Ask the Architect

What’s the best way to clear the air?


Q. I saw an article in a magazine about how I may be able to add air and water purifiers in my office to minimize sickness and infections. Is this for real? Can air purifiers limit things like Covid, and does it pay to put in a full water purifier instead of just having a bottled-water cooler station, even in my home or in my office (for my employees)?

A. There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about levels of purification and, depending on the source of the information, like an advertisement instead of research reports, the facts are unclear. I couldn’t tell anyone, definitively, what works best, or even the specifics as to why, only that there are systems that are required and units that do have benefits for employers and homeowners, according to industry reports.
For example, it almost always comes up during the design phase of offices and retail spaces that the owner wants to put in a bottled-water cooler instead of a drinking fountain, but the plumbing code, which is a law, states that two drinking fountains or a dual unit, the high and low kind, are required to be installed. (The reason for the low drinking fountain is to avoid discrimination, along with many other regulations, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into federal law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.) A bottle station is nice to have but not required.
Water purification will be a healthy solution for your employees and family, since it removes chlorine, sediments and multiple trace minerals. There are many different types of purifiers on the market. For commercial purposes, consider a cartridge-type purifier specific to your commercial space, and for a residence, a whole-house system such as the ones from, which use a seven-stage reverse-osmosis process. Just remember, these systems all require the replacement of filters, so factor in replacement costs so you aren’t surprised later.
As for the bigger question, air purification, it is a much broader and more questionable issue, since different systems filter air in different ways, and even though advertisements tout all the wonderful particulates that can be removed, virus particles aren’t necessarily one of them. Smoke from cigarettes and dust have a much larger mass, and are more easily removed with high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filters than bacterial or viral-laden particles. Even though microscopic-sized allergens can be removed, unless they are treated with either damaging light or chemical containment, just catching the allergens doesn’t necessarily get rid of them. Make sure you find out what the filtration unit will do from an independent testing source report before spending the money on one.
Recent studies do show the workplace benefits for having enhanced ventilation and filtration. Some 90 percent of maintenance costs are for keeping people productive at work, increasing profits by reducing infection, sickness and missed days by employees. Choose systems wisely and it will benefit you. Good luck!

© 2022 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.