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Coronavirus is one more unwelcome visitor knocking on our doors

Coronavirus is one more unwelcome visitor knocking on our doors
Demand for regulated access to public and private facilities is a factor that architects, builders and facility managers are increasingly having to plan into their facilities with the impact of physical and health risks, including control of coronavirus.

Sometimes the issue is excluding potential carriers of risk factors such as contagious conditions; sometimes the issue is to exclude the risk factor itself, such as vehicle pollution, smoke and widespread allergens including pollen. Such allergens can particularly affect people suffering from hay fever (allergic rhinitis), which affects about 18 percent of people in Australia and New Zealand. 

“We have seen a definite uptick in demand for revolving doors and security entrances under the impact of long-term factors, such as the public health risks presented by rising levels of airborne pollution and allergens. And we are also seeing new interest in access control and environmental as a result of public health issues such as smoke from bushfires and the need during the coronavirus pandemic to regulate visitors to public and private workspaces and health facilities. This can only rise in the future under the public health awareness created by pandemics such as coronavirus,” says Boon Edam Australia Managing Director Michael Fisher.

Mr. Fisher says the factors that are causing an upswing in demand for revolving doors and security entrances – as part of much wider public health planning – are not going to go away. These encompass a wide range of growing issues as more people occupy smaller spaces in dense urban environments. They range from regulation of health threats presented by infected people, through to broader health and sustainability factors affecting entire buildings, including exclusion of pollution and conservation of energy used in building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems (HVAC), which Australia’s CSIRO says HVAC account for between 40–50 percent of a commercial building’s energy use and contributes 34.7 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. 

Multiple benefits

Designers have long been aware of the energy conservation, sustainability and healthier building interior benefits of revolving doors, with their “always open, always closed” functionality limiting HVAC losses and excluding airborne pollutants. This is because revolving doors function beautifully as airlocks, which allow smooth pedestrian flow while keeping expensive cool air inside on warmer days, reducing air conditioning costs. In cooler times, they keep cold air out, thereby reducing heating costs. And their built-in ability to exclude airborne pollutants at all times is expanding still further under the impact of long-term and seasonal threats, such as pollution generally and bushfire in particular.

“And awareness of the need for both revolving doors and security entrances will also rise as employers and public officials move to reinforce their duty of care to regulate facilities where workers may be exposed to the impact of physical, allergen and viral threats, now and in the future. The threat of contagion from people carrying infections can only increase, as more people are concentrated into smaller spaces at work and in public facilities. The space per employee, for example, has been shrinking for decades, and is now down to typically 8-12 sqm a person.

“Virus infections are a fact of life long-term. Infectious diseases have been with us from the beginning of time, as people intermingled ever more extensively. Even over this last century, we have had major mass afflictions, such as the Spanish Flu, for example, which killed 30-100 million worldwide, including more than 10,000 in Australia conservatively. 

“That is an extreme of course, and we don’t have to be alarmist – just prepared. And we don’t pretend for a moment that one solution can be a silver bullet for interior sustainability issues – this is a multi-tiered issue – but we do say that revolving doors have inherent advantages that increasingly suit our built environments. All designers and facility managers have an ongoing Duty of Care to limit threats and contagions and entrances are part of that.”

“You often hear doctors advising people to stay indoors during times of high pollution or weather that stirs up allergens, which is good advice. And you also need to keep the interior space healthy and sustainable. So public health officials are also acutely aware of the need to regulate people you do admit to public and private facilities during times of pandemic, which is a process that starts at the front entrance.”

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