By Andrea Gomez Vesga and Gordon Buntrock
From the October 2020 Issue
There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the processes and priorities associated with facilities solutions. With disinfection and virus mitigation in high demand, you may be finding it difficult to balance timely needs with existing sustainability objectives and long-term environmental commitments. To ensure environmentally-friendly cleaning and sustainability stay top-of-mind, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released new guidelines to help facilities reopen and stay open as safely as possible with sustainable practices in place. With a lot to consider as you assess your facilities solutions offerings in light of COVID-19, ABM’s experts in cleaning and disinfection have broken down the cleaning-related guidelines to address these considerations released by the USGBC.
1. Cleaning & Disinfecting Your Space. Sustainable options exist to provide the cleaning and disinfection facilities need to mitigate the spread of disease—with certified environmentally friendly products, thorough employee training, and personal protective equipment (PPE) among the most pressing considerations.
The U.S. EPA has guidance and certification for cleaning products that facilities providers should be attuned to when formulating a cleaning and disinfection strategy. For instance, service providers might utilize disinfectants that are on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, which are formulated with the active ingredients recommended by EPA’s Design for the Environment Logo for Antimicrobial Pesticide Products (Hydrogen peroxide, citric acid, L-lactic acid, Ethanol, Isopropanol, Peroxyacetic acid, and Sodium Bisulfate).
Further, comprehensive procedures and training for cleaning personnel is of paramount importance—to promote consistency in execution and effectiveness. For instance, ABM’s EnhancedClean training program is used to educate and certify its team members on proper disinfection processes and program delivery. This certification is in accordance with the USGBC’s guideline that team members should be equipped with the training and tools to deliver cleaning and disinfection with EPA-certified products and techniques. Additionally, in alignment with the USGBC guidelines, cleaning teams should make use of PPE and other safety equipment.
2. Re-Entering Your Workspace. There is a significant need for employers to communicate actions that are being taken to keep spaces as healthy and safe as possible. Not only will there be heightened awareness about individual health and safety, but we are also likely to see new tools and regulations to empower occupants to make better informed decisions about the spaces they choose to enter and do business in.
Under the USGBC’s guidelines, occupant education is a crucial step “to ensure understanding of the steps taken to disinfect and clean the space.” Cleaning programs should provide visual reassurance with increased presence of day staff frequently disinfecting high touch points. Signage communicates cleaning practices implemented, instructs occupants to stay six feet apart in crowded spaces, and reminds them to wash hands and visit hand sanitizer stations frequently.
3. Managing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) During COVID-19. The USGBC guidelines instruct organizations to build on existing air quality standards and improve ventilation approaches to minimize the spread of COVID-19 through the air. Increasing total airflow supply to occupied spaces, adjusting ventilation processes, and improving central air filtration are strong options to manage IAQ throughout the pandemic. The USGBC also cautions against ozone generation and emphasizes awareness of the environmental impact that comes with ultraviolet (UV) generating devices. Innovative tools in cleaning and disinfection are a defining element of leading facilities solutions strategies.
IAQ improvements that include disinfection do not replace surface disinfection, but they can enhance the overall environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines now state that transmission of the coronavirus through the air is certainly possible indoors, especially for people who spend extended periods of time in crowded, poorly ventilated rooms. In addition to filtration, there are other air cleaning strategies will also further IAQ. Conduct a site risk assessment with your service provider to assess and identify areas that could pose IAQ challenges related to HVAC systems.
A healthy facility needs to incorporate both surface disinfection and disinfection of the air. This dual approach is becoming increasingly important, given the growing body of research showing COVID-19 droplets remain in the air well beyond initial exposure. Whether a building is open or closed, as part of a routine maintenance plan, you need to ensure that HVAC systems are operating properly, with outdoor ventilation air maintained at or above design minimum values.
The USGBC’s guidelines for COVID-19 recovery in facilities speak to the most pressing considerations for organizations. Similar to the impact the events of 9/11 had on airport and facility security protocols, the impact of COVID-19 on disinfection protocols will be extensive and long-lasting.
Gomez Vesga is corporate sustainability manager at ABM, overseeing the company’s sustainability strategy. She is a graduate of the Sustainability Management program at Columbia University and an Environmental Defense Fund Corps fellow.
Buntrock is national director of service delivery for ABM with over 40 years of experience in the development of cleaning systems, program management, and operations experience. He has been recognized nationally for expertise on cleaning processes, supplemental infection prevention technologies, and more.
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