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Strategies in Facilities Management to control the spread of COVID-19

virus molecules spreading through vents in building

Managing the spread of COVID-19 is typically drilled down to three simple rules: wear a mask, wash your hands, and socially distance. Most people don’t stop to consider the bigger picture – the stores they enter to get supplies, the health care facilities they visit for appointments, or the workplaces they go to when working from home is not possible.

Getting a handle on how to control COVID within structures is the responsibility of facilities managers and their teams, and is a massive undertaking. The CDC provides some guidance, but these teams must also rely on their education in infrastructure to ensure they are doing everything possible to protect the individuals coming in and out of buildings.

6 Strategies for Facilities Managers to Control the Spread of COVID

When addressing concerns surrounding the spread of COVID, or any other contagious virus, there are six primary strategies facilities managers should integrate, states John Rimer, for facilitiesnet.com.

Two of these strategies may seem obvious: cleaning practices and education and awareness. However, each comes with their own caveats.

Existing cleaning practices may not be substantial enough to kill viruses or bacteria. It’s vital that products approved to kill the coronavirus causing COVID-19, as specified by the EPA, are used. In terms of education and awareness, employees and visitors may be knowledgeable of general guidelines but don’t realize how many times in a day their mask isn’t covering their face appropriately or that they need to wash their hands after blowing their nose.

An area that has been key to controlling the spread of COVID that is not often considered by the general public is air quality. Air quality is often considered when there are concerns about mold or pollution, but due to how they spread, limiting the travel of viruses like COVID through the air is vital. Solutions that facilities management have been using to address air quality include:

  • Positive building pressure: “This will mitigate moisture and air infiltration and prevent related contaminants from entering via uncontrolled pathways,” says Rimer. He notes it’s important that buildings are air tight and properly commissioned and balanced to achieve positive building pressure.
  • Relative humidity: Lower humidity may allow for easier spread of viruses, including COVID and the flu virus. “Relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent has been shown to help inactivate the flu virus, and it improves the human body’s defense system against infection.”
  • Outside air: In addition to improving productivity, ventilation, when established at specified rates, can improve health. “Ventilation, either natural or mechanical, is the second most effective approach to providing acceptable indoor air,” after control of pollutants, reports the EPA.
  • Filtration and UVC: Ensuring appropriate air filtration may be considered the most effective in fighting against COVID. HEPA filters and ultraviolet C light (UV-C) or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) can filter out or destroy viruses, respectively. UV-C, in particular, has been used in airports to disinfect flight deck interiors. A device called Biotek Shield, which is installed in aircraft air conditioning systems and uses UV-C to neutralize viruses, such as COVID-19, among others. The device is being designed to fit Boeing 737s before being fitted to other commercial aircraft.

By employing these strategies, facilities managers can keep buildings as safe as possible and control the spread of COVID, and other viruses, to people who enter those buildings.

Want to learn about facilities management and critical infrastructure? Capitol Tech offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in construction, facilities and safety. Many courses are available both on campus and online. To learn more about Capitol Tech’s degree programs, contact admissions@captechu.edu.

Tags: Facilities Management