Occupancy-aided ventilation for both airborne infection risk control and work productivity

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

18 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Article number107506
Journal / PublicationBuilding and Environment
Online published5 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


Reducing airborne infectious risk is crucial for controlling infectious respiratory diseases (e.g., COVID-19). The airborne transmissibility of COVID-19 is high so that the common ventilation rate may be insufficient to dilute the airborne pathogens, particularly in public buildings with a relatively large occupancy density. Reducing occupancy can reduce the pathogen load thereby reducing airborne infection risk. However, reduced occupancy deteriorates work productivity due to the lost hours of work. This study proposes an occupancy-aided ventilation strategy for constraining the airborne infection risk and minimizing the loss of work productivity. Firstly, two mechanisms of occupancy schedule (alternative changeovers between normal occupancy and reduced occupancy) for reducing the airborne infection risk and loss of work productivity are revealed based on analyzing features of the indoor concentration profile of exhaled aerosols. Secondly, optimization of the occupancy schedule is developed to maximize the total time length of normal occupancy for the minimum loss in work productivity while satisfying the constraint on airborne infection risk (e.g., with the reproduction number less than one). The airborne infection risk is evaluated with the rebreathed fraction model. Case studies on COVID-19 in a classroom demonstrate that the proposed occupancy-aided ventilation is effective with an earning ratio of 1.67 (the ratio of the improvement in health outcome to the loss in work productivity) and is robust to the variable occupancy loads and occupancy flexibilities.

Research Area(s)

  • Airborne infection risk, Occupancy schedule, Occupancy-aided ventilation, Rebreathed fraction, Work productivity