Both our homes and public building environments can have a huge impact on our wellbeing, and over the past few years, the importance of health and hygiene standards has only been exemplified. It’s said that eighty percent of common infections are spread by touch. What’s more, every 30 minutes the average person is said to touch surfaces that expose them to 840,000 germs.
These germs are prevalent in public buildings too, where touchpoints are areas or items that are used by several individuals. Of those touchpoints, door handles are the most touched surface in working environments for example, and can be associated with cross-contamination and health risks.
Rising infection rates
Right now, the need to improve hygiene within our building environments, understandably, carries a greater significance than it maybe once did. But when it comes to building design, the process of protecting occupants and visitors against infection - especially those most vulnerable - can never be ignored.
Research has shown that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours
Over what has been a challenging biennial, building environments have closed, reopened and the process repeated. With the coronavirus, the idea of reducing footfall in facilities was instrumental in faltering rising infection rates. But now, as normality has somewhat returned, that footfall is back. Once again, touchpoints such as door handles are harboring germs. In fact, research has shown that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours, and even days on metal door handles - and the same can be said for the common flu.
Promoting hand washing
Government campaigns have promoted hand washing, sanitizing and distance-making in response to a return to public facilities. Undoubtedly, infection control methods such as hand washing and systematic cleaning are the most guaranteed way of controlling cross-contamination. However, these methods can still fall redundant as a result of human error or relaxed conventions.
Building design can play an important role here. Daniel May, Director at Consort explains: “We’re at a point where decision makers are under pressure to keep building hygiene standards as high as ever before. And outside of the clear-cut hygiene measures, it’s understood that more can be done throughout the building design process, with architectural hardware selection at the core of decisions.”
Door hardware is the first touchpoint when entering, exiting or navigating a building"
“Door hardware is the first touchpoint when entering, exiting or navigating a building, and can be one of the most bacteria-ridden. Yet, the latest in hardware advancements could give facility managers an edge in the fight against infection, especially in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals for example, where footfall is high and the need to maintain strict sterile environments already exists.”
“For added protection against bacteria, facilities can implement tailored anti-microbial hardware and finishes. Anti-microbial coatings applied to door handles are precisely formulated to prevent bacteria build-up upon the surface by interrupting cell multiplication. Some door seal solutions also make use of modern anti-bacterial technology, embedding it within the aluminum and silicone of the door seal during production, further reducing the spread of bacteria in high traffic areas.”
Effective infection control
For care and hospital locations specifically, The Care Quality Commission (CQC) sets a regulation that cleanliness and effective infection control is a necessity for those environments. Healthcare environments are encouraged to introduce innovative infection control methods where possible, supporting the best practice methods already in place.
Healthcare environments are encouraged to introduce innovative infection control methods
Equally, under The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, decision makers have an active duty to keep inhabitants safe and their environments clean. And aside from the use of antimicrobial solutions, many are challenged to provide hygienically maintained environments without sacrificing fire or safety standards.
Efficient building management
Daniel adds: “Facilities with high footfall must also consider ventilation and ease of movement. Whether in healthcare, commercial or public environments, both are key elements of efficient building management and when done effectively, can further help inhibit the spread of infection by ensuring fresh air is consistently making its way through halls and rooms.”
“The most effective way to improve ventilation throughout a building is by opening its windows and doors. This creates an inlet for fresh air and an outlet for the old air, and with access points open, minimizes the need to touch door handles. Yet, when focusing on airflow, it’s inopportune to disregard fire safety. Too many times, we’ve seen facilities fall foul of leaving fire doors propped open in favor of improving ventilation and ease of access - but simply put, it’s illegal to do so and leaves fire doors wholly ineffective in a fire situation.”
Automatic door controls
Modern exit systems are purpose built to ensure fire doors can be left open safely and securely"
“Modern exit systems are purpose built to ensure fire doors can be left open safely and securely. Automatic door controls make use of sensors which activate the operator devices connected to the main access doors.”
“In turn, this aids access and egress when required and closes the doors shut when necessary. In the event of a fire, the alarm is sounded, and the doors close automatically - ensuring safety is never compromised. What’s more, these systems can be integrated with the external building security, reducing risk on all fronts.
Regular cleaning practices
“Ultimately, when paired with regular cleaning practices, these modern solutions can play an assist role in the fight against infection, helping to maintain building hygiene as well as the obligatory standards associated with building and fire safety.”
Consort’s bespoke specification services extend to hygienic solutions, offering users tailored products to suit the needs of any building infrastructure. Antimicrobial finishes can be applied to any touch products and door seals, of which are already supplied to large complex hospitals around the world including Pamela Youde in Hong Kong and the Metropolitan Hospital in Birmingham.