Having worked in the HVAC optimization and wellness field for the last 15 years, I have never seen a better opportunity to have a long overdue discussion about how our mechanical systems direct and drive building wellness. The current worldwide focus on halting the spread of COVID-19 has brought this topic to a level of urgent action.
The Corona virus, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 is by definition a pathogen. A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, or other microbe that can cause disease, what we often think of as “germs.” We are surrounded by pathogens (Bacterial, fungal or viral) inside of our bodies and buildings every second of every day.
News Flash: Your body contains trillions of viruses right now. At this moment, for every human cell in your body there are 10 bacterial cells on you and in you. Put another way, at a cellular level, you are only 10% human and 90% bacterial. The idea of riding our bodies and buildings of bacteria and microbes is both insane and impossible.
Got your attention yet?
Don’t be scared; there is good news.
Our health depends on the microbes that live in us and around us all day.
Microbes in Our Buildings and Our Bodies
Microbes exist in communities that cooperate, communicate and protect each other. Some even help regulate and strengthen our body’s immune systems. These communities are called biofilms. 95% of all bacteria on this planet live in biofilms, while only 5% are free-floating and unprotected (planktonic). Biofilms also house and protect viruses, fungi, microbes and protozoa that can be pathogenic (disease causing) to humans that come into contact with them.
Right now, we have no control of the microbes that make up this huge unseen world. But we do know that a normal human immune response easily handles the vast majority of this continual contact.
We are trying to gain some control of our human gut microbiome with the ever-increasing use of probiotic supplements. Microbiome is the term that describes all the biofilms housing all of the microbes of a single place, be it a human body or a large building. The result has been amazing. By influencing the microbiome of our bodies, we can achieve better health and an improved immune response.
Buildings operate very much like our bodies, as described in this TED talk by Dr. Jessica Green. So shouldn’t we start applying the same approach to improve the health and operation of the places that we spend 87% or our time?
Biofilms and the spread of coronavirus (and other pathogens)
Biofilms in HVAC/Mechanical systems can have a huge impact on system wellness, performance and efficiency. Until recently, the focus has been solely on energy savings and performance gains because of the tangible cost savings. Building wellness and indoor air quality (IAQ) often take a back seat because the cost benefits are much harder to quantify.
Today we know that if we properly clean, remove and control the growth and spread of biofilms we can greatly impact the microbial load in our homes and businesses. Air handling units are the nexus of power, performance and bio-load in our buildings today. Just like a healthy gut needs probiotics we have proven that our probiotic approach can result in a benign and healthy microbiome while maintaining HVAC components. Not to mention the additional benefits to the system such as increased heat transfer, air flow and efficiency.
This probiotic approach has also shown great potential as a janitorial and surface cleaning agent for hard and soft surfaces like doorknobs, desk tops, counters, carpets and seating. It can even be safely used to fog and mist large areas.
By addressing the ever-present biological activity in a thoughtful, proactive and cost-effective way we can ensure overall building wellness and performance while maintaining the comfort and health of the occupants.
For details on probiotic cleaning of your commercial building or facility, contact Jeff Seippel.