When coronavirus is around, measuring indoor airflow is big business

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2020 8:14:59 PM

The worldwide slowdown caused by COVID-19 has crippled a lot of industries, but on occasion it has opened up new business niches. A New Hampshire firm called Airadigm Solutions is trying to occupy one.

“To us, we’ve always done this for 20 years. We just never looked at it that way because it’s part of our job,” said Olaf Zwickau, CEO of Airadigm, which has its headquarters in Auburn.

Airadigm, a division of Air Solutions & Balancing, certifies airflow measurements in buildings, usually newly constructed commercial buildings, to ascertain that the HVAC – heating, ventilation and air condition system – was built correctly.

“We are the guys that say if the HVAC installed everything per the engineers’ design,” said Zwickau. It was, like HVAC in general, a largely invisible business. Until now.

“Along comes COVID and it has changed. Every person in the world is worried about the air in a place they’re in,” he said. “It’s harder to show customers this is indeed something you are aware of. Other measures such as cleaning or barriers, you can see those. (Ventilation) is invisible.”

This is the new business niche. Airadigm will use a technology called flow hoods to confirm air movement in a building and give a certificate if it meets what it says are CDC standards.

Zwickau said the company also examines air filters to see if they’re removing enough particles that could carry the virus through the air. This gets complicated, however, because installing better filters usually means reducing airflow. And other factors, especially humidity, are important.

Another balancing act is getting outdoor air into a building. Zwickau said at least 25% of the air by volume, and preferably even more, should be sourced from the outside at any time, but this can greatly increase heating or cooling costs. Many office buildings try to limit outdoor air for that reason.

Zwickau said restaurants are interested in the certificates to help assure diners, although they’re often not a problem because they have lots of windows and doors. Offices can be a different matter.

“We’re getting some very strong interest from dentist offices, as they’re trying to open up,” he said.

The company has a total of about 75 staffers, with 22 technicians and 10 office staff in New Hampshire, and offices in Dallas, Denver and Cincinnati. The firm did $12 million sales nationwide last year, he said.

“Our branch in Dallas, Texas, they’re getting huge response there. They’re a little bit ahead of the curve from New Hampshire for opening up,” he said.

The company hopes to open new branches, although stay-at-home orders complicate this.

“We’re trying to expand. It’s really hard, obviously. … Finding new customers via email, Zoom meetings isn’t easy,” he said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313, dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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