SMACNA Greater Chicago, Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 73 and SMART Local 265 joined together to launch a new initiative focusted on Indoor Air Quality, titled Breathe Easy Illinois. This labor-management cooperative camapign features today’s most advanced solutions designed to help increase awareness of possible solutions to use to improve indoor air quality — now and beyond the pandemic. Currently, there are more than 50 contractors participating in the Breathe Easy Illinois network.
SMACNA recently spoke to Tony Adolfs, SMACNA Greater Chicago Executive Vice President. about the Breathe Easy Illinois initiative. Read more about this innovative and industry-leading initiative.
SMACNA: Briefly describe the Breathe Easy Illinois initiative.
Tony Adolfs: During 2020, the need for creating healthy buildings became more important than ever. Now, improving occupant health and wellness is no longer a value-added option — it’s a necessity. Breathe Easy Illinois is an industry-leading clean air initiative that was designed with facility managers, building engineers, building owners and residential homeowners in mind. It features advanced solutions designed to help improve indoor air quality now and beyond the pandemic.
SMACNA: How did SMACNA Greater Chicago become involved? Who else is involved?
TA: Early last fall, we were having conversations with Local 73 on what we could do to prepare our contractors as we move through different phases of the pandemic and how we could promote their services because they’re key to any conversation on indoor air quality. We gathered a focus group, which included SMACNA Greater Chicago and Local 73 representatives, a number of key contractors and our marketing team, and we came up with Breathe Easy Illinois. SMACNA Greater Chicago and Local 73 were the original collaborators, and Local 265 was asked to join as the campaign progressed.
SMACNA: What role are Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 73 and SMART Local 265 playing in rolling out Breathe Easy Illinois?
TA: These craftsmen and women have completed four years of extensive training and are trusted to help build and maintain some of the most iconic buildings throughout the Chicago landscape. They are highly trained HVAC professionals who are among the most knowledgeable in the industry on issues relating to humidity control, filtration, ventilation and more. Union work is best for business and will deliver safety and comfort to all building occupants.
SMACNA: In addition to helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, why are businesses, contractors and others so focused on indoor air quality right now?
TA: Organizations across all markets — healthcare, education, hospitality and more — want to get back to business and do it in a safe way. Business owners still believe that in-person offices are important to their overall business growth and success. That means they need people back in the office. Solutions that contribute to improved indoor air quality are the best and most efficient way to get them there.
SMACNA: How will the Breathe Easy Illinois initiative benefit the general public (in terms of school reopenings, return to work, etc.)?
TA: Whether it’s high-efficiency filtration, bipolar ionization or ultraviolet disinfection, the solutions offered by preferred Breathe Easy Illinois contractors are proven to reduce harmful contaminants in the air, creating a safer and healthier experience for building occupants.
SMACNA: What will some of the long-term benefits of Breathe Easy Illinois be?
TA: The EPA says contaminants can be 2–5 times higher indoors, and that was even before COVID. Without the proper equipment installed, it’s easy for things like viruses, mold and bacteria to spread in the air. It’s obvious there’s a need to create cleaner, healthier air, and our contractors have the expertise and solutions to meet that need, with an eye toward sustainability and energy efficiency.
SMACNA: What are some of the program’s other benefits?
TA: We certainly hope Breathe Easy Illinois brings awareness within the community of the benefits of using a highly trained, professional union workforce. The program also helps promote the individual contractors who make up SMACNA Greater Chicago. Our members are committed to keeping our communities up and running.
SMACNA: If I am a contractor in the SMACNA Greater Chicago area, how do I get involved?
TA: Anyone who has questions or wants more information on the Breathe Easy Illinois program should contact the SMACNA Greater Chicago office.
SMACNA: If I am a contractor in another region of the country, how would I go about helping to launch a similar initiative in my area?
TA: Our team is currently discussing ways to expand this program to other areas of the country.
Contractors looking to launch a program similar to the Breathe Easy Illinois initiative may contact Tony Adolfs directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the launched program website at Breathe Easy Illinois.