There is a great scene in the ’70’s classic Jaws (I just dated myself horribly!!!) when the beaches re-open after the shark attacks. Everybody is at the beach BUT no one wants to be the first to go back into the water. You can imagine a similar scenario unfolding when things are back to normal and the COVID virus is in our rear view mirror.
There is work to be done but who will be the first in?
The first in should be the one with a plan and that means showing extreme caution. We will have to show clients we understand this is serious business. As a general contractor, the onus is on us to put a plan in place that will protect everybody during construction and long after the job is complete.
The world will open up for business again. Count on that. When it does, senior living and skilled nursing facilities will have one question that GCs will have to answer: How will you protect our residents, patients and staff?
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We are currently working on this from several fronts. Last week we discussed Infection Control Risk Assessment or ICRA. As we flush out pricing strategy, we are finding we can implement these safe measures in most cases for an added cost of ¼ to ½ of 1% total cost (less on large scale projects depending on type of project and level of protection required).
But forget what ICRA costs. ICRA will help during renovation and construction. It is a tried and true procedure that hospitals and laboratories have been using for years. The larger question we have to answer—and we do expect senior living and skilled nursing facilities to ask—is what about after the renovation or construction? Is there anything we can do to continually assist in the battle against these viruses long after the renovation or construction is complete?
In our experience and in our research, South Coast Improvement has found there is, and we are moving forward in getting buy-in from engineers and architects. In particularly, we’re excited about an HVAC solution that’s going to require a bit more testing and research on our part before we introduce it to the mix. Drop me a line or give me a call if you want the 4-1-1- on that possible solution.
Some of the strategies we are exploring include:
- Using anti-microbial materials and hardware – Hospital grade hardware, fixtures, and coatings that all kill up to 99 percent of harmful bacteria when cleaned regularly. Many people don’t realize that bacteria (including the coronavirus) will live on hardware, plugs and wall surfaces for days. Utilizing anti-microbial materials and hardware, in conjunction with cleaning protocols, will go a long way in helping to keep a facility bacteria- and virus-resistant.
- Specialized wipe-on products – We are working with engineers and architects to test wipe-on products that leave a film thinner than a human hair and will provide additional resistance to bacteria and viruses. This could be a great benefit to use on existing hardware, grab bars, light switches in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.
- Antimicrobial paint – This has been out for years. I remember mixing an additive back in the ’80’s to kill mildew for trim paint. Technology has come a long way and now there are coatings for all surfaces that come ready mixed with the antimicrobial additive. Painted walls make up, by far, the largest surface area within a residence or a facility. If we can eliminate that as a breeding ground for viruses, we have taken away a large potential for the spread of various viruses.
- Cleaning the HVAC system – HVAC systems have acted as a built-in spreader of bacteria and virus spores that can easily move sickness through a facility. Cleaning the duct work should be part of any facility ongoing maintenance plan. I can’t tell you how many times when we go to balance the HVAC system at the conclusion of a project and find the ducts haven’t been cleaned in years!!.
Beyond cleaning the air ducts, there are ways to mitigate the air flow situation and the cost might not be as bad as people might think. It does NOT mean wholesale changes of existing systems—not at all. There are new devices being developed that can be added to air ducts to mitigate the passage of virus and microbes carry virus and that’s what I was alluding to earlier.
All these ideas are on the table. South Coast Improvement will continue to work with our engineer and architect partners to proof out these processes and come up with a pricing structure. If you would like some additional info on these processes–including the HVAC device that has me very excited–give me a call or drop me a line. We will most definitely keep you posted.