At first blush, it may not seem like the popular video game characters Mario and Luigi have anything to do with air quality conditions or preventing the spread of infectious disease. But in fact, these cartoon brothers in red and green overalls can teach us a lot about mitigating airborne infection risk.

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has increased public awareness about the spread of disease through the air. Taking precautions such as wearing masks or maintaining physical distance from others has become a part of everyday life.

But designing systems to limit the airborne transmission of germs is not new. Many public facilities, especially hospitals and other healthcare buildings, are designed with disease transmission in mind and have certain standards for their HVAC systems to mitigate risk.

To understand these systems, it is helpful to use Mario and Luigi as an example. Think of hospital HVAC systems like this:

Mario is supplying the room with green blocks of air and Luigi is returning the green blocks to the roof. But, what happens when Mario is supplying green blocks faster than Luigi is removing them? The green blocks get forced out through the windows, the space under the doors and through any crack available. If Luigi is removing the blocks faster than Mario is supplying them, he is pulling green blocks of air from anywhere possible.

In buildings, if fans are removing air faster than it is being supplied, the room has “negative air pressure” — in other words, Luigi is working faster than Mario. Mapping areas of positive and negative air pressure is a way that HVAC engineers keep track of airflow, and controlling that air is a way to prevent infection and save lives.

This design of airflow is so important to hospital safety that it is regulated and hospitals have to report their designs and pass inspections to confirm that the air is flowing as intended.

Life Balance Technologies helps hospitals and other companies easily analyze air quality conditions and effectively manage their HVAC systems. By streamlining the process for compliance, auditing, and reporting, we help reduce costs and save lives.