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Ultraviolet light (UV-C) disinfection has emerged as a popular option for facility managers to combat the spread of COVID-19 over the last 14 months.
The city government of Santa Clarita, California, has fully embraced using UV-C to minimize the spread of COVID. The technology is now included in the city-owned buildings’ HVAC systems, either through retrofitting existing systems or when installing new systems. Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste has long been a supporter of the technology.
“One of the biggest problems (with the spread of COVID) has been that as we’ve progressed forward with buildings, we keep working to make them more insulated from the outside,” says Weste. “They’re more closed off, whether we don’t want to lose heat, want to keep the cold out, or the cold in. Whatever you’re doing, you seal the buildings where there’s no air transmission through them. It’s stale air.”
With air-disinfection technology, an HVAC system will deliver cleaner air and improve ventilation inside the building. A recent study revealed that UV-C units can reduce colony forming units by 97.3 percent.
Santa Clarita, located north of Los Angeles, has also been affected by wildfires, another phenomenon that affects air quality.
Weste says Santa Clarita is installing UV-C into existing HVAC systems or incorporating it into new HVAC systems in 21 city buildings. Sixteen buildings are already done, with the rest scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. Included in the new construction is a sheriff’s office, a library, and a new community center -- all facilities that are regularly filled with employees and city residents moving in and out of the buildings all day. The city hall was the first building addressed. It was retrofitted with UV-C for a modest $6,000.
Residing in one of the states with the most restrictive COVID policies in the country, Weste wants the air flow in the city’s buildings as clean as possible. She also wants her constituents to feel confident that their city’s buildings are safe.
“Viruses mutate faster than anything I can think of,” she says. “They’re mutating all the time. If that’s the case, what are you going to do, keep finding new shots? That’s part of the solution. But the best thing we can do is be ahead of it by not giving it a place to grow.”
Santa Clarita has been aggressive in getting the message out about the UVC technology and its benefits. UV-C is an important industry in Santa Clarita. In addition to having a number of local businesses that specialize in deploying and designing the technology, Weste is trying to convince local businesses to also embrace a technology that should deliver benefits well beyond COVID.
“The hardest thing is getting knowledge out to people that we already have answers to (on delivering cleaner indoor air),” she says. “The answer isn’t making everybody be locked up at home. The answer is working with the medical profession and making where people go safe.”
Dave Lubach is managing editor, Facilities Group.