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Pest Management Solutions for Facility Managers

The cleanliness and integrity of your facility depend in part on an effective pest control plan. As the facilities manager, you must ensure that pests of all kinds cannot compromise the health and safety of your building. With these pest control management strategies, you can fulfill an important facilities management duty and protect both your customers and staff from exposure to harmful pests.

Appreciate the Threat of Uncontrolled Pests

Pests do not care what kind of building they enter. If there is an entry point and plenty of warmth, shelter, and food inside, they will eagerly find a way into the building where they will reproduce at an alarming rate.

Further, muggy and warm weather that hallmarks the onset of spring and early summer create the ideal conditions in which pests of all kinds can thrive. Once the weather turns sunny and warm, you need to be on the lookout for all kinds of creatures that can get inside of your building including pests like:

  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Ants
  • Lady bugs
  • Mosquitoes
  • Termites
  • Spiders

These creatures will eagerly take their place inside your building alongside year-round pests like mice, rats, and roaches.

Identifying an Infestation

Along with recognizing what kinds of pests can come inside of your facility, you also need to know how to spot an infestation if or when one occurs. Pests give themselves away with a host of signs that should be easy for even the untrained eye to spot. Some of the ways that you can tell you have a pest infestation include:

  • rodent droppings
  • shed skin
  • chewed up materials like paper and cardboard
  • holes in the walls, door frames, and window sills

You can also discover an infestation by actually seeing pests crawling on the floors, walls, and inside cupboards and drawers.

Proactive Pest Control Measures

As a facilities manager, you can take proactive measures to eliminate pests and prevent future infestations. First, you should take note of the landscaping outside of your building. Overhung trees and shrubs create ideal environments for pests to take refuge and use as a launching point to get inside of your building. You should trim overgrown vegetation particularly trees and shrubs that are growing close to or alongside of your facility. With this step, you eliminate the shelter that pests need to get close to and inside of your building.

Second, you should avoid over watering your landscaping. When you over water the lawn, flower beds, and trees, you create puddles that are ideal in which for pests to live and lay eggs. As they reproduce, chances are the pests will eventually find a way indoors.

Further, you should rethink where you put flowering plants in your lawn. You do not want to put flowers and flowering shrubs and trees to close to the building. Bees, wasps, and other insects that are drawn to the flowers will have an easy way to fly into the building through doors and windows.

Likewise, overusing mulch also creates a draw for pests. Pests of all kinds including rodents love the smell, warmth, and feel of mulch. While mulching your lawn helps keep it green and healthy, too much mulch can draw in pests that you may find difficult to eliminate.

Finally, you can stay on top of a pest infestation by using minimally toxic pest control products. You can use pheromones that disrupt pests' natural mating processes. Likewise, rodent traps can be effective in getting rid of mice and rats. However, if you are not up to doing your own pest control, you may want to consider hiring a professional pest control service.

These strategies help you accomplish one of the most important duties you will have as a facilities manager. Keeping pests under control and ideally eliminated protects the integrity and health of your building. It also safeguards people who work and do business inside of the building from encountering potentially dangerous pests.

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Daylight Integration Ideas for Facility Managers

The lighting in a building influences important business functions like effectiveness and productivity. As a facilities manager, you are tasked with ensuring that both of these functions meet or exceed the goals established by the company's owners. You can satisfy this duty and create an atmosphere that optimizes profitability by implementing daylighting into the building's everyday function and appearance.

What is Daylighting?

Daylighting is simply the use of natural sunlight into a building. The natural lighting in this system can be natural, direct, or diffused. When utilized correctly, daylighting can decrease the building's dependency on electricity, lower utility costs, and increase worker productivity.

Additionally, when you implement daylighting in your building management scheme, you create an atmosphere that is both visually appealing and stimulating. Before you can use daylighting in your everyday building management, however, you must learn what components make up the typical daylighting system.

Daylighting System Components

The typical daylighting system is comprised of a number of different components. You need a combination of any of the following to use daylighting effectively in your building:

      • solar shading devices like window blinds
      • optimized furniture placement, space planning, and surface finishes
      • daylighting electric lighting controls
      • daylighting redirection devices
      • passive or active skylights
      • tubular daylighting devices
      • high performance glazing for surfaces

 

Effective daylighting also calls for you to consider the wall to window ratio as well as the placement of the windows themselves in the building. Once you have this information, you can then design a daylighting scheme that will optimize the daylight available to the building on any given day.

Incorporating Natural and Simulated Daylighting

Maximizing daylight available to your building may call for you to rearrange the furniture so that natural sunlight is not blocked during the day. The idea behind daylighting is to create as much open space in a floor plan as possible so that the light from outside can reach far into the room.

As such, you might need to rearrange the furniture to prevent a desk from creating dark shadows in the center of the floor. You also might need to relocate a set of shelves that is blocking a window that faces east.

Another important aspect of furniture arrangement involves avoiding glares that could distract workers. A desk that is located too close to a window might catch the sun's glare during the brightest time of the day. The glare could make it difficult for people nearby to focus on their work tasks until the sun moves higher up in the sky. By placing furniture in a pattern that lets light extend from the windows toward the center of the room, you maximize daylighting to the advantage of your staff and the atmosphere in which they are working.

You also can install either active or passive skylights to effectively use daylighting. Passive skylights typically have clear or acrylic covers that simply let in the daylight. This type of skylight does not reflect or direct the light but merely allows it to come into the space below it.

An active skylight, however, uses a mirror system that tracks the sun as it moves overhead the building. It channels the sunlight into a skylight well, thereby increasing its performance and reducing the building's dependence on electricity throughout the day.

Finally, you may consider using tubular devices, which have highly reflective film inside of them. They work by channeling light that is directed onto a lens on top of the building's rooftop. They direct that light to another lens located on the ceiling plane. While smaller than a skylight, a tubular device is still powerful enough to reduce a building's electricity dependency by as much as 30 percent. They also help you effectively use daylighting to the advantage of your building and its occupants.

The proper use of daylighting can create an environment that is more conducive to productivity and energy savings. As the facilities manager, you could enhance both by using a daylighting system that adds variations of lighting and temperature throughout the day. You also could maximize the profits that the company makes after you implement the daylighting system.

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To What Extent Does Commuting Affect Employee Motivation?

For many people across the country, commuting to and from work is part of their daily routines. They get up each morning knowing that they face a hectic drive or ride to work that day and an equally stressful commute at home that night. They often feel trapped in a cycle of commuting that they cannot escape.

When you want to boost both morale and productivity in the workplace, it could pay you to consider how the daily commute affects your employees. You may also enhance your own facility management program by offering innovative solutions to ease their stress and frustration that come with commuting to work each day.

The Impact of Long Commutes on Employees and Facilities Management

The commutes that your employees undertake to and from work each day have a direct impact on your building management and productivity. Studies have shown that a one-way commute that lasts longer than 30 minutes can have as much as if not more of a negative toll on an employee as a 19 percent cut in that person's paycheck.

The same studies pinpointed the precise effect that a long commute has on a person's body and mind. The statistics reveal that 33 percent of commuters suffer from depression while 37 percent experience financial difficulties that are directly related to their travels to and from their jobs. Forty six percent of commuters that travel one way longer than 30 minutes are obese and 12 percent report experiencing work-related stress each day.

Alternatively, the studies show that people who walk or bike to work each day experience better mental and physical health than people who drive or take the train or bus. These people report being more satisfied with their jobs and are believed to positively impact the FM of their employers.

What may be more surprising to managers of facilities of all sizes is that the length of the commute itself may not account directly for the job satisfaction and performance of an employee. While the studies do show that commutes over a half hour one way bring about more stress factors in workers, they do not suggest that frustration and a lack of productivity are heightened for each minute that the commute goes longer than this time limit.

A recent study followed 2700 workers in some of the country's largest metropolitan areas. The commute times for all of these cities averaged between 40 to 60 minutes. Interestingly, employees in Los Angeles, a city where the commute time averages 53 minutes per worker, reported being more frustrated and stressed out than workers in Washington D.C. where the average commute time exceeds an hour.

Regardless of the level of frustration and stress your commuting employees experience each day, it is important as the building management leader to think about ways you can lighten their burden if possible. By implementing innovative ways to erase some of the physical and emotional toll that comes with commuting to work, you could increase your company's productivity and improve the facility management strategies already in place.

Easing the Burden of Commuting

You probably have no say in whether or not the company's actual physical location can be moved to shorten commute times. Even so, you could implement strategies to make coming to and from work each day easier for your employees.

For instance, you could make available staggering work schedules for workers whose commutes are longer than 30 minutes one way. By allowing them to come in and leave later during times when traffic is not as heavy, you could ease their stress about having to drive on busy roadways or catch rides in buses and trains that are always packed full of people.

If possible, you could allow some of the commuting employees to work from home. Studies have shown that employees who telecommute are as if not more productive than their brick and mortar peers. You may see greater results with work projects and meet deadlines earlier than ever for your clients.

If staggering schedules and telecommuting are not possible, you may be able at least to offer employee shuttles or set up shared rides among workers. These programs could be more popular if they come with commuter benefits like reimbursement for tolls or gas mileage.

Commuting to and from work can take a negative toll on the productivity, morale, and health of your employees. You can improve your own FM strategies and increase productivity by adopting helpful practices to ease the commuting burden.

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The Importance of Workplace Wellness

Poor diet and a lack of exercise have contributed to a rise in diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure in this country. More adults now suffer from illnesses that may otherwise have been prevented had they only worked out more and took care of what they ate.

Employers today are absorbing much of the cost associated with this health-related epidemic. Companies continue to suffer lost revenue and profits because their employees cannot physically handle the challenges of staying on the job. However, company leaders may curb their losses by placing more importance on workplace wellness.

Why Focus on Workplace Wellness?

What is so important about workplace wellness in the first place? To start, a company that fosters an atmosphere of fitness and wellness stands a greater chance of reducing workplace losses due to call-ins and absenteeism.

When a company's employees are too sick to show up to work, they cost their employers money in part because they are not there to generate revenue on behalf of the company. They also cost the business money with health insurance claims to cover the costs associated with treating Type II diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses that can be prevented with improved diet and exercise.

Healthy workers are more productive workers, which is why more companies today are focusing on improving wellness in the workplace. They find that their employees are more readily engaged with the tasks at hand each day. They also call in fewer times throughout the year and are more productive during the business day.

Tips to Improve Workplace Wellness

Once employers appreciate the benefits that come with improved workplace wellness, they may then wonder how they can implement such a plan into their own businesses. They can begin by asking their employees what they want or need to stay healthier and more fit.

This information can be gathered either by survey or simply by asking everyone in a meeting what kind of wellness measures they would like implemented into the workplace. Common suggestions could include:

  • free flu vaccinations for all employees
  • short morning breaks to walk around the block
  • healthier food choices in the break room
  • company-hosted wellness nights after work for employees and family members


Another way to improve wellness in the workplace is by communicating openly with employees using tools that already in use in the office. Many companies use programs like Stack or Nearpod to send and receive information. These methods can be used as well for wellness purposes. Company leaders can share playlists, for example, with workers to motivate them to work out or encourage employees to share their own workout playlists with others in the business.

Another simple way to get people to work out either on breaks or before or after work is to pass out fitness trackers like FitBit watches or pedometers. Employees can keep track of their own progress or even establish friendly wagers with coworkers about who will walk or jog the most on any given day.

Finally, to encourage everyone to take part in workplace wellness programs, company executives should also pay attention to employees' mental and emotional health. Some people may find it embarrassing to talk about losing weight or working out.

They may be depressed or anxious about the new program. Companies can make available mental health services either at work or by referral to facilities in the community. They should also encourage an open and friendly atmosphere among coworkers so that everyone can feel at ease at getting in shape and eating better at work together.

The importance of workplace wellness cannot be understated in the role it plays in productivity and profitability. When workers look and feel better, they are often more ready to give their all to the tasks at hand. Company owners, managers, and other leaders can reduce company expenses and improve revenue by implementing practices that will foster an atmosphere of better workplace wellness in their own businesses.

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Tax Law Implications for Facility Managers

The newly passed federal tax law brought swift reaction from CEOs and business owners across the company. This new law aims to save American businesses money while laying the foundation for their growth and prosperity. In particular, the new tax law is expected to make these notable impact with facilities managers.

Investment in the Business

The upcoming tax cuts will allow business owners and CEOs the opportunity to put more money back into their businesses. Until recently, many corporate owners and executives had to save money to pay their yearly taxes. They had little money left over to sink back into their businesses or to share with their employees.

The new tax law, however, will save American businesses more than $400 billion over the course of the next decade. This staggering amount of money means that more CEOs and small business owners will have more cash to reinvest into their companies. Since they are paying less in taxes, they also will have more revenue to share with employees in the way of bonuses or wage increases.

Debt Reduction

The high tax rates of the past put a tremendous burden on business owners who wanted to pay off their corporate debts. Many of them could only pay the minimum balances or face carrying their debts over from year to year. The value and integrity of their businesses suffered because of this financial burden.

The corporate tax cuts should allow more business owners to pay off their debts faster, however. As the corporate tax rate drops from 35 percent to 21 percent, more owners will have extra money in their cash flows. They can use this cash to pay off what they owe and free themselves from crippling corporate debt.

Freeing themselves from debt also should allow business owners and CEOs to expand their businesses and inventory lines. They will have the financial resources to expand their companies into new markets, improve their existing structures, and offer more products and services to customers.

The tax cuts will allow them to expand their brands to new audiences. The tax cuts also have convinced companies like Apple to move their operations back to the U.S. instead of staying situated in countries like China. The influx of companies coming back to the U.S. is expected to generate more revenue for the American economy and increase American consumer confidence.

Increased Hiring

The new corporate tax law aims to make it easier for American businesses to create more jobs and hire more people. In the last decade, businesses cut jobs and laid off workers to save money. The high corporate tax rate made it difficult for them to create new positions and to pay to hire more people.

As the tax rate drops by 14 percent, American companies are expected to have more money left over in their coffers.

Many corporate executives have already announced their intention to hire more workers for the new positions that the businesses plan to create. Many of the new jobs expected to come from the tax cuts will be full-time positions with benefits like 401ks and health insurance. They also will pay more than the federal minimum wage. The influx of workers going back into full-time jobs is expected to strengthen the economy.

The Trump federal tax plan is perhaps the most lauded piece of legislation to go through Congress in recent years. It has already been well-received by American CEOs and business owners.

However, the new federal tax cuts are expected to have several noteworthy implications for facilities managers across the country. The tax savings will translate into extra savings that will allow more workers to be hired and companies to be expanded to new markets. Facilities managers along with business owners and CEOs will experience the impact of these tax cuts savings over the course of the next decade as businesses save more than $400 billion in taxes.

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Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Facility Management

In the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, time can be of the essence when it comes to erecting and maintaining buildings. Because you and your staff may not have time to tour an entire structure to identify and troubleshoot issues, you need a faster way to stay on top of the tasks for which your clients have hired you. You can stay on schedule and save costs when you implement building information modeling in your project today.

What is BIM?

Building Information Modeling, or BIM, is a concept that has existed in these industries for more than 50 years. However, it was not until the 1990s that BIM was brought to the limelight and given more credence by architects and engineers. Even at that, this concept was not truly held in its highest regard until the last decade.

Nonetheless, BIM is an organizational and maintenance system designed to hold all of the pertinent information about a building or facility. These details are housed in a three-dimensional model that serves as a database through which users can visually traverse to gain key facts of the structure.

In many ways, BIM is similar to the architectural concept of modern parametic modeling. Despite its long history in these three industries, it is just now gaining traction in CAD.

Primary Uses for BIM

BIM is used for a variety of purposes in architecture, engineering, and construction today. In particular, it has proven essential in the actual architectural and design processes of new structures and facilities. Design teams can create, change, and adapt these three-dimensional databases until they reach the ideal solution for the building processes for which they were hired.

Additionally, BIM is frequently used for civil and municipal purposes especially for the creation and building of infrastructures like subway tunnels, highways, public roads, energy and utility services placement, and railways. It increasingly is being utilized for urban master-planning and smart city designs.

However, in terms of facilities management BIM proves essential in analyzing and designing systems for a structure that are practical, cost effective, and relatively fast to use without compromising the integrity of the project. When implemented fully from the very first day of the design process, BIM can bring together all of the other steps, sparing the client from unnecessary expense and inconvenience. It also reveals all of the possibilities about which the client may not have been previously aware.

The Benefits of BIM

With this information in mind, you may wonder what exactly BIM can bring to any project for which your services are hired. Why would you implement this technology rather than rely on tried and true if not entirely outdated processes?

To start, BIM allows the design team to coordinate all of their efforts into a single endeavor. The three-dimensional database provides a visual and realistic representation of the facility that you are or will manage. This coordination hastens the team's work and keeps the project on time if not ahead of schedule.

Next, BIM helps your team avoid trade conflicts and also reserves all of the available space for the actual design and construction of the building. Without this visual database, you may have to second guess yourself or your designers and architects. You could risk using more space than what you actually have to work with or failing to use the minimal space required for the project.

Finally, BIM ultimately saves the client money and time, assets that are essential to any company's bottom line. When you are given a tight budget and a tighter deadline, you could easily spare both when you utilize building information modeling during the step-by-step processes involved in bringing the project to a successful conclusion.

BIM has proven its worth in today's AEC industries. This technology has made it easy for facilities managers, designers, and others to gain critical information about a building without actually having to walk through the physical location. It brings together key processes in the design, building, and management efforts while sparing clients unnecessary costs.

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Solar Energy and Your Facility

More than ever, it's important for facilities to consider a switch to sustainable energy sources. Solar power is one of the bog standards when it comes to renewable energy, but may not always be easy to pitch. Even though it has been around for awhile, solar energy has only really become a viable resource for commercial enterprises relatively recently. Still, it may be worth making the change to solar for a variety of reasons.

Cost

One of the main downsides to solar used to be its relatively high cost compared to other energy sources. As photovoltaic technology has improved, that cost has fallen dramatically. The cost of solar power per kilowatt hour is now equal to -- or sometimes even less -- than other sources of energy.

Solar power does require an initial investment for solar panels and batteries, which may be significant. However, once set up, solar systems require very little maintenance. In some areas, it may even be possible to sell excess power produced by the solar panels to local power companies. Depending on a facility's power consumption, solar power can pay for itself relatively quickly.

Tax Incentives

Though solar power requires a relatively high initial investment, there may be tax incentives available to help subsidize their setup. Financing options can help further ease the financial burden. As of 2016, commercial solar energy projects were eligible for a renewable energy tax credit of 30% of the total project costs. State and local governments may also offer their own tax incentives to encourage companies to switch to renewable energy.

Sustainability

Traditional sources of energy, like coal power, produce significant carbon emissions. Solar panels can help a facility dramatically reduce their carbon footprint and limit the amount of hazardous environmental waste produced by its operations. Since more and more consumers are choosing environmentally sustainable products and services, relying on solar power can even become a selling point for a facility. Creating photovoltaic panels still involves some carbon emissions and waste, but, once installed, their low maintenance needs and lack of emissions help offset this.

Self-sufficiency

High energy demands can cause brownouts in traditional power systems, particularly during the summer months. High winds, storms, or accidents can also result in damage to the power grid, triggering blackouts that may last for days. Having a robust solar system allows a facility to continue operating despite interruptions to regular electrical service, which helps cut costs and reduce lost operating time in the long run. When coupled with their low maintenance needs, this makes solar panels a great option for facilities that don't want to have to worry about the integrity of their local power grid.

Flexibility

The price and availability of traditional power depends on a number of things, including local energy sources and infrastructure. Power plants that depend on coal, for example, require a means of transporting and storing it. Other energy sources, like hydroelectric or nuclear power, may not be available at all. Solar power is readily available in most areas of the world, and can be set up anywhere where there is flat, open, unused space, including roofs or empty lots.

Advances in transparent photovoltaic cells mean that it may even be possible for facilities to set up vertically-oriented solar panels set in windows. In cases where on-site solar setups aren't feasible, it's also possible to establish a remote solar farm to transfer power to a facility.

In spite of their sustainability and self-sufficiency, solar panels used to have a bad rap for their high cost, inefficiency, and high space requirements. Advances in solar technology have ensured that this is no longer the case -- solar power is affordable, low-maintenance, highly subsidized, and can be placed virtually anywhere that receives regular sunlight. This makes it an excellent choice for businesses that want to lower their impact on the environment, limit their energy demands, and reduce their overhead.

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Sustainable Facility Management

In the modern age of information, society has come to terms with humanity’s destructive impact on the environment. A large majority of scientific experts and lawmakers argue that policies need to be implemented to reduce this man-made ecological impact. A growing number of consumers agree, and they have made the conscious decision to make more responsible choices about the companies they give money to.

Facility managers have always needed to remain compliant with the laws and societal standards, and it appears that sustainability policies are quickly becoming a new societal demand from companies. Adopting these business practices gives your business a competitive advantage over other businesses, but it does come at a cost.

What is Sustainability?

Broadly defined, sustainability means utilizing our resources in a way that both meets present needs and focuses on long-term stability. The Brundtland Commission explains that refraining from “compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” is paramount to sustainability.

In a world where humanity’s life-support resources are declining and the demand for these resources is increasing, sustainability seeks to more responsibly utilize these valuable resources to maintain an ecological balance. Forum for the Future lays out five of the key aspects of sustainability including care for the environment, respect for ecological constraints, equity, partnership and quality of life. In summary, sustainability is an attempt to protect the environment while simultaneously driving innovation, improving human health and maintaining our way of life.

What is Sustainable Facility Management?

Sustainable facility management describes the method of managing your company’s business, resources, people and infrastructure in such a way that it optimizes the long-term environmental, economic and social stability. Facility managers influence sustainability when making decisions about environmental management, during building construction and when conducting maintenance.

Some sustainable business practices include tracking your energy use, assessing water consumption, prioritizing energy improvement, managing your carbon footprint and reducing your facility’s baseline energy use. As a facility manager, you’ll need to understand any relevant policy regulations or governmental energy efficiency goals. As governments on the state and federal level make policy changes in favor of sustainable business practices, your business will need to remain compliant.

Advantages

The most important benefit of maintaining sustainable business practices is improving the overall quality of life for all citizens. Many organizations choose to focus on sustainability as both a goal and mission, and the practice is often embraced as part of the company’s brand. Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and Eco-friendly.

Consumers are making more responsible decisions about the products they purchase, so including sustainability as an integral part of your business will have a positive impact on the public perception of your company and boost profits.

Another advantage of sustainability is that companies are at a competitive advantage and may even receive government benefits due to their environmental policies and practices. Ideally, enhancing your company’s productivity, profits, safety standards, health and efficiency are always top-priority goals. Enforcing sustainable goals as a part of facility management will be beneficial in various areas of your business.

Disadvantages

While all the advantages of sustainable facility management practices sound unbeatable, they do come at a cost, and that cost is relatively high. The most commonly reported challenge faced by facility managers when it comes to sustainability is the high expectation of energy and water costs and a lack of available funding.

Eco-friendly building materials, supplies and products are typically more expensive, and the cost reduction in energy savings usually isn’t enough to quickly offset the upfront expenses. 

In the study of ecology, sustainability is defined at the ability of biological systems to say diverse and survive indefinitely. Facility managers that adopt sustainable business practices gain a competitive advantage, boost their public perception and help protect the environment for future generations. While these practices do come at a cost, they are typically seen as the responsible choice for today’s businesses.

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What is Legionnaires' Disease and How Can FM's Combat It?

Legionnaires’ disease has been making headlines recently as outbreaks have been increasing worldwide. In the most recent case, Disneyland guests became infected. What is this disease, and why is it an important subject for all facility managers?

This type of disease is the result of a specific type of bacteria that is extremely common. In one CDC study, the bacteria was present in 84 percent of 200 tested cooling towers. Facility managers need to be aware of this potentially devastating disease and how to prevent an outbreak.

Legionnaires’ Disease

Legionnaires’ disease is a severe, pneumonia-like respiratory disease that is caused by exposure to Legionella bacteria. This type of bacterium is naturally present in freshwater, but it can become a problem when it spreads in man-made freshwater areas. Common areas where legionella buildup occurs include showers, faucets, decorative fountains, hot tubs, large plumbing systems and cooling towers. People become infected when they inhale minuscule water droplets containing legionella. Once infected, a person cannot typically spread the disease to others.

Symptoms of infection usually become apparent within the first two weeks of being exposed to the bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease closely resembles pneumonia. Victims of this disease commonly experience fever-like symptoms, cough, muscle aches, shortness of breath and headaches. Less commonly, those infected will suffer from nausea, confusion and diarrhea. Doctors will need to perform a urine test or phlegm sample test to determine if legionella is causing the lung infection, and antibiotics are necessary for successful recovery. While this condition is rare, experts estimate that a large number of legionnaires cases are misdiagnosed by medical professionals. 

Recent Concerns

The Legionella bacteria strain was discovered after a devastating outbreak in 1976. The incident killed 34 people who had all attended an American Legion convention. When researchers discovered the bacteria that was causing the infection, they positively linked the bacteria to the previously mysterious Pontiac fever. Legionella outbreaks are still fairly rare, but there has been an uptick in recent cases. Just last month, an outbreak of the disease in a Lisbon hospital killed four and infected at least 40. Six individuals required intensive care, and most of the victims were either elderly or had chronic conditions. Experts are still working to determine the source of the bacteria.

Around the same time, Disneyland in Anaheim was forced to shut down after several cases of Legionnaires’ disease became apparent after visiting the theme park. After nine different guests reported the condition, Disneyland conducted an investigation. Around a month before the outbreak, an elevated level of legionella bacteria was found in two cooling towers located in a backstage area. Both towers had been treated, disinfected and re-opened, but Disneyland took the towers out of service again when the health agency ordered them to shut down.

The health agency also alerted healthcare providers to be aware of the outbreak in any patients that visited Anaheim or Disneyland. Orange County has recorded over 55 cases of Legionnaires’ disease this year alone.

How Facility Managers Can Prevent an Outbreak

The key to preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak is being proactive in testing water systems for the bacteria. Legionella flourishes best in warmer water. Disinfectants that are necessary to kill Legionella are harder to maintain in warmer temperatures, so hot tubs are one of the biggest breeding grounds.

Facility managers need to be aware that their facility’s cooling towers are extremely vulnerable to a buildup of legionella. Cooling towers hold warm water that eventually evaporates into the air, and these conditions are exactly how many outbreaks begin. The buildup of bacteria in cooling towers were most likely responsible for the severe legionnaires’ outbreaks in Portugal (2014), New York (2015), and Disneyland (2017). In addition to heat, stagnation, sediment and micro-organisms in a water supply all support the growth of this bacteria.

OSHA suggests choosing a high-efficiency eliminator design for cooling towers to control growth. OSHA additionally suggests that periodic maintenance and inspection, the use of biocide, frequent cleanings and record keeping are all crucial steps in preventing a legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

While outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease have been rare, incidents have been increasing world-wide in recent years. Much of this increase can be attributed to an increased awareness of the condition and better testing methods. An individual’s likelihood of becoming infected with the legionella bacteria has a lot to do with both the level of exposure and the individual’s susceptibility to disease. The bacteria is very common in hot-water sources, and it needs to be controlled. According to OSHA surveys, around 60 percent of the 1,000 cooling towers tested contained non-detectable levels of the bacteria.

As a facility manager, it’s crucial to understand that the best way to prevent an outbreak is to closely maintain and inspect water sources that are susceptible to the bacteria.

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Moisture Management

Facility managers are responsible for managing moisture in their facilities. Proper moisture management involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. The best mold and moisture prevention plans are a combination of both proactive and reactive measures because no single action can completely eradicate the risk of mold spores.

Recognizing Moisture Vulnerabilities

Moisture leads to the growth of molds like Stachybotrys, Penicillium and Aspergillus. These seemingly minor issues can turn disastrous and impact the health of your employees, damage property and cost your business. Surprisingly, molds can cause people to get very sick. Short-term immediate health consequences include symptoms like headaches, allergy attacks and other flu-like symptoms. Left unchecked, continuous exposure to molds may cause neurological diseases, severe respiratory infections and even cancer.

The financial ramifications of failing to properly manage moisture may include lost productivity, damaged property, liability expenses and disruptive clean-up activities. Mold clean-up procedures are expensive because mold spores can spread and colonize unless it is completely contained and removed. You’ll need to hire an expert drying company. For all of these reasons, facility managers need to prioritize moisture management.

Establish a Plan

Facility managers need to develop and establish a working plan for moisture management. Moisture usually enters a facility through air movement, liquid leaks, absorption or diffusion through building materials. Moisture management starts with the building of your facility. Different resources like water vapor diffusion barriers and capillary breaks can be integrated into the building. Next, facility managers will need to establish clear expectations on who will inspect and maintain the resources dedicated to managing moisture. This may include housekeeping staff or third-party contractors.

Facility managers or their assigned staff will need to manage the interior relative humidity to ensure moisture doesn’t harm the facility conditions, perform up-keep on various resources and routinely inspect areas vulnerable to moisture build up. Your moisture management plan should include plans on how to respond if mold is discovered in your facility. The best moisture management plans should include both proactive measures and solutions for reacting if moisture buildup is found.

Maintenance and Inspection

While there is no single maintenance or inspection step that can completely prevent moisture problems, a consistent and steady application of a variety of maintenance and inspection steps can prevent your facility from suffering a disastrous mold or mildew problem. Routine inspections are necessary because mold can grow when moisture is present. Leaky pipes may go unnoticed and develop into an enormous dangerous problem. Water can also be introduced to areas when individuals accidentally leak or spill liquid and fail to properly clean it up.

Facility managers must rely on efficiently managing housekeeping duties to ensure that liquid spills are cleaned up correctly. The biggest reason that routine inspections are needed is because moisture gets into areas simply during normal occupancy. Water vapor can seep into buildings through building materials, condensation or on tracked in on the shoes of employees. Facility managers can’t completely moisture-proof buildings, so it’s crucial to implement a routine maintenance and inspection routine. 

Without a proper maintenance schedule, the resources you’ve dedicated to preventing moisture are likely to degrade and become inefficient. Air-conditioning units need their filters replaced on a regular basis, temperature control systems need to be tested each month and the condensate drainpipes need to be flushed routinely.

In the winter, thermostats must be set above 55 degrees even in unused facilities to prevent water pipes freezing and bursting. In the summer, thermostats should not be set higher than 80 degrees to prevent humidity buildup. Many facility managers find it more efficient to contract these moisture management maintenance schedules out to third-party specialists. 

Moisture management planning involves recognizing your facility’s moisture vulnerabilities, establishing a plan and employing routine maintenance and inspections. Proactively protecting your facility from moisture build up will not always be enough to prevent mold, so you need to have dedicated plans for reacting to mold or moisture problems.

While some facility managers may not prioritize moisture management, failing to do so can cause your entire facility and workforce to be out of commission. Don’t let your facility remain vulnerable to the natural occurrence of moisture buildup and mold. Instead, start working on your moisture management plans now to prevent your facility from getting taken over by mold.

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