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The National Energy Management Institute Inc.(NEMI) has collaborated with the Biden administration on the Better Air in Buildings website in order to provide building owners and managers, school districts and other officials with the information they need to find an area contractor who can perform ventilation verification and indoor air quality assessments, repairs and upgrades.
NEMI, a not-for-profit organization, provides education on emerging markets, new technology and advances in manufacturing and construction processes.
This summer, as schools prepared to reopen, the White House was faced with high demand for contractors from school officials across the country looking for skilled, trained and certified technicians to perform ventilation verification and indoor air quality assessments.
The NEMI staff was already working on such a resource, so it pivoted to provide the assets the Biden administration called for, with the Better Air in Buildings website. The website was conceived and created in 12 weeks (lightning speed for most websites) and launched at the beginning of August.
"The goal of it was to create a simple conduit between the person who wants to improve ventilation in their building and the contractor who can do that work and who knows what they're doing, who has a skilled, trained and certified workforce," said Chris Ruch, NEMI Inc. director of education.
Potential customers can visit the Better Air in Buildings website, learn about ventilation verification and request information on contractors providing the service in their region. The request is then received by regional indoor air quality representatives who provide the customer with a list of previously vetted contractors.
Once the website was launched, the information was pushed out to members of Congress and federal agencies that could benefit from it — such as the Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, General Services Administration and Department of Transportation — by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) workers.
"The information was given to them so they know, as they're trying to push out federal dollars, this is a resource to find the people to do the work," said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, SMART government relations representative and liaison between NEMI and the Biden administration on this project. "As the White House was working with schools for reopening this school year, this was one of the many resources they had to open safely. It was a natural fit. It was an extension of what we're already doing, what's already happening."
Although the NEMI staff didn't know the call from the Biden administration was coming, it was ready. Building ventilation verification and indoor air quality resources, as well as educating contractors, began prior to the pandemic, Ruch said.
"This is really what NEMI has been angling at for the last five years, getting involved with all these groups," he added.
A statement released by the White House said, "Effective ventilation and air filtration are important parts of COVID-19 prevention. In addition to other layered prevention strategies, taking actions to improve indoor air quality can reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols and other contaminants, reduce the spread of COVID-19 and improve the health of building occupants.
"The Administration is collaborating with organizations that provide expert guidance and technical support from skilled, trained and qualified technicians to help make indoor air quality improvements easier for schools to navigate. HVAC professional organizations, including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), SMART, NEMI and SMACNA [the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association], are committed to working with schools to help them develop and implement plans to improve ventilation and can help schools get connected to local technical experts." Click here to read the entire press release.