Combat Infection with UV-C Technology
- By Daniel Jones
- April 1st, 2017
Wherever numbers of people gather, the
threat of colds and flu lingers in the back of
everyone’s mind. No place is this truer than
schools and universities, where thousands of
students, faculty and staff congregate, bringing
their germs with them.
At Schenectady County Community College
in New York, Director of Facilities Alan Yauney
has been fighting the war against infectious
diseases for the past seven years. A member of
the Association of Physical Plant Administrators
(APPA), Yauney previously spent 13 years in a
similar position at the University of Alaska.
It’s a war that the veteran facility manager is
well-armed to fight, bringing a host of infectionfighting
technologies to the fore, and not just
hand sanitizer (although there is certainly plenty
of that). “We have sprays over our bathroom
door handles that periodically release germicide
to eliminate the viruses and bacteria that people
leave behind,” explains Yauney.
Also in his infection-fighting arsenal is
an electrostatic fogging machine that can
decontaminate an entire room, even under the
tables, during an outbreak. “All of our disinfecting
agents are environmentally friendly,” underscores
Yauney, as he explains a pressure washer he uses
to clean bathrooms once per week. In fact, his
stockpile of disinfectant has even become a source
for other local facility managers when they run
out of sanitizing agents at their facilities.
Recently, Yauney deployed the ultimate
weapon in infection control — Ultraviolet-C
(UV-C) germicidal irradiation — which has fostered
an affordable level of upper air purification
UV-C systems have been used to control
airborne infectious diseases in schools and
hospitals since the 1940s. Today, UV-C light is
used in health care facilities to decontaminate
surgical and patient areas and even to destroy
the Ebola virus in as few as five minutes.
Yauney’s earliest memories of UV-C lighting was
as a child visiting the pediatrician. “I remember
the lights being mounted over my doctor’s door
to kill germs,” he says.
Decades later, during the 1980s, Yauney
reacquainted himself with UV-C technology
when he managed the construction of a water
filtration plant in New York. “There were numerous
options to disinfect the water,” he recalls.
“Chlorine was one, but it’s a toxic chemical.
Ozone was another, but it has a short life. We
ended up choosing UV-C because it can deliver a
continuously high kill rate for microorganisms.”
With these experiences under his belt,
Yauney knew that UV-C would be an effective
tool for infection control at Schenectady County
Community College, especially when he learned
about upper air germicidal UV-C light fixtures.
The wall-mounted fixtures create an irradiation
zone within the upper region of almost
any space. Virtually all infectious agents carried
upward by convection currents are killed by the
ultraviolet irradiation. It’s advisable to choose
fixtures with higher irradiance levels, which
allow greater UV-C coverage, enabling infection
control specialists to treat more area with fewer
fixtures, saving both cost and energy.
“UV-C’s high infection kill rate makes it a nobrainer
on a college campus like Schenectady,
which is around 400,000 square feet and enrolls
roughly 6,500 students,” says Yauney.
Different UV-C systems exist for wall and
HVAC/R applications. In this case, the college
wanted the ability to provide on-the-spot infection
control with specific stand-alone installations
of the UV-C upper air fixtures.
So convinced was Yauney of UV-C’s hygienic
value that he managed to diversify payment
for the units. “It really wasn’t a hard sell to
persuade Administration to pay for UV-C once
they understood the indoor air quality benefits
it could yield,” he says.
Dropping the Bomb on Infection
Wishing to spare no expense on health and
safety, Yauney moved forward to purchase and install
20 UV-C units across campus at a total cost of
roughly $11,000. Units were positioned in the areas
where infections are typically most entrenched,
such as the cafeteria and daycare center. Units were
also installed near the security desk and Café, as
well as the student forum and lounge.
One installation challenge was how to
position the fixtures so that students could not
look directly into the harmful light. To minimize
direct exposure to UV-C light, some fixtures have
baffles that direct and angle the ultraviolet light
upward and out of the line-of-sight.
Some areas at the college are multileveled,
however, so units were strategically placed to
avoid exposure to the students. Other areas,
like the elevators, were avoided for fear that
students would purposely try to access the
lamps without realizing the danger of direct
UV-C exposure. “Teenagers don’t always think
about consequences, so we wanted to avoid any
possibility of harm,” explains Yauney.
The installations took place over a period of
several months. Although there is no available
empirical data that can assess the units’
performance, knowing that germs are being
continuously eradicated is enough for Yauney.
“When I get questions from students or
faculty about the lamps, I tell them they are removing
bacteria from the air, making it healthier
Yauney argues that although most facility
managers are probably not as germ-conscious
as he is, it’s a good trait to have. “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. Otherwise, the
money you save will be lost to absenteeism and
poor indoor air quality,” he asserts.
In the case of Schenectady County Community
College, students, faculty and staff can feel
safe and secure knowing that their ever-watchful
facility director is employing the latest in infection
control to help keep them healthy and germ-free.
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of College Planning & Management.
Daniel Jones is president of UV Resources. He is an ASHRAE member and a corresponding member of the ASHRAE Technical Committee 2.9 and ASHRAE SPC-185.2, devoted to Ultraviolet Air and Surface Treatment.