Healthy buildings are vital to safe reopening of the economy. UV technology may be an important part of our work-place future
by Dave McKenna, Editor CREB on May 19, 2020
Way back in 2017, Professor Robert Kelly was interrupted during his live, at-home interview on BBC television. His two kids wandered into the the room and started goofing around. After several seconds of delicious mortification on live television, his apparently distracted wife frantically rushed in to gather up the naughty ones as discretely as possible – – crouching behind furniture and snagging the tykes in her hilariously unsuccessful effort to save her husband’s dignity. It got 40 million views on YouTube.
It’s just another day at work in pandemic-bound 2020…
The Covid-19 crisis has forced the country into a strange social and economic experiment in which millions have lost their jobs and all but essential workers are working from home. With legions of unemployed workers, retail sales collapsing, and government spending frantically pumping trillions into the economy to keep it afloat, the pressure to resume some normalcy is immense.
Most states are beginning to ease mandatory lock down rules and gently open some businesses. As shaggy, lonely Americans tentatively venture out to salons and restaurants for the first time in months, the broader opening of the economy is still on the sidelines holding its breath.
Bringing employees back into the office is a delicate proposition, pitting the need to get back to work and normalcy against the overarching imperative of public health. “Employees have been sensitized to the need to protect themselves in multi-modal fashion,” said Dr. Linda Lee, Chief Medical Affairs and Science Officer for UV Angel, a developer of automated pathogen control technology. “They need to be convinced it is safe to return to work,” said Dr. Lee.
There is plenty of incentive for reassuring people it is safe to head back into the office. Last week Goldman Sachs warned that the US could face 25% unemployment this summer – – a rate as high as at any time during the Great Depression. Retail sales fell a record 8.4% in March, only to smash that record in April with a 16.2% decline. The economic stakes couldn’t be higher.
It is likely that Covid-19 will be with us in some form for years according to experts like Stephen Kissler of Harvard University. “We need to be prepared for multiple rounds of social distancing,” said Kissler in a recent Atlantic interview. Finding a balance between public health and economic necessity will likely dominate our lives for months to come.
“Technology can provide an important supplement to good standard cleaning protocols,” said Tom Byrne, CEO of UV Angel. “Employees want to know they are returning to healthier environments after all they’ve been through,” said Byrne. UV Angel employs UV-C light treatments in a variety of systems that been shown to be 99.99% effective in eliminating pathogens. And there is evidence that Covid-19 is just as susceptible to UV-C emissions.
“UV light interrupts the RNA/DNA of a virus and it can’t reproduce. Viruses are actually very sensitive and it doesn’t take much UV-C to disrupt them,” said Dr. Lee. The UV Angel emissions are actually “tuned” to affect a wide variety pathogens that occur naturally in the air. “The system has been tested against gram negative, gram positive, funguses and viruses and mathematically modeled against 85 specific pathogens. It is effective in neutralizing a virus in less than a second of exposure,” Dr. Lee said.
“Our first applications were in medical settings such as hospitals and dental offices,” said Byrne. “Today our products are employed in diverse industries such as commercial real estate, travel, and education.” The sudden appearance of Covid-19 has lead to a surge of interest in UV-C treatments to improve building-health across the board. “Inquiries from the commercial sector have tripled since the start of the Covid-19 crisis,” said Byrne.
“Chemical treatments are episodic,” notes Dr. Lee. “And chemical treatments also leave residues which can cause reactions,” Dr. Lee said. UV Angel systems utilize UV-C light and are continuous, operating 24×7. They augment the effectiveness of a conventional entire sanitation regime of surface cleaning according to Dr. Lee.
“People respond positively to the addition of UV-C light treatment in an environment because it reassures them that their employers are taking every possible step to keep them safe,” said Dr. Lee.
Fortunately, a technology like UV Angel is not difficult to implement. “Some systems can be installed in as little as ten minutes ,” said Byrne. “There is no silver bullet in a pandemic, but implementing strong engineered systems, in addition to good surface cleaning and frequent hand washing can dramatically interrupt the chain of transmission.”
Augmenting a building’s healthly environment with engineered solutions like UV Angel can ease the minds of employees and help them return to work more readily. “The surge of interest is great for our business, but the most gratifying thing is to hear from so many employers who want create more healthy environments,” said Byrne. “A lot of inquiries are coming from real estate developers who are interested in building engineered solutions into their project from the beginning.”
It is possible that Covid-19 has changed things forever and that the new normal will include some vestiges of the Great Pandemic of 2020 long into the future. Perhaps healthier workplaces, with with engineered biotech like UV-C will be one of the more positive outcomes.