Building sanitization has become an integral part of facilities management in today’s COVID-stricken world. Though the impact of the virus hasn’t subsided, several regions are braving to reopen offices and commercial buildings post lockdown. And to keep businesses running, it has become necessary to implement a number of changes for the safety of the building occupants.
With the growing awareness around the spread of coronavirus, the building management needs to incorporate certain techniques that were not commonly used at non-medical facilities. Owners and operators of commercial buildings need to take appropriate precautionary measures and devise an effective response plan in case of contamination.
We have listed four ways to ensure proper sanitization of buildings during the pandemic:
1. Antimicrobial Surfaces
Surfaces like door handles, grab bars, and countertops act as a haven for bacteria and viruses. The coronavirus can reportedly survive for hours or days on metal finishes, but not for more than four hours on certain elements like copper and silver.
Earlier, these metals were not widely used in building construction due to their higher cost. But today, the pandemic has increased the demand for antimicrobial surfaces. Copper and its alloys, such as bronze or brass can be incorporated in building designs to shorten the lifespan of the virus on surfaces.
Another solution is antimicrobial coatings, which can protect surfaces like glass, metals, stainless steel, marble, plastics, and ceramics and tiles. A single application of antimicrobial coating can keep surfaces free from coronavirus for as long as 90 days.
Automation of door operations and common entrances/exits can also be implemented but with an added project cost.
2. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters consist of pleated glass fibres arranged in a fibrous maze. They can remove at least 99.95% of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns.
HEPA filters can efficiently trap airborne particles, such as respiratory and aerosol droplets, through impaction, interception, or diffusion. Although, they are only partially effective against viruses, but they can trap the larger droplets, limiting the transmission through air to a certain level.
While most of the commercial buildings are installed with HVAC systems, the airstreams created by them can cause even farther movement of the airborne particles. HVAC units are also difficult to disinfect. Therefore, it is necessary to position the HEPA filters in a way that the air streams are filtered before the deposition of droplets in the HVAC units.
These systems can be incorporated into design and business operations to improve overall public health.
3. Germicidal Ultraviolet (GUV)
The Ultraviolet C (UV-C) light, within the wavelength of 100 nm to 280 nm, is germicidal in nature. This UV light can deactivate the DNA of bacteria and viruses and inhibit their ability to multiply.
UV-C is efficient in decontaminating the surfaces of objects, but its effectiveness depends upon the line-of-sight and distance from the source. This prevents it from disinfecting areas which are not directly exposed. The UV-C is used in the following technologies:
- High-output UV disinfection robots use unique mapping technology to decontaminate a room. They can deliver a continuous wave of UV-C light to kill germs and pathogens. However, the intensity of this light is harmful to people and therefore should not be used in occupied spaces.
- Upper-room germicidal UV fixtures can irradiate potentially contaminated air. These fixtures lift airborne agents into the room’s upper portion and expose them to germicidal UV-C to disinfect the air above occupants. They have been used in healthcare facilities for a long time and can be mounted on walls, ceilings, or in the corners of a room.
4. Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide (VHP)
Vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) sterilization is a low-temperature gaseous method of decontaminating indoor areas. VHP is registered as a sterilant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and has shown effectiveness in eradicating viruses, such as avian influenza from surfaces.
The hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) vapour is delivered through mist foggers or robots and can kill microorganisms with 80-90% efficiency. These mist foggers use electrostatic spraying to disinfect large areas along with the nooks and crannies of the rooms.
The H2O2 breaks down into water and oxygen, and has a reduced aeration time. The toxicity level of this method is very low-risk and it is considered a safe and effective alternative to other fumigation methods.
Although the efficacy of these methods varies, they can be combined for different parts of the building based on the level of exposure and occupancy. It is also necessary to ensure that the cleaning staff should be trained on the appropriate use of the chemicals and provided with PPEs during the sanitization process.
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