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Members Focus on Challenges of Pandemic

Whether its minimizing disruptions while trying to stay open, reviewing the HVAC systems and increasing outside air, or navigating COVID guidelines, facility managers are facing perhaps the biggest challenges in their careers. Nearly 40 members and guests joined the spirited discussion on meeting these challenges during the virtual program on Oct. 21.

The Zoom meeting demonstrated the value of membership as four panelists shared their look at several issues and the lessons they have learned during these troubling times.

Michael Wright with Ameren reviewed considerations on minimizing disruptions to facilities and sites. Chief considerations and challenges included bringing people, especially visitors, into buildings and organizing in-person meetings while providing for social distancing. FMs also need to monitor their facilities to determine where to focus cleaning and potentially sanitizing areas.

Dave Gardin with Kindred Healthcare noted that his facilities limit visiting hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with one visitor allowed to stay for one hour. Masks are mandatory, with temperature checks before entering the facility. Additionally, he recommended that all visitors enter and exit one way in and out.

As for the rules, panelists agreed that employees and subcontractors must follow all safety guidelines. Failure to comply results in reprimands, and subcontractors can be banned from future work if they do not follow the guidelines.

Much attention has been placed on HVAC systems and airflow to lessen harmful particles from hanging in the air. Jeff Touchette with Jarrell Mechanical Contractors cautioned that FMs need to consider a facilities’ building automation system to help with minimizing the COVID risk. This includes looking at the filters used, along with ionization technology and UV light to further limit particles that spread the virus.

FMs also face ethical and moral issues in managing their buildings and the impact on employees. Gary Wood, with Stryker Construction noted that COVID guidelines contain major loopholes so it really challenges FMs to do everything possible to protect their facilities and employees. Quarantine rules come into question when employees may have had second- or third-hand exposure to the virus. Decisions need to be made as well when employees who may have had contact with someone with the virus can be sent to job sites.

Practical matters included buildings that simply do not have the proper equipment to circulate air efficiently and effectively. Filters need to be changed more frequently, with a recommendation to move from a quarterly to monthly change of at least a Merv 13 filter.