Reopening Your Building after COVID-19

As shelter-in-place orders begin to lift throughout the country, businesses are shifting their focus towards reopening. Facility managers who used the time of closure to perform preventative maintenance on HVAC and other mechanical systems are in a better position than those who did nothing. Even so, if you are a building manager, you need a plan in place for reopening your facility. This plan should address cleaning, disinfecting, testing, and treatment to ensure proper indoor air quality.

Reopening Risks

As buildings lay dormant for weeks, even months during the COVID-19 pandemic, indoor air quality suffers. If the proper steps were not taken when the building was shut down, and the building was not maintained during the closure, there is a higher risk to building occupants once they return. Poor IAQ can lead to Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS, which triggers allergy-like symptoms in occupants. Waterborne pathogens may also have formed in standing water during closure which can cause illness. These things impact worker health and slow productivity. There are several factors managers must consider before their buildings can reopen safely.

Humidity Issues

Humidity is an important part of keeping indoor environmental conditions safe. This includes the cleaning and maintenance of HVAC systems. The design of these systems assumes full operation in buildings with certain heat loads produced by human occupants, lighting, computers, and other machines. As buildings sit completely or partially empty and energy usage is reduced, the heat load is lowered as a result. This impacts the HVAC system directly as relative humidity levels rise. Raised humidity levels create the ideal environment for mold to grow and remediation becomes necessary to keep buildings safe. This can delay the opening of the building which adds expense for companies already impacted by the economic shutdown.

Waterborne Pathogens

Waterborne pathogens are an increasing threat to buildings throughout the US. The Legionella bacteria, in particular, have caused illnesses in greater numbers over the past several decades. Legionnaires disease is a condition caused by this bacteria resulting in symptoms of coughing, fever, and shortness of breath similar to those of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The Legionella bacteria colonize in stagnant water. As buildings sit empty, water in plumbing lines and water heaters gradually lose their chlorine disinfectant which allows the bacteria to thrive and spread. Building owners and managers must address these issues before reopening or face the consequences of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease.

Cooling Towers

Another challenge presented by a limited staff during building closures is reduced maintenance of cooling towers. Before reopening your facility, testing is needed to evaluate the presence of bacteria followed by treatment to restore conditions to safe operational levels.

Disinfection of Interior Occupied Spaces

Before staff and other occupants re-enter buildings, mechanical systems should be disinfected by a qualified third party company. After reopening your facility, cleaning and disinfecting HVAC systems should be a part of ongoing efforts to maintain good IAQ.

Pure Air Control’s PURE-Decon is a combination of services for disinfecting interior spaces, ductwork, and HVAC equipment. Using methods engineered to each situation, PURE-Decon uses EPA-registered Disinfectants for Emerging Pathogens (DEP) that kill 99.9% of bacteria, mold, viruses, and other microbes anywhere the mist permeates.

HVAC and other mechanical systems require cleaning as well. PURE-Steam HVAC coil cleaning restores the interior of the air handling unit in addition to the evaporator coils. Both are disinfected using temperatures up to 350° F which kills bacteria and mold while pushing dust and debris through the coil to improve airflow.

Environmental Surface Testing

Surface testing is another critical element in reopening your facility. The environmental coronavirus testing performed by Pure Air Controls’ Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) using a state-of-the-art laboratory to test environmental samples. With a highly-trained staff using a complete range of analytical technologies, EDLab assesses the environmental conditions for risk, prevention, and control of infections like SARS-CoV-2. This is especially helpful for validation and clearance when reopening your facility as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Engineered Solutions

Pure Air Control Services addresses IAQ issues that affect the health of building and occupants. We are an IAQ and HVAC system-focused company in operation since 1984.

Call us at 1-800-422-7873 or email us here to let us help you development an engineered plan for reopening your facility.