CIRI to Host Healthy Buildings 2021 – America on November 9-11, 2021, in Honolulu, Hawaii

Connecting the worlds of academic research with field practitioners, the Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) will host Healthy Buildings 2021 – America (HB2021), a biennial event sponsored by the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ). The event is scheduled to take place on Nov. 9-11, 2021, at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawaii

The theme of this year’s conference is “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice – In the Age of COVID-19 and Beyond.” It will feature more than 200 science-based workshops, oral presentations and poster presentations. For the first time, this unique conference — which usually is nearly 100 percent academic research — will expand to include practice-based research and discussions.

Professionals in cleaning, disinfection, restoration and remediation will team with researchers representing the nation’s top academic institutions to build bridges between research and practice. Presentations will focus on indoor exposures, with a special emphasis on COVID-19 and implications on the indoor environment for current and future generations.

What is ISIAQ?

ISIAQ is an international, independent, multidisciplinary, scientific, non-profit organization whose purpose is to support the creation of healthy, comfortable and productivity-encouraging indoor environments started in 1992

As a Society, ISIAQ facilitates international and interdisciplinary communication and information exchange by publishing and fostering publication on indoor air quality and climate. In order to accomplish this, it organizes, sponsors and supports initiatives such as meetings, conferences, and seminars on indoor air quality and climate. One of ISIAQ’s most important activities is its biennial Healthy Buildings conferences. These regional conferences are held on odd-numbered years (e.g., 2019, 2021) and complement ISIAQ’s international Indoor Air conferences which are held on even-numbered years (e.g., 2020, 2022).

Traditionally, Healthy Buildings conferences have been hosted by universities because ISIAQ membership is primarily comprised of academic researchers. This has been useful, and has helped ISIAQ attain a high stature as an academic research organization focused on the air in indoor environments. But increasingly a downside has been revealed: Too much academic research never leaves the academy. Meanwhile, the “practitioners” (a term that describes professionals involved in cleaning, remediation and restoration) are largely unaware of the research that has been done. Moreover, much research misses the mark in terms of usefulness because researchers generally aren’t familiar with the real-world situations encountered by practitioners. The resulting disconnect is like the proverbial two ships crossing in the night, each unaware of the other.

The Essential Bridge Between Research and Practice

The key to success for Healthy Buildings 2021 – America is participation by the practitioner community, including contractors, trainers and consultants. As previously mentioned, a growing part of the research community now recognizes the importance of collaboration with those working in the field. As Healthy Buildings 2021 – America conference president Dr. Kerry Kinney of the University of Texas at Austin puts it, “I get as many ideas from talking to practitioners about the problems they run into in the field as I do talking to other researchers about the technical aspects of our work. I want my team’s work to have meaning in the real world.”

But it takes two to tango. Let’s be honest, practitioners and especially academic researchers come from very different worlds. That said, they have an important interest in common: improving the quality of indoor environments. In order to accomplish that objective, each is better with the other. Just as more researchers have come to recognize the importance of input from practitioners, more practitioners have come to recognize the importance of their practices being supported by sound science.

An Important Focus: COVID-19 and Beyond

While it was clear from the start that CIRI’s proposal for Healthy Buildings 2021 – America would involve the research-to-practice theme, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic made equally clear that an emphasis on it was also necessary.

Both organizations have been involved in the battle to understand, control and ultimately defeat the COVID-19 disease. Many ISIAQ-member scientists put research projects on the back burner in order to study various aspects of COVID-19, including survivability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on different surfaces and given different environmental conditions, as well as routes of viral transmission. Beginning in the spring of 2020, ISIAQ scientists conducted a series of webinars on the pandemic that received wide acclaim.

CIRI similarly has been heavily involved in COVID-19 since the pandemic began. CIRI has not been directly involved in research, but it has been extensively involved in providing useful, science-based information to practitioners. CIRI’s activities have included a symposium, several webinars, a guidance document, several articles and papers, and a variety of online podcast and conference appearances.

Soon, COVID-19 will begin to fade. Much has been learned — both from research and practice — and both organizations are working to preserve and communicate this new information. When at last COVID-19 is behind us, we can be sure that new challenges — be they viral, bacterial, fungal or something we have not yet contemplated — will surely emerge. When they do, lessons learned from this pandemic may be especially useful.

While COVID-19 will not be, by any means, the sole focus of Healthy Buildings 2021 – America, it is likely there will be a heavy emphasis on research and issues related to it.

What the Conference Will Look Like

For those who have not attended an academic conference before, Healthy Buildings will look like something they have never seen before. It is expected that over the course of the three-day conference there will be 300 or more educational presentations of various sorts. 

Other notable differences compared to cleaning and restoration industry conventions: At Healthy Buildings, a significant majority of the people who attend will also be presenters. Also, there will be no large exhibit hall with extended and exclusive exhibit hours. At Healthy Buildings, the exhibitors will be limited to the conference’s Platinum and Gold sponsors, and will be integrated into the flow of the show. 

As mentioned above, the conference will encompass a large number and variety of presentations. Following are brief descriptions of each type:

  •  Plenaries. These are general session talks, or keynotes. They are about 45 minutes in length and there will be two each morning, six in total. The plenaries will be given by recognized and experienced experts in the IAQ world. 
  •  Workshops. Workshops are organized around themes and are about an hour and a half in duration. Typically, they include some mix of short presentations, panels and Q&A. 
  •  Papers. Papers are oral presentations, typically about 10 minutes long. Usually they are based on research that was done by the presenter, or the presenter speaks on behalf of a group that collectively did the research. Other times a paper might describe a body of research in a particular subject area and draw conclusions from the body of work. Nearly 200 papers are expected to be given over four tracks in three days. Papers are typically grouped by topic area and include periodic panel Q&As.
  •  Posters. Posters might best be explained as the grownup equivalent of science fairs. Posters are created and displayed that describe and illustrate a research project. A researcher stands with the poster and as conference attendees “read” the posters they ask questions of the researcher. Poster sessions usually receive heavy traffic during breaks and lunch. Each day a new set of posters is displayed.
  •  Special sessions. There will be sessions that do not quite fit into the standard session types described above. For instance, the conference could include one or more “debate” sessions. Also popular are social sessions such as a students’ networking event and the welcome reception at the end of the first day of the conference.

A Face-to-Face Event — With Options

The planning committee for Healthy Buildings 2021 – America was formed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but within months it was faced with the reality that no one would be meeting in person for a while — an undetermined while. It was felt, hoped really, that by summer 2021 the pandemic would be behind us. Still, contingency plans were made. 

The first was to add a livestream component to the conference, making it a hybrid event. This was a process CIRI had just successfully gone through with its March 2020 symposium. In fact, CIRI’s event went from being fully face-to-face to fully virtual in less than six weeks. Healthy Buildings 2021 – America’s livestream component will include all plenary sessions and a featured track of breakouts. This will enable those who are unable or uncomfortable with travel the opportunity to participate virtually.

At the same time, the committee determined that if at all possible Healthy Buildings 2021 – America would be a face-to-face event. Toward that end the committee first pushed back the dates two months to August, and just recently pushed them back an additional three months to November. In addition, the conference was moved to a new, larger venue, the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). The HCC will be able to accommodate whatever level of social distancing is required at the time of the conference. 


Did We Mention That Healthy Buildings 2021 – America Will Be in Hawaii?

To be sure, one of the reasons the committee wanted to ensure the conference was held face-to-face is the location. Hawaii is a tropical paradise. Few places on the planet offer such a diverse and beautiful ecosystem. And Hawaiians are well known for their environmental stewardship, with the HCC a conspicuous example. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a prolonged and destabilizing trauma for all of humankind. As the world emerges from its throes, many desperately want to get out, network with colleagues, and just feel normal again. What better place than the tropical paradise of Hawaii to get back to normal — or the new normal — again.

We close with a quote from the film Field of Dreams. James Earl Jones’ character, speaking to Kevin Costner’s character of his dreamed baseball field, predicts “If you build it, they will come.” And they did. 

Similarly with Healthy Buildings 2021 – America: The bridge has been built, the finishing touches are now complete. Do come. Join us for this paradigm-shifting event in paradise. Aloha!

Want to learn more about Healthy Buildings 2021? Click here to visit the event website and receive exclusive early-bird registration rates: