Building Air Quality - July 2020

For Building Owners and Facility Managers BUILDING AIR QUALITY

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July 2020

3 Quest ions Bui lding Managers Need to Be Asking Smoke, Mirrors, and COVID-19

The first half of 2020 brought us some strange and uncertain months. When I look back at our cruise in February, I’m amazed at the timing. It was just weeks before the COVID-19 virus became a pandemic. Things have been difficult, and I certainly hope this letter finds you and your family well. I’m glad to report that my family is doing good. Our eldest daughter, Shelly, teaches school on an army base in South Korea and she began teaching virtually in late February. Dana, our middle daughter, started a new job in Austin at the height of the COVID-19 scare and she’s had to do it all virtually. Meanwhile, our youngest daughter Monica is a hairdresser, and she wasn’t able to do any work for quite a while, though I think she was even busier being a full-time mom. As for me and my wife, we’re both doing well. We self-isolated as much as possible. There was a period of time where we only left the house to go to the grocery store every two weeks. As we waited for things to open up, I spent my time reading the latest research on COVID-19 and paying attention to what the experts were saying. I am not an expert on everything involving indoor environmental issues. While I am an expert in indoor air quality, something as complex as dealing with a virus, such as COVID-19, calls for people who are a lot more experienced in that specific issue than I am. That’s why I try to stay informed by listening to a lot of experts in the indoor air quality field who are also experts in viruses and the transmission of viruses to see what kind of research is going on. With this in mind, I have seen that in the

commercial sector, there are a lot of new products and services being offered that don’t match the experts’ suggestions. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors being put out there by people who are trying to make hay while the sun is shining. Three of the big ones my readers need to be aware of are contractors doing cleaning without following up, ineffective post-cleaning testing, and consultants making up problems only they can appear as experts on. ‘How do you know if it’s clean?’ If a building owner or property manager becomes aware that someone who has been in their building tested positive for COVID-19, their first call is often to their cleaning crews. These folks are typically hired contractors. They go in and clean all the surfaces to make sure there are no traces of the virus left. Some building management teams are even going so far as to replace all the air filters after all the other cleaning has been done. This is a wise and appropriate course of action. However, after talking to the building management teams and the contractors who are doing the cleaning, I’ve found that few people can confirm the job has been done correctly.

The contractors will insist that they have done a good job because their people are highly trained. But the reality is that human error is always a factor. Even a highly trained cleaner can make a mistake. Without any follow-up, no one can say for sure if the job was done right. It is possible to test surfaces using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing to check for lingering bacteria (more on that inside this edition). Unfortunately, few people are running these tests after the cleaning crew finishes their work. ‘Are you testing for viruses or bacteria?’ This isn’t to say no one is running tests to check for COVID-19 in buildings. However, the quality of many of these tests leave much to be desired. I received a solicitation from a lab I worked with that claimed they had COVID-19 testing available. It sounded promising, so I asked them to send more information. There are DNA and RNA testing kits out there, and I thought this lab was offering that. However, as I read through the paperwork, it was apparent that this lab wasn’t really testing for COVID-19.

Stuff is getting better. Stuff is getting better every day.

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Protecting the Built Environment

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