic or not.

The Future of Workplace: Contactless features and smart technology

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly raised the awareness of how easy germs and viruses can spread within communities and shared spaces. As companies commence their workplace re-entry programs, considerations on how they can protect their employees within the space become the top priority in the new normal. 

While the extent of the changes in the post-pandemic office is still uncertain, workplace strategists and experts argue that this event will accelerate the digital transformation of companies, allowing faster adoption of advanced workplace technology. 

The rise of smart technology 

Many businesses adapt to the new normal by incorporating innovation and advanced technology in the office. Majority are transitioning to create a contactless (or at least a low-touch) office experience as it becomes the new standard for the health and security of their employees.  

Given this shift in focus, the unprecedented rise of smart technology in offices and commercial buildings will be very apparent in the new normal. Smart offices are workspaces that utilize automated processes to enhance building operations, from air conditioning and heating, lighting, and security. All of these conveniences will start to be the standard in eliminating and reducing risks after the recent pandemic and other health threats. 

Replacing touch with gesture 

Since the World Health Organization reported that viruses can be contracted from contaminated surfaces, offices will seek to limit contact in operating key equipment such as printer screens, elevator buttons, door handles and replace them with technology-enabled by sensors. Workplace strategists expect more sensor-automated doors and screens to be more common moving forward that removes the need for touching handles or pressing buttons. 

Eliminating high-contact surfaces 

As employees return to the office, they are likely to be conscious of the threat that even the smallest element of the shared environment can produce.  Building developers and commercial institutions should consider the benefits of new advancements in technology such as voice or motion-activated technology.  

Implementing solutions such as voice-controlled elevators, remotely operated printers, and increased use of sensors throughout offices would substantially reduce workplace risk. In more secured offices, emerging technologies such as facial recognition can further reduce contact and exposure among colleagues. 

Hospital-grade workplace  

In the longer term, many experts have predicted that people are becoming more aware of contagious diseases and how fast viruses can spread in offices and other shared spaces. The community built inside the workplace could have elements similar to a hospital. From going for materials and surfaces that can withstand heavy cleaning to installing industry-grade air filters, offices in the new normal will prioritize maintaining a clean, safe, and healthy space for its occupants. 

Future-forward commercial establishments such as JEG Tower @ One Acacia, utilize the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values or MERV filters that can capture particles in the air from 0.3 and 10 microns (µm). Higher value in MERV ratings leads to better filtration, fewer dust particles, and other airborne contaminants.  

JEG Tower utilizes the MERV13 filter, which is one of the highest-grade filters in the industry. It promotes a healthy breathing environment, and it will not allow the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew, or fungi. Some MERV filters can even filter pollen, dust, and microscopic droplets in the air to a certain extent. 

Building a Culture of Health and Wellness at Work

Now more than ever, companies put a higher emphasis on keeping their employees safe and healthy. Different measures on how to secure them inside the workplace have been implemented as offices start their re-entry programs. However, effective and sustainable wellness programs should not only be focused on workplace guidelines and protocols but should be deeply embedded in a company’s culture at work.   
 
A culture of health in the workplace supports and encourages healthy behaviors and is aligned to improve the employees’ overall well-being through the company’s policies, practices, and activities. Research shows that wellness programs are more likely to be successful if employees are engaged. Here are some ways on how you can cultivate a culture of health and wellness at your workplace: 

  • Lead by Example 

    Company leaders, managers, and heads should be role models in following and uplifting a healthier lifestyle at work. They should be advocates of an ideal work and life balance which should be something their employees should aspire for. If the leaders themselves are not participating in the programs, it will not be effective, and employees will not be engaged. 

  • Understand your Employee Demographics 

    Knowing your employees can make all the difference in launching workplace wellness campaigns. A well-structured and effective program addresses the needs and wants of your people. After all, culture should be defined by them in the first place. 

  • Identify a Clear Goal 

    It would be hard to implement something without a clear objective in sight. For employees to realize and appreciate the importance of your efforts to instill a culture of health and wellness at work, it is crucial to define a clear objective that is relevant to them.  

  • How can they benefit from such programs? Which areas of concern will be addressed through it? Set clear and defined goals that are easy to understand so that your employees can trust the process, participate, and be engaged. 

  • Get their Feedback 

    To set clear and correct goals, your employees’ input must be considered. Which areas of health do they want to focus on? How much of their time are they willing to allot for health and wellness activities? Moreover, getting their feedback as you go along your programs is also as crucial to know which areas you should improve at or whether their goals are still the same when you started. 

  • Make it Fun 

    Some health and wellness programs at work are not as effective since many employees think about it as an extension of their work. Be creative in designing and spearheading programs that address their health holistically. Try different activities that address your employees’ physical, mental, and social needs.  

Creating a culture of health takes time and a lot of effort, especially in the beginning. The value of cultivating healthy habits and a healthy mindset in your company is valuable not only for your business interests but more importantly for the relationships you build with your employees. 

What is a ‘Healthy Workplace’?

A healthy workplace is an ideal place to work in. According to some research on employee behavior, one of the top three factors that employees look for in a job is a company’s commitment to health and wellbeing of its employees. This is given more emphasis as the world transitions to the new normal, giving a deeper definition to what a healthy workplace should look like.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published a document defining what a healthy workplace should be, post pandemic. A healthy work environment is a balance of occupational health and safety, as well as health promotion efforts and initiatives. While there may be varied qualifications and qualities, the WHO has consolidated its concrete definition: 

“A healthy workplace is one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of workers and the sustainability of the workplace by considering the following, based on identified needs.”  

 Physical Work Environment 

Businesses can provide a healthy workplace by ensuring that the physical work environment is set to the highest industry standards and criteria. An ideal physical work environment ensures that the design and layout of the workplace is optimal for the comfort, productivity, and motivation of its employees. 

RELATED: Optimizing Buildings for Disease Prevention 

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) found that potential employees prefer working in an office located in a LEED-certified building, where their health and wellbeing are considered to be top priority. The same study found that workers based in a LEED-certified green building are found to be more satisfied on their job, and that 79 percent of the respondents agree that they would choose a job in a LEED-certified building over a non-LEED building. 

Uplifting health and safety in the physical work environment should cover indoor air quality, ventilation, maintained optimal humidity, and industry standard protocol for cleaning and maintenance. 

 Psychosocial Work Environment  

A healthy workplace should go beyond physical modifications and provide greater support to employees to their psychosocial needs. The 2018 Global Talent Trends survey found that one in two employees would like to see a greater focus on well-being at their company especially on the physical, psychological and financial wellness of its employees. 

A company’s culture contributes a huge role on the WHO’s definition of a healthy workplace. Programs organized and initiated by a company to promote healthy habits and uplift the general wellbeing of their employees should be holistic—providing focus not just on their physical wellbeing but looking after their mental health as well. One study also raises the issue of psychosocial hazards in the workplace that should be addressed by companies to promote a healthy workplace. These may include organizational culture and the attitudes, values, beliefs and daily practices, that can contribute as stressors to employees. 

Community Health and Wellbeing 

An ideal and healthy workplace is not bound by physical workstations and office floors, but should encompass communities. Providing a workplace setting that uplifts and prioritizes the overall health and wellness of its employees creates a huge impact on public health and vice versa. As active members of the community, employees who spend the majority of their day working in their offices should be in a work environment that ensures their holistic safety and wellbeing. 

RELATED: The Importance of Public Health in Communities 

Premium green buildings, such as JEG Tower @ One Acacia, invests in the well-being of its building occupiers by addressing health and wellbeing in a holistic approach. By following industry-set standards and optimizing building design and operations, it is one of the most ideal locations to work in Cebu City. JEG Tower puts a premium on their health, while practicing sustainability and energy efficiency.