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Access Control Procedure & Policy Tips For Facility Managers

Access Control Procedure & Policy Tips For Facility Managers

One key strategy for protecting employee and guest health is keeping pathogens out of a facility. The best way to do this is by rigorously controlling who can come and go, though this isn't always an easy task. Most businesses are used to limiting access to protect their equipment, employees, and intellectual property from things like theft, sabotage, and violence, not viruses. Here are some tips for making sure that people who may be sick -- including carriers of COVID-19 -- are prevented from accessing your building:

1. Create a solid (and legal) access policy.

The first thing any facility manager should do is implement a way to determine who is and isn't allowed in, and how that determination is made. Will all visitors have to pass a temperature check? What is required for someone to come back after they are sent home? If you choose to use a temperature check, what number will you consider a fever? The CDC defines a fever as over 100.4° F. Some states consider a fever anything over 99.5° F. Some places turn away anyone with a temperature over 100° F. After forming a plan, run it past the company's legal department. There are several ways that these policies can end up doing more harm than good -- they may infringe on employee's rights. You may be required to inform tenants or employees that you will be collecting protected information. If you plan to employ security guards to turn away potentially infected people, follow all OSHA guidelines regarding proper protective equipment. Ensure that whatever procedures you choose to put in place are legally sound and consistently enforced without bias. It's also important to inform employees, visitors, and tenants of any policy changes verbally, then follow with a written notice. Emails, regular mail, and signage can all help here. Be sure to include a phone number that they can call if they need help with compliance.

2. Consider adding a temperature checkpoint.

A fever is a pretty reliable indicator of illness, though it isn't the only one. People can run a fever without realizing it, or try to come to work regardless if they don't show other symptoms. Some facilities use security guards equipped with non-contact infrared thermometers, and instructions to turn away people whose readings are abnormal. Other options include biometric temperature monitors connected to door locks. One potential avenue is to equip an entryway with a thermal camera -- if a visitor reads as having a fever, the door will not open. Some companies specializing in touchless access point control are adding thermal sensors to their lines. A fire department in Duxbury, Massachusetts, uses wearables to continuously track vital signs.

3. Know what to do when visitors fail to pass the checkpoint.

It's understandable that someone might be upset at being asked to leave after failing a temperature check. For this reason, it may be a good idea to perform two or three checks a few minutes apart -- if all of them fail, the person must go home. This must be handled discreetly, to protect the person's privacy. If the person is an employee, make sure they know that they can be subject to disciplinary measures for refusing to go home. Follow up with them afterward, outlining what is necessary for the tenant or employee to return. If someone refuses to leave, consider your options. If you provide accommodation to one person, you must be prepared to provide it to everyone. You may have to threaten a belligerent person with termination (if they're an employee) or legal action.

4. Have a procedure for dealing with high traffic times.

Checkpoints create a bottleneck, and this can make it difficult to keep things efficient and streamlined. Pay employees for the time they spend waiting and being screened. Make sure all available entrances are open and able to be used, so not everyone is crowded near one door.

5. Have a procedure for handling deliveries, visitors, and messages.

Visitors and delivery people generally aren't in a company's access database. They don't have badges, so this can make them difficult to keep track of. Create a policy that determines who is allowed to enter, whether they should be accompanied through the building by an employee, and how to handle cleaning and disinfection afterward.

6. Consider adding new tech to your arsenal.

COVID-19 has exposed a lot of vulnerabilities that businesses and facility managers just weren't aware of before, and tech is rapidly moving to take care of them. Cloud-based access control systems allow facility managers to work remotely, granting or restricting access as-needed without having to be in the building. Some biometric access technology now includes mask-detection. Safe Scan by Optec International, for example, scans for elevated temperature and mask-wearing and can scan up to forty faces per minute. Access control has always been about safety, but it's only recently become about illness prevention. By using these tips, facility managers can restrict access to their buildings, protecting everyone inside from potentially dangerous pathogens.

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Airborne Coronavirus and Your Building's HVAC System

Airborne Coronavirus and Your Building's HVAC System

Amid all of the discussion of mask policies and sanitization, one area often gets overlooked: the HVAC system. Research has shown that the novel coronavirus is much more likely to infect people in a confined, poorly-ventilated space than it is outdoors. What can you do to make sure the air in your facility is clean?

How does SARS-CoV-2 spread?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus responsible for COVID-19 primarily spreads through person-to-person contact. This means that if an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or otherwise sheds respiratory droplets, and these droplets get into the eyes, nose, or mouth of an uninfected person, that uninfected person can become infected. There's also reason to believe that an uninfected person may pick up the virus by touching a contaminated surface, then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. While the CDC hasn't indicated that airborne transmission is a major risk, they acknowledge that one of the most important things that facility managers and employers can do is improve building ventilation. Dr. Fauci has also said that airborne transmission is "something that we can't completely rule out." In mid-July, the World Health Organization updated a scientific brief to say that reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in closed settings, such as bars, churches, and restaurants, indicates that airborne transmission may be possible.

Are HVAC systems responsible for circulating the virus?

A study by the University of Oregon found the SARS-CoV-2 virus present in 25% of the vents in hospital rooms that saw COVID-19 patients, suggesting that indoor ventilation systems can potentially contribute to the spread of the virus. It's not yet fully understood exactly how much of a risk they pose, but one thing is for certain -- poorly-ventilated indoor spaces are correlated with spikes in COVID-19. Even if HVAC systems aren't found to be responsible for circulating the virus themselves, they can still help mitigate the risk of infection.

How can HVAC systems prevent the spread?

Proper filtration is one crucial element of cleaning any potential viral particles from the air. Filters are generally measured in Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values (MERV). The higher the MERV rating, the more efficient the filter. As filter efficiency increases, it requires more energy for the system to force air through it. This is why most commercial systems don't use the highest-rated filters that they possibly can -- they trade energy efficiency for filtration efficiency. If possible, HVAC systems should use a HEPA filter. If not, they should use the highest MERV filter they can handle. UV lighting units can also help sanitize air. These can be installed in the ventilation system itself, treating the air as it passes through. New advances in specific UV wavelengths show some very promising results when it comes to inactivating the novel coronavirus. Humidity control is another important factor. Maintaining a level of 40-60% humidity can help decrease the risk of infection for the building's occupants.

Are there new technologies that can help HVAC systems keep the air cleaner?

New UV sterilization systems that employ UV-C can help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. While germicidal UV units have been in use for a long time, interest in UV-C is relatively new. UV-C is one of the types of ultraviolet light that the sun gives off, but gets filtered out by the ozone layer before it can reach the Earth. It's a good thing, too -- in addition to inactivating viruses, it can also cause serious harm to living cells. This is what makes it perfect for use in an HVAC unit. It can sanitize the air, without coming into contact with any occupants.

How are some employers and facility managers handling the situation?

In many cases, they're trading sustainability for employee health. Not only are they switching to filters with a higher MERV rating, but they're also increasing the number of times indoor spaces get "flushed" with outdoor air. If flushing isn't an option, increasing the air change rate can still help. Some are also creating more separation within buildings, by isolating areas and setting up smaller HVAC units. This keeps air from mixing as easily, so, if there's an outbreak, it is easier to confine to one area. In old buildings without central HVAC units, facility managers are bringing in fans and opening windows to bring in as much outdoor air as possible. When it comes to protecting employees and guests from SARS-CoV-2, improving ventilation is key. Even though we don't yet fully understand all of the ways it's possible to transmit the novel coronavirus, data shows that crowded, poorly-ventilated areas quickly turn into hotbeds. By increasing the air change rate, bringing in as much outdoor air as possible, controlling humidity, isolating areas, and installing UV units and better filters, facility managers can help keep the air as virus-free as possible.

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Office Space Planning For The "New Normal"

Office Space Planning For The

As more people return to the workplace after working from home, it raises a number of questions for owners, facility managers, and employees alike. Workers want to know if their buildings are going to make them ill. Owners want to know if they can keep their businesses open without having to worry about shutting down due to an outbreak. Facility managers want to know how to allay everyone's fears.

COVID-19 has forced us to reimagine what a workspace looks like. For many people, wearing masks and staying at least six feet away from others has become second nature. How is this "new normal" going to impact office space planning?

1. Reduced capacity.

Before the novel coronavirus, offices were planned for efficiency. Now, health is the number one priority. Following the CDC and WHO recommendations that people stay six feet away from each other, modern office spaces will shift to accommodate. Rooms will, by necessity, become lower capacity as facility managers move desks and conference seating to allow for space.

2. Changes in traffic flow.

Part of maintaining space between employees involves changing the way they navigate office spaces. If two people are walking toward each other, there comes a point where it's impossible to maintain a safe amount of distance.

In addition to changes in policy, this is going to lead to a shift in office layout. Avoiding sickness relies heavily on employee behaviors, but office planning can help change those behaviors. Some layouts make it easier to reinforce one-way navigation, and more and more offices are going to adopt them.

3. Changes in meeting spaces.

In the past, it was common practice for employees to hold meetings in their offices. Now, that may not be safe or comfortable for everyone involved -- offices are enclosed spaces, and disinfecting between meetings can create disruptive pauses in the middle of the workday. In the future, we're likely to see a new type of common room emerge: a room furnished with easy-to-sanitize materials and treated as an auxiliary office space just for holding meetings. These rooms could be thoroughly cleaned between uses, allowing employees the disruption-free space and atmosphere they need, while keeping everyone safe.

4. Touchless environments.

Washing your hands frequently, wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer, and not touching your face help keep you from contracting the novel coronavirus, but touchless environments are even better. They keep employees from coming into contact with each other's pathogens in the first place, so proper hygiene becomes added insurance against infection.

Increases in the automation of everything from doors to bathrooms, to HVAC systems help reduce the number of touchpoints in an office, thereby reducing the chance of a COVID-19 outbreak. In the near future, modern office buildings will be designed with minimal contact in mind, including the integration of app-based technologies to allow employees to enter, exit, adjust the lighting, open the blinds, and everything we currently rely on touch-based controls to do.

5. More flexible spaces.

Research has shown that fresh air and sunlight make it more difficult to contract COVID-19, and sealed-up buildings can develop sick building syndrome at the best of times. Modern office plans are probably going to become more of a compromise between the two -- offering increased fresh air and light, and flexible indoor-outdoor spaces for employees to work.

Before this, building design largely emphasized energy efficiency. This shift represents a compromise between saving energy and being healthy and more appealing. Fresh air spaces don't just reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, they can entice remote workers to spend time at the office. This is important for maintaining a solid company culture; even employees who spend 90% of their time working from home benefit from a shared space for collaboration.

6. New furniture.

Studies show that the novel coronavirus is capable of surviving on certain surfaces, like glass and some metals, for up to 5 days. While surfaces aren't considered as important as airborne droplets in terms of transmitting the disease, choosing furnishings that are inhospitable to viruses and easy to clean is still important for maintaining a safe, healthy building. Materials like copper and aluminum, two of the least hospitable to SARS-CoV-2, are likely to become more popular in the future. We may also see the emergence of office furniture treated with continuously active antiviral coatings. While these coatings are still in the experimental stage, they have shown virus-inhibiting activity for 90 days at a time. That makes them a valuable addition to modern office furniture, doors, elevators, and other furnishings.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, has changed everything about the way we live and work. Even with a vaccine and improved treatment for this disease, it's going to be with us for a while. By adjusting office planning and culture to accommodate social distancing and employee safety, facility managers can ensure that workers stay safe, and businesses stay open.

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Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restrooms are important for the comfort of employees and visitors, but can also require a lot of time and resources to keep clean, stocked, and maintained. The novel coronavirus has made an enormous impact on how people react when confronted with the possibility of infection, and this has caused many to view public restrooms with suspicion. As a place that potentially hundreds of people may visit daily, touching everything from door handles, to counter spaces, to toilet handles, public restrooms represent a significant possible source of surface-transmitted infection. Here are some ways that facility and property managers can make their restroom areas as safe, clean, and reassuring as possible:

1. Train employees to avoid cross-contamination and use cleaning tools appropriately.

There are a lot of disinfectants that are approved for eliminating the novel coronavirus on surfaces, but they only work as long as users are able to follow instructions. Some need to be applied on surfaces and allowed to work for ten minutes, and can't do their job if a maintenance worker is in too much of a rush to give them time. Make sure staff members understand the importance of following usage instructions to the letter, cleaning frequently, and taking steps to avoid cross-contamination. Some facilities achieve the latter by using color-coded reusable cleaning rags, saving one color for handles, another for windows, another for toilets and urinals, and another for surfaces like tables and counters.

2. Take advantage of low traffic times.

Every facility has peak usage hours, and times when things slow down a bit. Document when restrooms are likely to see few visitors, then use that time to schedule deep cleanings. Restrooms should receive regular disinfection at least once a day, in addition to regular deep cleaning to tackle spaces that may have been missed, hard-to-reach areas, or spots that get a lot of traffic.

3. Post signage.

Hand sanitizer is great in a pinch, but hand washing is more effective -- as long as it's done properly. Posting a helpful reminder of proper hand washing techniques can increase handwashing by up to 40%, according to The Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. Signs can also help restrict the maximum occupancy of restrooms, making it easier to socially distance. Signs don't just let employees and guests know what to do, they show that you take their health seriously and are working to protect them.

4. Enforce social distancing.

Placing tape or plastic bags over urinals, or even physically locking bathroom stalls, can help users maintain social distancing. With fewer fixtures to choose from, guests will be forced to use ones that aren't adjacent to each other, reducing the risk of person-to-person coronavirus transmission. This also reduces the number of fixtures that need attention from employees, saving time, and helping to streamline routine cleaning and disinfection.

5. Provide hand sanitizing stations near exits.

After a guest has washed their hands, they may still need to touch the sink, hand dryer, paper towel dispenser, or door handle before leaving. Providing a space for them to use hand sanitizer afterward can help keep them from picking up pathogens from these surfaces, and either getting sick or carrying them to another surface. Roughly 65% of people use paper towels to avoid touching these surfaces, so providing a trash can for them to dispose of used towels can help keep things neat.

6. Upgrade to touchless fixtures.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all the cleaning and disinfecting in the world can only do so much. Since it's not feasible to thoroughly sanitize a restroom after each visitor, especially during peak usage times, touchless fixtures can offer guests a way to do what they need to do, while coming into contact with as few surfaces as possible. Hands-free washrooms are safer for guests and require fewer resources to sanitize.

7. Keep doors open.

While having touchless sinks, hand dryers, and toilets is great, there's still one spot that few guests can avoid touching: the door. Since touchless doors aren't a practical solution here, the next best thing is to keep them propped open. This keeps guests from having to touch the door with their hands to enter or exit, and allows them to gauge how many people are inside. This eliminates another key touchpoint and lets guests follow occupancy limits and socially distance more effectively.

Restrooms are a necessary evil. They require a lot of time and energy to keep clean and stocked, and, in a post-pandemic world, properly disinfected. Few guests look forward to visiting a public restroom, especially now. With these tips, facility and property managers can help improve their disinfection, protect their guests and employees, and ensure that their restrooms are as safe, clean, and welcoming as possible.

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Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

As Long Island begins the process of reopening, it's important to have a solid plan in place -- not just at the federal, state, and local levels, but on an individual level. Before they attempt to reopen, facility managers should have their ducks in a row to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Here's what we know about the phased reopening process (and what we don't):

What We Know

New York is planning to reopen in stages. Right now, Phase 1 of the reopening plan consists of manufacturing, construction, wholesale facilities, certain retail establishments with curbside pickup, landscape and gardening companies, low-risk outdoor recreation, and drive-in movies. This phase is expected to last about two weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has laid out seven criteria that areas need to meet in order to qualify for Phase 1 of the reopening plan. This is designed to keep tabs on the state's ability to contain existing outbreaks, as well as to weather a possible second wave of infections. The criteria are:

  • A 14-day long sustained decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations (averaged over three days) due to COVID-19.
  • A 14-day long decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths or under five new deaths (averaged over three days).
  • Fewer than two new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.
  • 30% or more of a region's hospital beds must be available.
  • 30% or more of a region's ICU beds must be available.
  • The capacity to conduct at least 30 COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents monthly.
  • Must have at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, depending on the region's infection rate.

As of two weeks ago, Nassau and Suffolk county still fell short of these metrics. Right now, the number of hospital deaths has not been steadily declining, and there are still too many new hospitalizations for the areas to qualify. However, while Long Island still misses the mark, it's just barely -- the region saw an average of 3.06 new hospitalizations. According to the most recent data, Long Island also saw six days of declining hospital deaths with an average of 13 hospital deaths per day across the last three days.

As of this writing, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to use technology and limit train capacity in order to safely bring passengers back to the Long Island Rail Road, and Long Beach plans to reopen its boardwalk to city residents only. After evaluating the effects of Phase 1 comes Phase 2, at which point more businesses, including real estate firms, more retailers, and professional services, may reopen. Phase 3 allows bars, hotels, and restaurants to reopen. Lastly, during Phase 4, schools and entertainment venues (like cinemas and theaters) can resume operations.

What We Don't Know

It's important to highlight that the phased reopening process is designed to gather data just as much as it is to protect the public. While it relies on seven criteria that indicate a favorable turn in the spread of the virus, it's also designed with an uncertain future in mind. That means that there's still a lot that we don't know yet. It's anticipated that areas with lower population density, like upstate New York, are going to reopen first. Lower New York, which has a much higher population density, is expected to take longer. While the criteria put forth gives a solid idea of what these regions need to achieve before they can open, there's really no timeline.

Reopening depends entirely on its ability to curb infections and have enough medical capacity to deal with the emergence of new ones. This is going to take however long it takes, and can't be rushed. The original plan to shut down New York expired on May 15th, but many areas aren't ready to open just yet. As a result, the plan has been extended to the 28th. Right now, data on Long Island's hospitalizations and hospital deaths is still being gathered and evaluated. A fairly recent upswing in cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization set the region back, so, despite the current decline, Long Island officials are not yet sure when the region can enter Phase 1.

Where to Go for Help

Here are some resources for facility managers looking for more detailed information for their specific regions: The Nassau County Department of Health Phone: 516-227-9500 The Suffolk County Department of Health Services Phone: 631-854-0000 The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (for Kings and Queens county) Phone: 347-396-4100 The NYC COVID-19 Response Map Coronavirus Hotline: 888-364-3065 With experts predicting a resurgence of COVID-19, reopening needs to proceed with an abundance of caution. While Long Island hasn't quite met all of the criteria for entering Phase 1 of New York's reopening plan, it's getting close. Facility managers should be ready to proceed according to the plan, with risk management strategies in place to deal with the potential for new infections.

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5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

As COVID-19 cases begin to plateau in some areas, states have begun to test out reopening strategies. This has left a lot of business owners wondering if what they're doing is enough to keep them, their clients, and their employees safe. If you manage a facility, you're likely in the same boat. Here are 5 steps you can take to make sure that your reopening goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

1. Confirm your plans with your local government, legal team, or any other relevant authorities.

Make sure your company is following the most current guidelines by confirming your intent to reopen with your local government. In some cases, your building may require a new certificate of occupancy -- address this first, so you don't have to scramble to fix any legal red tape later on.

Once you've created a re-opening plan, it may need approval from other departments in your company. Risk and audit teams, legal teams, security, and human resources should all be kept apprised of any plans to reopen, new policies, or updates to existing ones. They can help ensure that everything is structured appropriately, so you won't be held liable for any missteps in the reopening process.

2. Perform a deep clean, and reassess current cleaning procedures and cleanliness standards.

No matter how clean a place might have been before shuttering, dust inevitably begins to settle and pests might even try to move in. Before reopening, it's imperative that facilities conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning, followed by a long look at their current cleaning procedures. Cleaning products should be swapped out for those that contain EPA-approved disinfectants that are effective against the novel coronavirus, cleanliness standards should meet CDC guidelines, and facility managers should consider including extra measures (like UV sanitizers) in their protocols.

This is also a good time to double-check your supply chain. Are you able to get all of the supplies you need? Are any of your suppliers in hotspots that might threaten product availability? Have backup plans in place in case you aren't able to source necessary items from your current suppliers, so you aren't left having to go without and putting your workers and guests at risk.

3. Create tighter social distancing policies.

Should you require employees to have their temperatures checked before entering the building? Will you require visitors to wear masks? Will you need to move furniture in order to accommodate six feet of social distancing? Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to create, update, or change your business' social distancing policies. If your policy requires masks and gloves, make sure that employees know how to wear, clean, and dispose of their protective gear properly.

Infrared thermometer guns can check employees' and visitors' temperatures in seconds, and sanitizer stations can offer hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves, and even disposable masks if needed. Look for touch-free sanitizer dispensers, so guests don't have to come in contact with a potentially contaminated surface. At a time when many people feel squeamish about touching things, this will help make it easier for visitors to stay in compliance with hand sanitizing guidelines.

4. Have a plan in place if something goes wrong.

The novel coronavirus is tricky -- with the length of its incubation period and the number of asymptomatic carriers, it can be very difficult to tell who's carrying a threat and who isn't. Even the best-prepared facility might experience a case of COVID-19. Create a plan to address this before it happens. Make sure employees know how the virus is spread, understand the signs and symptoms, and have adequate sick leave. Check-in with your employees frequently, so you can address any concerns and adjust your policies and protocols as needed.

Right now, reopening is still very experimental, and there's a significant chance that businesses may need to temporarily close again. Create or confirm procedures that will allow you to close quickly if you need to. Set up building shutdown policies with your security department.

5. Increase visibility.

Chances are, your employees, tenants, and guests have some reservations about reopening. This is natural. Help put them at ease by increasing the visibility of your reopening procedures. Place signs reminding people of social distancing policies and the proper way to wash hands, apply hand sanitizer and use masks and gloves. Have workers clean while visitors are present to put guests' minds at ease. Send a letter to the building's occupants to let them know all of the steps you're taking to protect them.

While staying closed and unable to earn an income is frightening to employers and employees alike, reopening is very intimidating, too. Having a comprehensive, legally sound reopening procedure can go a long way to allaying these fears. Tighten cleanliness standards, update cleaning guidelines, put social distancing policies in place, and make sure employees and visitors alike know what's expected of them, and you'll be on the road to reopening.

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Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Social distancing is the most effective way to slow, and hopefully eventually stop, the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, as more social distancing policies are put in place, facilities are closing for weeks at a time.

There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with closing a facility. Here are a few tips to help you handle safely closing your facility, and staying productive during its downtime:

1. Perform risk assessments beforehand

If your facility is subject to the EPA's rules for facility closures, you will need to perform a risk assessment to determine what, if any, issues may come into play. You will also need to find ways to contain or dispose of any hazardous waste, and ensure that there is a strategy in place to keep that waste safely contained. This is primarily a consideration for businesses that are subject to closure with waste in place, or "closure as a landfill," but a risk assessment is a good idea for anyone getting ready to close up for an extended period of time.

2. Work on preventing burglary or vandalism

Make sure your building's cameras, security systems, and backup power supplies are in good working order. If you can, board up windows and doors to prevent vandalism. Ensure that any and all cash is removed, if applicable, leaving drawers open and visibly empty. Remove or secure any items that might attract an opportunistic theft. Thieves may take this chance to try to break in and steal any equipment that's been left behind during the closure, so try to stay one step ahead, keep your security airtight, and reduce your facility's appeal to burglars.

3. Take care of perishable items

If your facility includes a food prep area, discuss proper disposal methods with your cooks or food service director. Contact local food pantries or other charitable efforts and see if they would be willing to accept donations of any unused food. This can help keep it from going to waste and help people struggling with food insecurity at the same time. If you can, cancel or reduce any regularly scheduled deliveries of perishable items.

4. Perform a good, thorough deep clean

Even if your facility isn't closed yet, the dramatic slowdowns many businesses are seeing makes this a great time to get a jump on spring maintenance. If you have any maintenance projects that you've had to put off, now is also the time to get working. Follow the EPA's guidelines on virucidal cleaners, and give the whole facility a deep clean and sanitization -- pay extra attention to surfaces, doorknobs, and other areas that are the most at risk of droplet contamination.

5. Double-check HVAC systems

Deep cleaning and maintenance can increase the indoor air pollution levels of a building, especially if you need to resort to heavy-duty cleaning agents. A good HVAC system should be able to return your facility to its baseline within twenty-four hours. Make sure your facility's HVAC system has new (or clean) filters, no leaking ducts, and isn't waiting on any deferred maintenance. The last thing you'll want to deal with after re-opening is increased indoor air pollution and HVAC maintenance.

6. Examine your automated tasks

Chances are, the automated parts of your facility were set up with its occupants' schedules in mind. If they aren't going to be there, you may end up with automated tasks going on and off for no reason, wasting power and inventory. Double-check your facility's automated tasks with a view to adjusting them to account for the closure. You may want to reduce their frequency or stop them completely for the time being.

7. Communicate with your tenants

While you're performing all of this work behind the scenes, your occupants are busy with their own responses to the pandemic. Make sure to stay in touch, let them know what you're doing to make sure your facility is kept clean and safe, and keep them abreast of any changes you'll be making to the decor or functionality. This will help boost their confidence in your facility, and allow them to voice any concerns or suggestions that they may have.

When you manage the day-to-day operations that keep a facility running, it's hard to see it close -- even when that closure is necessary and appropriate. These tips can help ensure that your facility stays clean, safe, and in good working order, no matter how long you need to keep the doors closed.

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6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

The cost of designing and building a facility is only part of the total picture. Ongoing expenses will meet and eventually eclipse even the priciest buildings. When you add on increased regulatory requirements and the fact that many contracts are won based on price, it's easy to see why it's important to keep those ongoing costs from creeping up. Here are 6 tips for doing just that:

1. Don't put off maintenance

At times, it might be tempting to put off costly repairs, but this ends up being a bit of a false economy in the long run. Maintenance needs don't just go away, and often turn into bigger, more expensive problems the longer you wait. Use a good facility management program to help come up with a planned preventative maintenance program, and avoid unnecessary emergency repair costs. This will help you spot cyclical trends in maintenance needs, making it much easier to stay on top of things.

If you run into a situation where it's absolutely necessary to postpone some needed maintenance, make a plan to address it as soon as possible. Ending up with a backlog will just make things more expensive and complicated.

2. Look at labor costs

Labor contains a lot of hidden expenses, many of which are completely unnecessary. The easiest way to reduce labor costs is to reduce the number of workers on the payroll, but that doesn't make it the best way. High employee turnover is expensive in the long run. If some aspects of maintenance pose a significant risk to employees, outsource it to professionals. Train employees well to avoid repeating maintenance tasks. Use mobile apps to coordinate activities in a smoother, more efficient manner. A less risky work environment, good training, and solid communication make for happier employees, reducing expensive turnover and limiting the number of tasks that need to be done over.

3. Reduce service calls

Having to call a technician out to repair something can be very pricey, especially when it's for a problem that could've been fixed during an earlier call. As with preventative maintenance, don't ignore suggestions or advice from service technicians. They can provide valuable input for maintaining and repairing crucial facility systems. A facility management program can also help reduce the risk of neglecting needed service calls, allowing managers to stick to a schedule and avoid costly emergency repairs.

4. Know where the facility's assets are

"Assets" is a broad category -- it can be anything from tablets to large machinery. All of these things have value, and it gets expensive when they disappear. Often, this is purely accidental. Devices can get misplaced or damaged, a former employee might have forgotten to return a work phone, or a cluttered storage closet could hold a veritable gold mine of misplaced tech. Asset tracking software can help keep track of everything, know when it needs to be upgraded or maintained, and even help you plan for its eventual replacement.

5. Use space efficiently

Poor space utilization is a hidden money sink. It can be hard to visualize when you're just looking at a room, but every empty area costs just as much money to heat, cool, and power as the ones in use. The trouble is, good space utilization is a very delicate balance. Leave too much space unused, and all of those square feet are essentially dead weight. Use too much, and crowded conditions can become unpleasant (and even unsafe) for employees, driving down productivity. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to help make it a little easier. Space management software can help efficiently plan layouts for maximum productivity and to minimize wasted space.

6. Use time efficiently

Like space utilization, good time management is a balance. Non-value-added time is a significant portion of any maintenance or repair order -- for every ten minutes of actual repair time, there might be half an hour of time spent on tasks that don't actually add value. Tracking down the area in need of maintenance, figuring out the issue, transporting materials to the site, and cleaning up don't really add anything to the task itself, they're just necessary evils. Fortunately, there's one simple way to cut down on non-value-added time: organization. Organizing documents like blueprints, warranties, and manuals in one place can help trim down the amount of time spent researching maintenance and repair problems.

Facilities are expensive to maintain, but that doesn't mean that there isn't space to cut ongoing costs. By performing preventative maintenance, reducing employee turnover, reducing service calls, tracking assets, utilizing space efficiently, and organizing needed repair information can make it much easier for employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Happy, efficient employees and an efficient, organized workplace are the keys to controlling facility management costs.

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7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

Reducing your building's environmental impact doesn't just make sense from a sustainability standpoint -- it makes good economic sense, too. While operating an ecologically-friendly facility might involve an initial investment, it generally pays for itself in terms of energy and material savings.

The Truth About Building Emissions

When people talk about carbon emissions and air pollution, they usually mention it in terms of "cars on the road." For example, if an average family skipped eating meat and dairy for one day a week, it would be roughly equivalent to taking their car off of the road for five weeks. Even though cars and transportation pollution are the standards when it comes to visualizing the environmental impact of various actions, buildings actually contribute more pollution than vehicles do. Any time a building uses a device that relies on combustion, like an oil- or gas-powered furnace, boiler, or stove, it emits carbon dioxide and monoxide. Electricity consumption may also contribute to carbon emissions if the power source is a fossil fuel. All told, buildings contribute up to 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Help the Environment -- and Your Bottom Line

In most cases, carbon emissions represent waste, and waste can get expensive. Taking steps to make buildings more energy-efficient means that fewer fossil fuels are consumed to keep them heated, cooled, and powered. Lower fossil fuel consumption means a lower power bill. That's even before considering the numerous subsidies and other incentives for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint -- power and fuel companies often offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The Investment Tax Credit also allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal tax burden. Reducing a facility's carbon emissions may require an initial investment, but incentives exist to help ease the transition.

The Best Ways to Reduce a Building's Carbon Footprint

There are a lot of strategies for making a facility more environmentally-friendly, some of which are more practical than others. Here are the top seven:

1. Calculate your footprint. Before you can come up with an emission reduction strategy, you need to know what you're emitting. There are tons of online calculators that will help you estimate what environmental impact your facility has, and you can contact your electricity and fuel providers to see what sources your heating and power come from. This will allow you to figure out where it's feasible to cut back.

2. Don't over-commit. You don't have to go carbon-neutral right from the outset, and trying to do so might cause more problems than it solves. It's better to make tangible strides toward reduced emissions, rather than make plans to go carbon-neutral and not follow through.

3. Handle the HVAC system. Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are responsible for up to 40% of building emissions, so it makes sense to attack the largest source first. Switch to energy-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Program them to run at certain times a day -- for example, don't run air conditioning during the coolest part of the day, and use sensors to determine when ventilation is needed.

4. Examine your water usage. Water also contributes significantly to carbon emissions. All of the water a building uses needs to first be treated, pumped, and then heated before coming out of the tap, and all of that requires energy. Switching to efficient fixtures that prevent leaks, like low-flow toilets, can reduce water wastage. Installing rainwater harvesting and greywater systems can dramatically reduce water usage for landscaping. Using native landscaping plants or xeriscaping can further reduce water wastage.

5. Generate your own energy. Solar panels are not only subsidized with a tax credit, but they can also lower energy bills by allowing a facility to reduce its dependence on external power. There are only so many ways to reduce a building's power usage; as long as it relies on power from a carbon-emitting source, it will still result in indirect carbon emissions. Setting up on-site power generation using renewable sources helps save money on the electric bill, and reduces a facility's carbon footprint.

6. Change your lighting. Lighting requires a significant amount of power. Switch to energy-efficient LEDs, and maximize your facility's use of natural light during daylight hours. Window films can help you take advantage of sunlight, without worrying about gaining too much heat in summer.

7. Don't skimp on maintenance. Clogged filters, malfunctioning fans, and leaking pipes can make the most energy-efficient appliances be wasteful. Keep on top of regular maintenance to make sure your building stays at peak efficiency. You'll save money on water and fuel, and be able to avoid costly repairs from neglected problems, too.

Reducing a facility's carbon footprint doesn't have to be difficult or arduous. Estimate where you can cut back, use energy- and water-efficient appliances, generate your own power when it's feasible, and keep on top of regular maintenance. You'll help reduce your building's bills and help the environment at the same time.

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7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are pretty much the bane of any facility manager. There are few things worse than not having any water, repairing a burst pipe, and cleaning up the water damage afterward. The good news is, this kind of disaster is usually preventable, as long as you take a few steps to avoid it.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes freeze when stationary water inside them is subjected to very cold temperatures. Since water expands when frozen, this creates a lot of pressure inside of the pipe, which may then burst. When temperatures drop to at least 20°F and remain so for six or more hours, there's a danger of pipes freezing. If the pipes are poorly insulated, freezing may occur in as little as 3-4 hours. This can happen in areas of a building that may not be easily seen or accessed frequently, like crawl spaces, closets, storage areas, lofts, or roof spaces.

What are the dangers of frozen pipes?

The biggest danger of a frozen pipe is the lack of access to water. If a pipe freezes in an apartment building, for example, tenants won't be able to bathe, wash dishes, or use the restroom. Even if a frozen pipe just causes a hairline crack instead of bursting, this can result in a leak that encourages the growth of black mold. Leaking water can also cause water damage to floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other fixtures. If water seeps into a light fixture or electrical socket, it may even cause a fire.

How can you prevent frozen pipes?

There are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing:

  1. Keep water running. Moving water won't stay in contact with cold temperatures long enough to freeze. Even just allowing taps to trickle is enough.
  2. Thoroughly insulate pipes that run through unheated spaces or exterior walls. These are the most in danger of freezing.
  3. If there are any pipes that won't be in use during winter, drain them. Pipes only burst when water expands as it freezes. They'll be safe, as long as they're dry.
  4. Keep interior spaces at least 40°F.
  5. If a building has anti-freeze sprinkler systems, ensure that there is a proper concentration of antifreeze in the lines.
  6. Where possible, use UL-listed electric heat tracing products to keep pipes warm. These use an electrical current to provide heat to pipes when temperatures drop too low.
  7. Open the doors to any enclosed spaces with pipes running through them. This allows warm interior air to mix with the cold air in the space, raising the temperature.

What should you do if a pipe freezes?

If you notice that a pipe has frozen, there are a couple of strategies to try.

First, turn off the water to the frozen area to keep it from leaking more than necessary. Next, use a hot towel, heating mat, or space heater to warm the pipe, or wrap it with thermostatically-controlled heat tape. After that, use a fan to direct warm air into the room to raise the ambient temperature above the freezing point. Lastly, if you don't have any leaks, open faucets to a trickle to keep water moving when you turn it back on. If you do, call a plumber to have them repaired before restoring the water flow. Following these steps should help unfreeze pipes and keep them from freezing again.

What should you do if a pipe bursts?

If a pipe bursts, you'll need to act quickly to minimize the damage to everything in its vicinity.

First, shut the water off. You'll have to deal with a flood as it is, so cutting off the water supply is the most important step. After that, contact a plumber to replace the burst section of the pipe. While you wait for the pipe to be replaced, remove as much water as possible by whatever means necessary -- siphons, pumps, buckets, mops, or a wet-dry shop vacuum.

Afterward, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as much as possible. The walls and flooring will likely have absorbed a lot of water -- even hard materials, like tile, can allow it to seep in through tiny cracks and spaces. This increased moisture can encourage the growth of mold if it isn't dried quickly and completely.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a headache, but there are ways to keep them from seriously damaging a building or inconveniencing its occupants. Make sure pipes are thoroughly insulated or kept warm, act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, and have a strategy in place for quickly dealing with bursts and leaks. You'll be able to keep the building safe and your clients happy all winter long.

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