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Working towards indoor air quality (IAQ) sanitation
Dated: 18-09-2018

Time for a default ‘best practice’ preventative regime
B
y Paul Markevicius, MSc MIS, Environmental Consultant Verteco 

From offering best-in-class services to guests to providing a pleasant atmosphere during their stay, the hospitality industry is always under immense pressure to keep the surroundings clean and hygienic, and it just doesn’t just end here. The cleanliness and hygiene regime of any facility is not just restricted to the visible areas but it needs to be addressed at every nook and cranny.

The move towards improving indoor air quality (IAQ) combined with conserving water and energy efficiency is now heavily promoted by UAE municipalities with awareness programmes for improved standards. IAQ awareness broadly refers to the air quality within and around the buildings and structures. Experiencing unpleasant odours in hotel rooms can leave a bad impression on the guests and damage the hotel’s reputation. A holistic approach towards cleaning including monitoring the indoor air quality can prevent hostile environments taking hold. Thus, it becomes necessary to test the ventilation duct for mould bacteria that may be spreading across an entire floor of the hotel or apartment building.

The root cause

Once identified, the source is often bacteria-related. It can be decomposing organic waste in a garbage room, food smells travelling along a hotel corridor from an open plan restaurant, or the entrenched nicotine odour of a smoking lounge. Or it may be the tell-tale musty smell from mould. If you can smell it, chances are the area is heavily contaminated with mould spores and bacteria already embedded within the carpet fibres and furnishings, insidiously reproducing. Ably-assisted and transported by the air pressure from the HVAC, a localised ‘room problem’ quickly becomes a more serious, room de-commissioning and reputationaldamaging issue where mould spores are concerned. Other causes of mould and moisture-oxidation related problems include the materials short-changing rife within certain parts of the construction contractor industry namely, inferior or no (quality) moisture sealant protector on floors and walls, no primer and use of cheap paint, amongst many others.

Hotels and FM companies should have a preventative hygiene regime in place that will ensure timely identification and resolution of a sanitation problem by the people on the ground.

With mould, the irony is that an easy, early warning tool is at hand before it reproduces, spreads and takes hold. Adopting regular and frequent bacterial lab tests using a reliable laboratory is strongly recommended to avoid such situations. On the other hand, the mould can form in as little as 48 hours – so forever getting it checked is not necessarily the answer. But when you see evidence, especially near the air vents, and smell it, it’s already time for action. Regular laboratory swab or air sample tests is a good practice and a good way to demonstrate responsibility across the hierarchy of decisionmakers and the important thing is, it is independent data – not blameworthy. For health, safety and insurance reasons, not to mention the damage mould causes to property – it is also a wise move.

IAQ preventative practices

Depending on the specific conditions of the environment after testing and the microorganisms present, the absence of hazard Class A or B mould bacteria from a safety point of view is extremely valuable information. For as little as 350 AED, you can identify if mould bacteria have spread in the air ventilation system. A quick test using an agar jelly/petri dish, swab or air sampling for example is nonintrusive. It’s also incredibly easy to adopt as a standard, scheduled practice, weighed up against the bigger, more costly problems it can help prevent.

FM companies and hotels are responsible for their building environments and thus uninvited bacteria too. Consistent, scheduled checking for levels of harmful bacteria should be the norm, specifically, pathogens, dangerous infection-carrying, and immunedeficiency damaging bacteria. Fixing the source of the problem is not always so easy, financially when it’s the building facade, design and engineering that’s at fault. However, the problem isn’t going away and will likely only get worse. The mould will spread, and it becomes costlier to get rid of the problem. It requires serious attention with respect to the hotel’s reputation, not to mention the health of the guests and staff. Once tested and identified as a problem, the (RH) moisture content in the room should be tackled directly. With the help of a de-humidifier, the relative humidity can be reduced to below 60RH, ideally. This will be a short-term remedy only to stop the problem from getting worse. Besides, the mould bacteria present will start reproducing – an antimicrobial sanitiser (e.g., UV-C or Ionisation) can help stop the reproduction.

To manage mould problems professionally, it is advisable to inspect and analyse thoroughly, combining laboratory, sanitation, IAQ testing and HVAC specialists, to identify and eliminate the problem source.

The specialist

Verteco UAE offering complete water audits and consultation services on water conservation and efficiency also offers indoor air quality (IAQ) free consultative analysis of problem areas across many industry sectors. With a new smart environmental division, Verteco is targeting both IAQ and water saving efficiency/water sanitation, working directly with hotels, government buildings, commercial and residential highrise properties including private homes and villas; hospitals and many more.

The company advocates a preventative sanitation regime as the standard hygiene practice to be adopted for all stakeholders for hospitality and facilities management companies and all industry sectors with a publicservice interface. As part of their consultancy practice, they are working now with smart solutions to ensure this is not a notional ideal but a real practical solution operating 24/7. This smart methodology enables problems to be picked up in their infancy when they are at a much lower operational cost level, and remotely if required.

 

 
 
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