As winter approaches each year, the threat of cold and flu lingers in the back of everyone’s mind. Nowhere is this truer than schools and universities, where students, faculty, and staff members—and their germs—congregate.
Alan Yauney, director of facilities at Schenectady County Community College (SCCC) in Schenectady, N.Y., has been fighting the war against infectious diseases for two decades. It is a war he is well-armed to fight, with a host of infection-fighting technologies—not just hand sanitizer (although there certainly is plenty of that)—at his disposal.
“We have sprays over our bathroom-door handles that periodically release germicide to eliminate the viruses and bacteria that people leave behind,” Yauney explained.
Also in his arsenal is an electrostatic fogging machine that can decontaminate an entire room, even under tables.
“All of our disinfecting agents are environmentally friendly,” Yauney said, explaining a pressure washer he uses to clean bathrooms once a week.
Recently, Yauney deployed ultraviolet C (UVC) lighting, which has provided a level of affordable purification previously unknown.
Yauney’s earliest memories of UVC lighting were as a child visiting the pediatrician.
“I remember the lights being mounted over my doctor’s door to kill germs,” Yauney said. “The technology has been around for a long time.”
During the 1980s, Yauney served as project manager for the construction of a water filtration plant in New York.
“There were numerous options to disinfect the water,” Yauney said. “Chlorine was one, but it’s a toxic chemical. Ozone was another, but it has a short life. We ended up choosing UVC because it can deliver a continuously high kill rate for microorganisms in the water.”
With these experiences under his belt, Yauney believed UVC would be an effective tool for infection control at SCCC. A visit from David Crowley, territory sales manager for Camfil USA Inc., sealed the deal, as Crowley told Yauney about the GLO upper-air UV fixture from UV Resources.
The high-output GLO mounts on a wall and delivers the largest upper-room UVC dosage in the industry without the use of additional power, heat, or special UV lamps. It creates an irradiation zone within the upper region of most any space. Virtually all infectious agents carried upward by convection currents are killed by the ultraviolet irradiation.
Different UVC systems exist for wall and air-handler mounting.
“In this case,” Crowley said, “Alan was sold on the ability for greater spot control by choosing exactly where the wall-mounted GLO units would be installed.”
GLO’s affordability—units cost roughly $550 each—was another factor in the decision.
Dropping the Bomb on Infection
Yauney purchased and installed 20 GLO units across the campus at a total cost of approximately $11,000. Units were located in the areas where infectious agents typically are most entrenched, such as the day-care center.
“We installed between five and eight units in the day-care center alone because young children tend to be ill more frequently than adults, and their interaction with one another makes transmission rates higher,” Yauney said.
Units also were installed near the security desk and in the cafeteria, student forum, and student lounge.
Because UVC can be harmful to one’s skin and eyes if faced directly, the GLO units are angled upward and installed at least 7 ft from the floor. In multilevel spaces, units are placed strategically to avoid direct exposure. Other areas, such as elevators, were avoided out of fear someone not knowing the risks would try to access the lamps.
“People don’t always think about the consequences, so we wanted to avoid any situation in which they might look into the UV light and harm themselves,” Yauney said.
The installations took place over a period of several months, beginning in the spring of 2015 and ending shortly before school resumed in the fall. While empirical data for assessing the units’ performance may be lacking, Yauney said the peace of mind that comes with knowing germs are being killed continuously makes the investment worthwhile.
“When I get questions from students and faculty about the lamps, I tell them they are removing bacteria from the air, making it healthier to breathe,” Yauney said.
Yauney added that while few facility managers are as germ-conscious as he, it is a good way to be.
“Anywhere you put thousands of people in close proximity—be it a hospital, airport, large office building, or college—it’s advisable to try to eliminate disease transmission as much as possible,” Yauney said. “Otherwise, the money you save by not installing them will be lost to absenteeism and other inefficiencies.”
In the case of SCCC, students, faculty, and staff members can feel safe and secure knowing their ever-watchful facility director is employing the latest in infection control to help keep them healthy and germ-free.
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