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Testing Buildings for Coronavirus Can Help Reduce Spread


By Dan Hounsell Emergency Preparedness
HVAC technician removing a dirty air filter from a heat pump

Facility managers and front-line maintenance and housekeeping workers are focused on updating housekeeping processes and instituting screening measures in institutional and commercial facilities to protect returning occupants from the coronavirus. Even as they take these steps, however, evidence is growing that a major contributor to the spread of the disease – and therefore, an added point of focus for technicians – lies elsewhere.

New technology shows the standard for reopening facilities might be tied to testing buildings and not just people, according to ABC News. New technology, developed and tested at the University of Oregon, might provide new armor in the battle against coronavirus.

“We can't test every person every day, but we can test every building every day. In addition, buildings are being tested and results arrive in 24 hours and can help guide actions the next day or building operations, controls or contact tracing,” says Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg, director at the University of Oregon's Institute for the Health and the Built Environment.

By testing air ducts, air particles and surfaces, researchers believe they can identify places where there has been exposure and if the building puts the public at risk.

“We are looking for all of the air from the whole room that's being brought back and sucked into these return air grills – almost like a vacuum cleaner sucks air along with dust,” he says. “I believe buildings are really the engine of our economy and that testing buildings is the key to turn the engine back on. We can take that knowledge from the tests in these buildings and help guide mitigation strategies and, if need be, even quarantine the building again for a short period of time to do deep cleaning and then reopen the building.”

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.

 

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