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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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The Impact of COVID-19 on the Long Island Commercial Real Estate Market

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Long Island Commercial Real Estate Market

Business slowing and shutdowns due to COVID-19 are having an impact all the way up the chain, from employees losing their jobs, to business owners closing down permanently, to real estate owners losing rent payments. In one survey, the majority of owners of retail space received rent from less than half of their tenants. On Long Island, this has led to a seller's market -- as businesses abandon high-cost properties elsewhere, many of them are looking to call LI home.

An April Bust

Early in the pandemic, the picture was less rosy. The Association for a Better Long Island and the Long Island Builders Institute surveyed their members and found that all of the respondents in the eastern suburbs of New York City experienced a loss of income in 2020's second quarter, and anticipated more losses for the rest of the year. At the time, more than half of respondents expected to experience losses over 20%, and 12% predicted losses over 50%. The majority anticipated that it would take at least a year for economic recovery, with a third expecting up to a five year recovery period.

Retail property owners, in particular, felt the pinch -- some expected nonpayment rates of as much as 85% -- but nearly half of the industrial property owners were still able to collect close to what they did pre-pandemic. Landlords faced the prospect of either floating non-paying tenants for an unpredictable amount of time or having unused space sitting in their inventory. Unfortunately, many of them didn't expect to have many choices in the matter -- 20% expected up to half of their tenants to go out of business and have to vacate. With the average survey respondent representing 1.57 million square feet of leased space, that's a lot of empty units.

With such a grim outlook in April, what changed? Why is Long Island's real estate market looking up now?

A July Boom

Long before the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., everyone from e-commerce entities to hospitals was buying up commercial real estate across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. With the COVID crisis, this trend has only accelerated.

Part of it is spurred by New York City's experience sheltering in place. Many families -- including some high-profile lifestyle influencers -- chose to leave the city and hunker down elsewhere. Others found that a city apartment was less than ideal for long periods of isolation. Still, others anticipate that working from home will continue far into the future, and, if they can work from home, why not do it in a more spacious area? While these factors are driving the shift from city dwelling to suburban dwelling, that shift is also going to have an impact on commercial real estate. With more people seeking less dense living arrangements, it means that there will need to be more hospitals, grocery stores, and offices in suburban areas to serve them.

The pandemic also highlighted the need for more hospital space, with impromptu care centers popping up in everything from convention centers to parks. George J. Kimmerle, head of the Kimmerle Group design firm, expects the number of suburban outposts for major city hospitals to double in the next few years -- including urgent care centers capable of handling all but the most intensive care cases.

Business owners may also be anticipating the cost of changes to floor plans and office design intended to reduce the spread of disease. As employees return to work, workers and employers alike have concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks and business shutdowns, and managers are scrambling to address them. While new construction would be ideal, retrofitting existing buildings with things like touchless work environments and indoor-outdoor spaces is much cheaper and less time-consuming. Given the amount of empty commercial space available on Long Island, coupled with its lower cost relative to New York City, it just makes sense.

An Uncertain Future

While the picture is overall optimistic for the Long Island commercial real estate market, some experts doubt that this future is guaranteed. Architect Mark Stumer, of Mojo Stumer, expects that, while residential real estate will continue to grow, the commercial market will experience a significant drop-off. The increase in employees working from home means that employers are likely to downsize their space as a cost-cutting measure, and real estate owners are likely to let them do it in order to avoid losing tenants. While some businesses may choose to either leave the city or expand onto Long Island, others may downsize and stay right where they are.

There has been much discussion of the way that the novel coronavirus has revealed issues with the way we live, work, and shop, from a shortage of ICU beds, to a lack of flexible teleworking accommodations for many employees, to the difficulty of effectively social distancing in factories. Real estate is only one of the areas impacted by this, but it's a major one. As hospitals seek to increase their reach, businesses downsize and leave the city, and urban residents look for greener pastures, COVID-19 has produced a major shift in what people want from their residential and commercial real estate.

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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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COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

COVID-19 Is Pushing Evolution of Smart Building Technology

From social safety nets to building technology, COVID-19 has forced us to notice a lot of the failings of things we take for granted. Smart building technology needs to expand and improve in order to help keep tenants and residents safe and comfortable in a post-pandemic society. Here are some of the ways that smart technology and tech policies can grow to fill these newly-uncovered needs:

Supply Chains and Cybersecurity

One of the biggest challenges that facility managers faced during the initial wave of COVID-19 was maintaining supply chains. With businesses closing left and right to protect their employees and customers, the need for agile supply lines came to the forefront. Smart building technology helps simplify inventory and ordering, streamlining the supply process. Unfortunately, as much as smart buildings and the Internet of Things has helped in this area, they've shown one glaring weakness: security.

Smart building technology makes buildings more efficient, improves physical security, and helps visitors and tenants socially distance from workers. At the same time, the interconnection that this technology relies on makes it a ripe target for hackers. The benefits outweigh the risks, but the future of smart building technology must include comprehensive cybersecurity strategies.

At-home Risk Management

Teleworking comes with unique cybersecurity challenges, too. Information security is no longer confined to office spaces -- it encompasses everywhere that employees might work. The Internet of Things comes with risks at home, from hackable security systems to internet-enabled refrigerators. This underlines the need for robust cybersecurity, not only from a technology standpoint but also from a policy and training standpoint. In the future, telework is likely to reshape the way people interact with smart building technology. Employees must be prepared to exercise good information security as a matter of course, but also exercise caution when using IoT-enabled objects in their homes, hotels, or airports.

Smart Disinfection

As people begin to return to work, anxieties run high. The more people gather in large numbers, the more likely they are to unwittingly transmit the novel coronavirus to someone. Building scientists are working to develop ways to incorporate disinfection systems into existing technology. Igor, a smart building's innovator, has developed a Power-over-Ethernet method of disinfecting using UV-C light. The PoE connectivity allows this UV-C system to be used in conjunction with other sanitizing methods, including air filters and gas vaporizers. Some sanitizers pose a health risk to humans, but occupancy sensors, motion detectors, and smart locks allow them to be safely automated.

Distributed Energy Systems and Disaster Preparedness

One of the major deficiencies exposed by COVID-19 was the lack of enough hospital beds to treat all of the afflicted patients. Emergency hospitals popped up left and right but were restricted by the availability of a stable power source. Distributed energy systems might provide an answer hereby generating and storing electricity near the locations where it will be used.

In addition to emergency hospitals, rapidly-deployable distributed energy systems could be set up to restore power to essential structures in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. Under normal conditions, these decentralized, controllable energy systems offer users a more robust, resilient way to get electricity, often without relying on the local energy grid. Areas with aging power infrastructure stand to benefit, too -- distributed systems can help take some of the load off of the grid during peak times, reducing the likelihood of brown or blackouts.

Social Distancing and Emissions

Telework helps reduce automotive and office building emissions by letting people stay home, but this comes with an increase in residential emissions. 74% of financial officers surveyed in March of 2020 stated that they expected a full 5% of their employees to work from home on a permanent basis. As more companies discover the benefits of allowing their employees to telecommute -- including reduced operating expenses -- this pattern may continue even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. This can create challenges for owners of multi-tenant buildings.

Property technology, including artificial intelligence, can help reduce building operating costs by as much as half. These same technologies can be used to regulate indoor environments, keeping tenants comfortable, and improving their productivity. Sensors can monitor temperature, air quality, and even humidity, then upload these measurements to the cloud. From there, automated building hardware can adjust these attributes for optimal tenant health and productivity. Keeping carbon dioxide levels below 1000ppm, for example, can offset increased CO2 emissions from teleworkers, and help with memory, mood, and overall health.

As society learns to cope with all of the changes that came with COVID-19, building technology is working to keep up. With stronger cybersecurity, comprehensive disinfection strategies, distributed power systems, and improved residential property technology, smart buildings can help keep residents, guests, and employees safe, healthy, and productive.

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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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How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

Most pathogens that infect humans or animals have a pretty narrow range of tolerance. Change the pH, moisture level, or amount of light in their environment, and they either die or can't reproduce. While there's a limit to how we can exploit this within the human body, disinfecting surfaces and objects is a lot less complicated. For managers looking to keep their facilities clean and sanitary, that's where ultraviolet light comes in.

How UV Light Kills Pathogens

Ultraviolet germicidal radiation kills pathogens using short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC). Though viruses aren't technically alive and therefore can't actually be killed, UVC damages their nucleic acids, inactivating them. This method can be used to effectively disinfect water, air, and even hard or soft surfaces.

The Drawbacks of UVC Disinfection

Anything that kills pathogens can also harm human or animal cells, so it's very important to follow certain safety considerations. UVC light should only be used in unoccupied rooms since it can damage eyes and skin. It also doesn't have a residual effect and can take a long time for maximum effectiveness -- sometimes an hour or more depending on the size of the room. This can make using UVC a challenge, but some companies are working on technology to make it faster, safer, and more convenient.

Far-UVC and Upper-room Devices

Since the main problem with UVC is that it can't be used in occupied spaces, researchers at Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research put forth the idea that far-UVC might be a safer option. Since far-UVC theoretically can't penetrate the skin, it should be able to kill or inactivate pathogens without causing harm to multicellular organisms. Several companies are working on prototyping far-UVC sanitizers, but FDA approval of this technology is still pending.

One alternative is upper-room ultraviolet disinfection. This uses UVC lighting placed seven feet above the floor, so it doesn't come in contact with the room's occupants. As the light kills viruses and bacteria in the air above, fans or other ventilation equipment mixes this cleaned air with contaminated air from below. This helps the light decrease the room's pathogen load. Since it still uses conventional UVC lighting, the fixtures must be turned off if anyone has to work near the ceiling in order to prevent cell damage.

Portable UV Devices

For most facilities that don't require clean room-levels of sanitation, there are portable devices on the market for disinfecting everything from cellphones, to rooms. Portable UV wands direct UV lighting down toward a surface, so they can be waved over desks, chairs, phones, anything else without too many nooks and crannies. These devices take a few seconds of exposure in order to be effective, so it's important to move them very slowly for the best results. It's also important for users to avoid looking directly at the light or pointing it at other people.

There are also UV lamps and bulbs that can disinfect entire rooms. Most of these are fixtures that simply need to be set up in a space, plugged in, and left alone. In about forty-five minutes to an hour, the pathogen load of the room will have significantly decreased. UV bulbs work much the same way but can be screwed into any conventional light fixture. Even if the light is unable to reach every corner or shadowed spot in a space, natural air movement will help ensure that the pathogen load is reduced as sanitized air mixes with contaminated air. As with other room-sized UV devices, these should only ever be used in unoccupied areas.

UV sterilizer boxes are similar to portable UV wands but in a container. Small items, like phones, pens, glasses, or other handheld objects can be placed inside and allowed to disinfect, without any potential for harm to anyone in the room. The box completely contains the light, so there's no danger of cellular damage outside.

The LightStrike Robot

Recently, the San Antonio-based robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services managed to prove that their Lightstrike Robot can sterilize a room contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The robot works by using xenon lamps that create bursts of intense light at brief intervals. To test it, researchers placed it in a lab where several surfaces had been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. They allowed the robot to run at one, two, and five-minute intervals, testing the remaining amount of the virus after each. The results showed that it took the LightStrike robot about two minutes to inactivate 99.99% of the virus on both hard and soft surfaces. At the moment, the LightStrike robot costs about $100,000 to buy, but the company also provides leasing options.

Ultraviolet lighting can take care of bacteria and viruses -- even the virus that causes COVID-19 -- by damaging their nucleic acids. With a good ultraviolet device and some basic safety considerations, facility managers can take advantage of this to keep their businesses clean and employees and clients safe and happy.

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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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COVID-19 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

COVID-10 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

Our understanding of COVID-19 shifts from day to day as doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of this novel virus. Keeping a facility up and running poses enough challenges on an average day as it is, so it is understandable that these circumstances have thrown facility managers for a loop. Here are some resources for Long Island facility managers, property managers, and business owners to help you keep your facilities running safely and smoothly during the pandemic:

OSHA's “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a 32-page guide that explains how an outbreak of COVID-19 could impact business and offers information on symptoms and transmission. It also outlines steps employers can take to minimize the danger to their workers, depending on their level of exposure risk (low, medium, or high), with special instructions for workers traveling abroad.

OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic

The COVID-19 page on the United States Department of Labor website explains how the virus spreads, and how OSHA standards apply when it comes to protecting employees from the virus. It provides tips for employers and employees alike, with specific guidance for employees of certain industries. This is a must-read for managers of healthcare or deathcare facilities, laboratories, or sanitation facilities.

The CDC's "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)"

This COVID-19 guide by the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing, designed for non-healthcare settings. It explains how to reduce the risk of transmission between employees, maintain healthy business operations, and keep up a healthy work environment.

The CDC's Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist

Long-term care and residential facilities often house the people most vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. This pandemic planning checklist highlights important areas for pandemic preparedness and response planning, geared specifically to the challenges these facilities face.

The WHO's "Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19"

The World Health Organization has also released a COVID-19 guide for businesses. It outlines ways to prevent the spread of the virus, managing risks in group settings like meetings, managing risks during travel, and preparing your facility for a local outbreak.

The IFMA's Pandemic Preparedness Manual

The International Facility Management Association's Pandemic Preparedness Manual covers instructions for maintaining business continuity, planning checklists, response checklists, and instructions for controlling and mitigating the spread of a viral outbreak. Though the information is geared toward avian influenza, much of it is applicable to other viruses.

New York State Department of Health

The NYS Department of Health COVID-19 website explains which businesses are experiencing mandatory closures, and links to guidance for businesses considered essential services. This is intended to help employers determine if they meet the criteria for an essential business, and follow the necessary steps to obtain the designation.

COVID-19 Resources within Nassau County

Nassau County has a dedicated coronavirus hotline at (516) 227-9570. The Nassau County COVID-19 website provides helpful infographics with instructions for applying for aid, important links and numbers for Nassau-area individuals and businesses, and simple instructions for limiting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Resources within Suffolk County

Suffolk County also has a COVID-19 resources portal, with the most up-to-date news on cases within the county, information from the CDC, and links to guidance for individuals who may have come in contact with a carrier.

The ISSA's "Coronavirus: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry"

The International Sanitary Supply Association offers webinars by the Global BioRisk Advisory Council, tip sheets, and information geared toward those employers that work within the cleaning industry.

The EPA’s List of Anti-COVID-19 Disinfectants

Not all cleaners are effective against viruses, COVID-19 included. When purchasing a disinfectant to combat a specific disease-causing agent, it's important to cross-reference it with the products on the EPA's recognized anti-COVID disinfectants list. This list gives the registration numbers, product names, manufacturers, and formulation types of all of the currently recognized anti-COVID disinfectants.

Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Facility Manager Whitepaper

This Dealing With Coronavirus Whitepaper is written for facility managers, to offer guidance on how to prevent, contain, and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. It covers reducing the number of workers, increasing the distance between workers, disinfection strategies, and keeping everyone in the loop.

This novel coronavirus is presenting challenges that are testing the limits of everyone's disaster preparedness plans. If you are a facility manager in New York state, these resources can help you keep your employees, clients, and guests as safe and healthy as possible.

Work At Home Checklist For Employers

This Work At Home Checklist is a handy reference for employers working to maintain business continuity by having employees telework.

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