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New air purifying technology increases CMU campus safety

An additional layer of protection: one of many air purification units installed in CMU classrooms and throughout the university's on-campus residence buildings. An additional layer of protection: one of many air purification units installed in CMU classrooms and throughout the university's on-campus residence buildings.

CMU recently installed new high-quality air purifiers throughout its Shaftesbury campus as its learning community returned to in-person and online hybrid classes for the winter semester.

The university is continually looking for ways to improve conditions on campus that will ensure the well-being of its students, staff, and faculty. This innovative technology from Greentech Environmental Canada adds "an additional layer of protection to the air quality on campus in a way that's financially doable and would encourage confidence to return to campus when we were able to do so," says Julene Sawatzky, Interim Director of Administration.

The air purifiers are installed in older parts of the campus where ventilation could be improved, such as the north side castle building, the south side building, and Poettcker Hall. They are located in gathering spaces like classrooms, lounges, the Great Hall, and washrooms in Poettcker Hall.

The units purify indoor air through Active Radiant Catalysis, a proprietary process that uses UV light and a unique quad metal catalyst to extract oxygen and moisture from the air, which it transforms into a safe form of hydrogen peroxide vapour that sanitizes the air and surfaces in a room. It works in combination with an ionization and static filtration process, which charges the air with a high level of ions that make harmful particulate clump together and drop out of the breathing space. The systems run 24/7, which provides consistent purification and quickly reduces potential pathogens.

Kevin Shale runs Greentech Environmental Canada, the business behind this technology. He established his business in 2016 to help people create clean, safe environments in their homes and workplaces by using energy efficient and environmentally friendly products instead of harsh chemicals.

In 2017, he became a resident of CMU's Centre for Resilience, a co-working lab for social entrepreneurs, and has since worked with students of CMU's practicum program and social innovation lab course. "[It's] extremely amazing how influential CMU and Centre for Resilience has been for my business," he says.

Shale has been passionate about his field of work since he was a young boy doing a school project on air pathogens in "your home the danger zone." He found there weren't many options for people like him with severe mold allergies, so he dove into investigating and providing solutions.

He says he "really turned a lifelong passion into a business, and it just so happened it became really relevant." Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Shale's phone has been ringing off the hook and business has significantly increased. His array of products are now being used by retirements homes, Indigenous reserves, and professional sports teams like the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose.

A recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported that using his US manufacturer's technology resulted in a 98 percent reduction of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces within six hours and 99.99 percent reduction within 24 hours. "One of the things I'm really striving to have this technology do is help bring people back together again," Shale says.

Although COVID-19 prompted CMU to purchase this air purification equipment, its positive effects will last much longer. Sawatzky says there will always be the presence of colds and flus, especially on a campus where people live in residence. "This will hopefully have that lasting impact of creating cleaner air quality on campus for everybody, regardless of what is going around, COVID-19 or other things." But as there is no single way to make campus safe, she emphasizes the importance of continuing to wear masks, wash hands, and physically distance.

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