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How to Reopen Your Business Safely During the COVID Crisis with Healthy Building Operations

As states eye removing coronavirus shelter in place restrictions, businesses face reopening vacant facilities and must follow healthy building practices for the sake of employees and the public. Typically these tasks fall upon building and facility engineers. These vital employees can follow the cleaning and prevention guidelines below to maintain safe and healthy building operations.

The main building systems engineers must focus on for cleaning and disinfecting their commercial office and retail facilities are:

  1. HVAC
  2. General/Non-HVAC
  3. Water

Recommended Cleaning and Operational Practices for Healthy Building Operation

Recommended practices for maintaining good air quality and reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission through the building air are:

  • Increase outdoor air ventilation (use caution in highly polluted areas)
    • Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV)
    • Open minimum outdoor air dampers, as high as 100% to eliminate recirculation
  • Improve central air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass
  • Keep building HVAC systems running longer hours, possibly 24/7, to enhance the two actions above
  • Consider providing portable room air cleaners with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters
  • Consider UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), protecting occupants from radiation, particularly in high-risk spaces such as lobbies, waiting areas and conference halls
  • Maintain temperature and humidity as applicable to the infectious aerosol of concern
  • Bypass any energy recovery ventilation systems.

All the preventive measures above align with the ASHRAE issued “Statements on Relationship Between COVID-19 and HVAC in Buildings”. The latest information related to healthy building systems and the pandemic are available at ashrae.org/COVID19.

General Recommended Cleaning and Disinfecting Practices for Healthy Buildings

The recommended cleaning and disinfecting actions for a safe and healthy reopening of office and retail buildings are:

  • Clean and disinfect all the surfaces and equipment in the facility
  • Cleaning staff should wear disposable gloves and gowns (PPE) for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash
  • Use disinfectants that are registered and approved by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • For soft surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes –
    • Clean the surface using soap and water or launder items (if possible) using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely
  • For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines
    • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics and/or use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol and dry the surface thoroughly
  • Practice routine cleaning using soap and water of frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, copiers and printers, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
  • Install additional hand sanitizer dispensers
  • Close or post warning signs at water fountains in favor of bottle filling stations and sinks, or even better, encourage employees to bring water from home

All the above measures align with guidelines provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 

EPA Approved Disinfectants for Healthy Building Operations

There are about 125 disinfectant products manufactured by 34 companies approved by the EPA to use against coronavirus. The top 5 companies based on the number of products available are listed in table below:

Companies with EPA Approved Disinfectant Products Effective Against Coronavirus

Dilutable Products RTU (Ready to use) Products Disinfectant Wipes
Mason Chemical Company The Clorox Company Lonza LLC
Stepan Company S.C. Johnson & Son Inc Contec Inc
The Clorox Company Reckitt Benckiser Stepan Company
Diversey Inc ETI H2O Inc Reckitt Benckiser
James Austin Company Diversey Inc Kimberly-Clark Global

 

Coronavirus Cleaning Service Providers for Healthy Buildings

Businesses may also hire professional cleaning services. This is the recommended approach where inhouse resources are limited. Some nationwide companies providing coronavirus cleaning and disinfection services are:

The above list contains providers offering specific coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting.

A complete facility disinfection can provide temporary peace of mind, but it is no substitute for routine, ongoing cleaning. Routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is highly recommended.

Healthy Building Water System Recommended Cleaning and Operational Practices

Though the coronavirus has not been detected in water, it is recommended to ensure safe building water system operations after a prolonged shutdown. Recommended actions to reduce the risk of disease transmission through water are:

  • Flush building water system
  • Flush hot and cold water through all points of use
  • Flush until the hot water reaches its maximum temperature
  • Make sure that your water heater is set to at least 120°F
  • Clean all decorative water features, such as fountains
  • Ensure that decorative water features are free of visible slime or biofilm
  • After the water feature has been re-filled, measure disinfectant levels to ensure that the water is safe for use
  • Ensure safety equipment including fire sprinkler systems are clean and well-maintained
  • Ensure cooling towers are clean and well-maintained:
    • Ensure cooling towers are maintained (including start-up and shut-down procedures) per manufacturer guidelines and industry best practices
    • Ensure the tower and basin are free of visible slime or biofilm before use

All the above safety measures align with guidelines for safe building water system operations provided by CDC.

Employee Solution Preventing Coronavirus

In addition to the above guidelines, we found an emerging technology that employees can wear in commercial facilities to maintain a healthy building for everyone. RespoKare is an FDA Approved Antiviral Mask preventing coronavirus spread through coughs or sneezes. Hong Kong-based Innonix Technologies created this mask which consists of four-layers and comes with an antiviral layer that contains copper and zinc ions. These ions have been shown to inactivate some viruses, including coronaviruses, along with bacteria and fungi.

Reopening Businesses Safely

Now more than ever, healthy building operations are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is vital to follow recommended cleaning and disinfecting practices and healthy building system operations to maintain occupant health and safety. If you need assistance restarting and operating your HVAC systems following healthy building practices please contact us anytime.

References

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