A discussion on the use of microbial-resistant surfaces and healthcare furniture to prevent the spread of pathogens in the workplace.
President of Shield Casework
D: 816.875.3317 ext. 900
1. I understand your products are microbial-resistant and bleach cleanable and are used in everything from medical environments to locker-rooms. With the increased focus on hygiene in office, retail and hospitality sectors, do you see those sectors increasing their use of such products?
SH: Yes…everyone should immediately go buy all the Shield furniture they can grab.
Of course, that is tongue in cheek. So much has yet to play out, but I have a hard time believing that we will care less about cleanliness, distancing, and the interactions with public environments. This will be with us for the short term at minimum, and perhaps years into the future.
Products like ours, those specifically built for high-acuity areas and with a high design aesthetic in mind, are migrating into more and more environments. We started in operating rooms and moved into pharmacy, and then into infusion and maternity, and now out into hospital rooms or public spaces and even into athletics. I wouldn’t be surprised if that migration continues to wherever people want great design and to limit the spread of pathogens. We’ve all become amateur epidemiologists, so why wouldn’t we start to think of our highly public environments the same way we think of our high acuity healthcare spaces?
2. For owners and operators of non-healthcare assets, what adaptations do you suggest they consider in design or reconfiguration of current spaces (touchless check-in, pass-thru for restaurants, etc.)?
SH: The fundamentals are the same for a hospital and for a hotel. The American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) recommends 5 furniture surface characteristics for hospitals. These are designed to prevent the spread of pathogens and give us the best chance to keep our environments clean and our people safe. The 5 characteristics are: durable, cleanable, an inability to support microbial growth, no surface porosity, and an absence of seams.
This is where to start thinking about adapting surfaces and furniture. One must also focus on the areas where the highest number of interactions occur……at the point of sale, the transaction counter, the check-in, etc. Operationally, can these interactions be limited or designed out of the transaction? We’re working on a few products around this idea now.
But if we know anything from healthcare it is that proper handwashing makes the greatest impact. If you do one thing, think through the protocols for hand washing and personal hygiene. If you can create a culture of hygiene, your staff will demand it in your environments and your clients will feel it in your spaces.
3. Beyond products like yours, what have you seen in the healthcare world that could be applied elsewhere? What are your thoughts on UV light or misting applications to clean areas such as hotel rooms or offices?
SH: We have a pharmacy pass through that is used in specialty pharmacies that seems like it could help many transactions. There are two doors and it is placed through a wall. When one door is open, the other automatically locks so that no air can pass through (in typical pharmacy applications). But thought about in other applications, this could be used in many more public transactions to limit contact. These pass throughs are also often outfitted with UVC light or HEPA filters. Points of sale, and public points of interaction generally, are about to change.
In terms of other products, we see laminates trying to reinvent themselves but simply not holding up to the cleaning required in a healthcare setting (bleach, etc). I wonder if laminates can evolve or when we take these higher cleaning standards out to more environments, if we’ll start to see laminates become a liability?
In terms of disinfection, I would refer you to a recent blog post we did on cleanability. According to ASHE there are three ways to clean hard, non-porous surfaces in a healthcare setting: manual cleaning with chemical disinfectants, “self-disinfecting” surfaces, and using no-touch technology. Manual cleaning is the necessary baseline.
Self-disinfecting surfaces are those with biocidal properties either built-in to the material (i.e. copper- or silver- ion infused) or with some sort of germicidal coating. They work to actively kill germs on contact. These seem great but the research is mixed on their effectiveness and they don’t appear widely in the hospitals we work with.
Lastly no-touch technology which includes either UV-C germicidal light, or in healthcare an activated hydrogen peroxide vapor or mist that fogs the room. UV-C has had a lot of interest lately but from what we hear from our clients, UV-C has a duration and intensity requirement. Which means it has great applications to clean a fixed form factor on a certain side (i.e. a keyboard or a phone). But it has limited application and effectiveness in an environment. We are seeing many more people using foggers such as Halosil.
4. I understand Shield is involved with the design and construction of durable housing units for individuals experiencing homelessness. Have you seen changes to how this is being approached since the Covid-19 crisis began?
SH: Yes is the short answer. Our partners with the LA Studio of Perkins + Will really saw around the corner of this problem. When they approached us a year ago, the homeless situation was certainly real but I had a hard time getting my mind around the need for a better designed, more cleanable unit.
As I better understood their thinking, the severity of the problem for our cities became clear and I began to believe. Talking with people engaged with the situation on a daily basis, the facility operators or the city staff, has a way of convincing you.
Now every week over three million people are filing for unemployment……in the middle of a pandemic. It’s really hard to watch but the need for a more empathetic design, and certainly a more cleanable design, has become clear.
It’s a cool story, check out https://www.domeunit.com/ for more information.
For more information about AEI’s Q&A Series, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org