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COVID-19 and New Reality Conflicts

As COVID-19 continues, instances of how a new reality will adjust and contort many current practices in the building design and construction industries. This is particularly acute in the education and healthcare sectors.

As mentioned in our early June blog, the WHO has indicated that drinking fountains in public places should be taken out of use. This of course flies in the face of the American with Disabilities Act which requires that these be carefully placed in precise places. Water flowing from drinking fountains is safe, but the surfaces pose a transmission risk as one touches or moves one’s head near the fountain. This is not the only instance of issues surfacing, and questions without immediate clear answers are becoming apparent.

How can a drinking fountain be turned off or removed and still remain plumbing code compliant? Today it cannot. Will a new technological marvel address this gap between need and safety? And remember, water bottle necks are probably not disinfected when taken from storage, so making those available is not necessarily the answer.

So that brings up the stainless-steel construction of so many items in our enclosed environments (restaurant kitchens, hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, even the previously mentioned drinking fountains). A number of sources have reported the COVID-19 virus lasts up to eight hours on stainless steel. That makes for a bunch of disinfecting. Will there be another preferred material that surfaces in the near future? What are the code and marketplace implications of this? Notice in the study published in the New Journal of Medicine, copper performed much better than stainless-steel.

Footnote #1

A study published on the CDC website discusses air conditioning and social distance implications for transmission of the virus. Apparently micro droplet transmission can travel quite a distance within an air flow pattern. We long ago outlawed corridor return air movement due to smoke and fire concerns. It seems we may have similar considerations to investigate in rooms of medium and large gatherings where air that is saturated with the micro virus particles could be flowing across various individuals within the same space. We can feel very certain we will see discussions and code suggestions addressing this issue.

It seems that reports are surfacing that alcohol-based sanitizing is not nearly as effective as proper hand washing. We already have seen an increase in required hand wash facilities in medical applications, but do not be surprised when these same regulations surface for other facilities. Of course, this assumes the public is vigilant in hand washing practices. (Is everyone using the 20 Mississippi count or even still singing various things)?

These examples clearly point to a change that will impact our built world in the near future. Be patient; codes have typically required quite a bit of debate to initiate. This debate is going to be interesting.

Footnote #1:

#1 Neeltje van Doremalen, Ph.D. / Trenton Bushmaker, B.Sc. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT / Dylan H. Morris, M.Phil. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ / Myndi G. Holbrook, B.Sc. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT / Amandine Gamble, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA / Brandi N. Williamson, M.P.H. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT / Azaibi Tamin, Ph.D. / Jennifer L. Harcourt, Ph.D. / Natalie J. Thornburg, Ph.D. / Susan I. Gerber, M.D. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA / James O. Lloyd-Smith, Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, Bethesda, MD / Emmie de Wit, Ph.D. / Vincent J. Munster, Ph.D. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Hamilton, MT - Supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, and by contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA PREEMPT No. D18AC00031, to Drs. Lloyd-Smith and Gamble), from the National Science Foundation (DEB-1557022, to Dr. Lloyd-Smith), and from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program of the Department of Defense (SERDP, RC-2635, to Dr. Lloyd-Smith).

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