We have all crossed into a new plane. Whether we like it or not, the coronavirus has changed the manner
in which everyone will live their life, and the way all public spaces will be operated. The decisions to act
are no longer voluntary. However, the expectation that social distancing and cleaning will deliver the
necessary protections to keep commercial spaces safe is unrealistic. Prolonged social distancing is not
sustainable as even after the recent and relatively short quarantine periods in the US, people are anxious
to socialize. There is no single solution that can provide absolute protection, but a combination of new
behaviors and installed systems in combination can be highly efficacious to facilitate a return to normal,
socialized life. Companies are absorbed with devising temporary plans to provide social distancing in
already built environments in “return to work” plans. Architects are involved with space designs that
could upend all of the beneficial densification and collaboration of the past decade.
The result of these efforts could lead to: 1) increased costs as companies look to spread out individual workspaces and require more space to fit their plans; 2) hoteling or A/B team solutions which require extreme diligence in cleaning of workspaces that will now be shared in shifts; or 3) more remote working which many employees find challenging due to distractions or the lack of adequate work space. Commercial real estate owners of office buildings and retail centers have never faced such a compelling need to focus on anti-bacterial measures that might be incorporated into their buildings. Medical facilities have incorporated HVAC filtration and UV light to remediate bacteria and viruses. Now, the current situation has demonstrated that all environments need to consider such building systems’ solutions, alongside social distancing and more aggressive cleaning protocols that are already well-established in hospitals.
In response to these challenges and at the request of some of its commercial clients, Green Arc Lighting has evaluated how light-based germ mitigation measures already in use in medical environments can be incorporated in other environments. The lethality and speed of 2020 COVID-19 transmission has increased the focus on germ mitigation, moving these investigations from “in-the-future” to “here-andnow.” We have considered the issues surrounding new build outs, and retro-conversions, to come up with actionable solutions that can be incorporated into office spaces, stores and warehouses. Senior housing and schools may also incorporate this solution, especially in facilities using non-central HVAC systems.
The solutions that we have developed, when properly implemented, complement other sensible measures, to deliver safer environments to work, live, learn and play.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has demonstrated the need to more effectively mitigate against the
transmission of bacterial and viral agents in the built environment. The totality of vectors of transmission
are still being learned, but what has emerged as prescient, is the need to suppress air-based transmission.
Even within some frontline hospital spaces, the effectiveness of existing measures has come up short, as
it appears that aerosolized viral agents are contributing to the situation, and mitigation measures are
The question becomes, as an owner/operator of commercial real estate, what do we do?
What solution(s) can be incorporated into our properties…
All of these are very valid questions, and complicated to answer. Different spaces will have different
requirements. While historically, the air within hospitals was considered the most fragile, the lethality of
COVID has demonstrated that it is no longer the only building type where such an infection can spread.
As it is not practical to assume that we can live in laboratory-like environments, we need real solutions,
with manageable expectations of protection.
Green Arc vetted a number of prospective solutions, and focused its analysis on light-based measures, which are demonstrating significant efficacy in managing the spread of airborne pathogens. There are several differing mechanisms being deployed, all of which have value. As noted, while each system demonstrates effectiveness in mitigation, no one process is a silver bullet. The level of protection most would hope to expect, must be coupled with sound sanitary practices, such as regular surface cleaning.
It should be noted here, that the use of light/energy sources for sanitation have been used for over 100 years, with a wealth of empirical data to support them. It is possible to get into the weeds when making these assessments, so we have attempted to develop a simple framework to facilitate an analysis and assemble an actionable plan. As the possibility of repeated incidents of viral epidemics is real, this consideration cannot be tabled. It will become incumbent on all owners to be sure that they have demonstrated a proper mitigation plan to current and prospective clients and executed it. No one wants to be found remiss with the associated contingencies.
In our review we have sought to present proven strategies, bolstered by independently verified analysis.
There are unquantifiable issues that we may struggle to ever resolve, such as with what frequency will
afflictions such as the coronavirus occur, and, how will the virus change or mutate over time. All very
difficult to answer. We would liken the prudent response to the analogy: If you live in a Northern climate
and it’s snowing out, you need to buy snow tires. Even on a sunny day. While this episode of the outbreak
will pass, there is an above average probability that it will return.
There are plenty of prudent questions that everyone should ask. Some of the obvious questions include:
There is no effective manner of predicting either the possibility of future occurrences and the dangers
they will present. The immediate circumstance is severe. There is a communicable virus propagating, it
spreads more aggressively than other diseases and it has a high percentage of death. Regardless of your
circumstance, this is difficult to ignore, as it does not discriminate. As business owners, we must be
prepared to deal with the consequences of inaction.
Scourges of this nature are by design difficult to defeat, and constantly evolving. We propose that the prudent course is a case of belt and suspenders. As indicated previously, we view all means of managing an issue like COVID as a complementary process, using multiple measures to deal with its eradication. As the odds of recurrence are high, and the consequences higher, everyone needs a demonstrable plan indicating a best-efforts attempt at protecting the occupants/users of a commercial space.
Our focus on UV-C lighting is predicating on the long-term, evidenced based research demonstrating very high levels of efficacy. The use of UV-C in an Upper-Room orientation delivers the needed mitigation level to manage against a host of pathogens, with unobtrusive installation, and no adverse health effects. We advocate for indirect fixture orientations due to the ability to successfully eradicate pathogens and do so innocuously, without harm to humans. While it may be safe to use certain forms of UV lighting in downward orientations, we think it more prudent to avoid all direct human contact. While Far-UV has been shown in laboratory tests to have no adverse indications, we still reserve judgement. We ask the basic question: Would you let your kids play there? Given the choice, why take any unnecessary risks, especially in educational settings? For this reason, we believe Upper-Room UV-C deserves a strong preference. Our advocacy of Upper-Room UV-C is based on the balanced answers to the questions above.
Green Arc is able to specify and install Upper-Room UV-C solutions in the required measures to provide the protections needed against COVID. Even aside from COVID, these solutions have the additional benefit of reducing other bacteria and less severe viruses (seasonal influenza) to positively impact health and wellness in occupied spaces, reduce absenteeism of workers, and facilitate use of spaces in customary densities. Each installation of Upper-Room UV-C will be site/space specific. An installation following the basic plan using peripherally mounted scones, and open area pendants can be accomplished very quickly, at nominal expense per square foot. This plan is well suited to existing layouts, where spatial considerations may be limited. For new builds, we are able to provide new LED light fixtures with UV-C LED chipsets incorporated into the fixtures, complementing the white light. From the ground, it is impossible to know that UV-C is in use. The methodology proposed has been demonstrated to successfully eradicate both bacterial and viral pathogens at efficiencies above 99%. Used in conjunction with other complementary actions such as regular cleaning, quality air filtration, HVAC-based UV disinfection (where possible), and blue light, aid in providing space that is safe for occupancy, even in the face of the current contagion.