What do you do when a historic pandemic forces the entire country to shut down? If you are a team of unionized sheet metal workers at Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Pennsylvania, you start brainstorming.
With expertise in air flow, a team from Local 19 created the SMART19 Air Pressurization Filter Box, which can be used to create either positive or negative pressure in a room. Nursing homes, which at the time were suffering the largest and most severe COVID-19 outbreaks, were chosen as a target for the first prototype.
“When COVID-19 came to our area and started affecting our members, their families, and all of the different businesses in the community, we put our heads together and came up with a few different ideas on how we could help during this crazy pandemic,” said Bryan Bush, the local’s assistant business manager and financial secretary. “We all knew that businesses had to reopen at some point, so we started trying to come up with different ideas that would help protect building occupants when they returned to work.”
“Our initial plan was to try to develop something that would allow people to return to work,” added Pat Edmonds, Local 19 training director. “Nursing home populations are at particularly high risk of contracting COVID. They just don’t have the resources hospitals do. We felt like our invention could make a difference in that environment.”
The group decided nursing homes would be its initial focus and set to work on creating a prototype. The device they created, dubbed the SMART19 Air Pressurization Filter Box — named for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers union — changes air pressure in a room to sharply reduce virus spread by preventing the air in one room from spreading to the rest of the facility.
Although the small box can create negative pressure rooms, it can also be used to create positive pressure rooms to keep healthy individuals healthy.
Innovative solutions to public health issues can also provide new market opportunities for certified, skilled technicians, a core mission of the National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC). The pandemic has brought indoor air quality needs to the forefront, and the past year has called for solutions both large and small.
After creating the SMART19 Air Pressurization Filter Box prototypes, the team met with a manufacturer to discuss mass production, but ultimately decided SMART members should manufacture them on demand. Each box can then be modified for its particular space.
Just after the first of the year, Local 19 team members launched a campaign to bring signatory contractors on board to offer these modular, portable solutions to nursing home facilities and beyond.
“I see the SMART19 box as being a great alternative to what would be a costly retrofitting for nursing homes, schools, etc.,” Edmonds said. “The small box can be vented out a window or other opening to easily convert the room as needed.”
Edmonds said that beyond nursing homes, he sees the SMART19 box filling a real need for school that need to create at least one isolation room for students who fall ill during the school day.
For more information on the SMART19 Air Pressurization Filter Box, contact Pat Edmonds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) is a not-for-profit organization jointly funded by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. NEMIC identifies opportunities, seeking to create or expand employment for SMART members and programs that assist SMACNA contractors.
For more information on emerging market opportunities in the sheet metal and air conditioning industry, contact NEMIC at https://www.nemiconline.org or call 800-458-6525.