September 15, 2002
Appeared in Facilities Design & Management
Ali Sherafat, vice president, Syska Hennessy, says building owners can take a number of steps to reduce contamination risks. Among them:
Install ultraviolet lights in the air system to kill bacteria, mold and germs.
Install filters that can effectively filter 90% to 95% of airborne germs. Use these filters with UVC lights for up to 99% filtration.
Maintain slightly positive building pressure to minimize air infiltration through doors and windows.
Use external ductwork insulation and wraps to eliminate the need for internal duct lining that can release harmful fibers.
Install controls to shut down air movement if contamination is suspected.
Install security cameras in mechanical rooms and restrict access.
Exhaust mailroom air to the outside instead of recirculating.
Use fences, grills, and security cameras to protect older buildings that typically have ground-level fresh air intake systems. Install such systems on the roof whenever possible.
Install separate air conditioning units in the public spaces of new buildings. Keep these spaces under negative pressure to prevent air from flowing into the rest of the building.
Sherafat notes that these steps usually are affordable or return their costs several times over. The cost of ultraviolet lights is nominal—about 15 to 25 cents per sq.ft.—and fewer germs mean healthier, more efficient employees and less absenteeism. The landlord could even market the property as a healthier building. He suggests owners and managers audit their buildings to evaluate and give priority to the risks to air quality and safety, develop a plan and a budget for managing these risks, and begin to implement the plan. "Threats can come from many directions, but they can be managed to protect the health and safety of tenants," Sherafat says.