As we all eagerly wait to go back to our lives as normal I continue to wonder what designers can do to help restaurants and other public places become safer for the population. One area that shouldn’t be overlooked is the textiles and materials used in public settings.
Antimicrobial is defined as “destroying or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, and especially pathogenic organisms.” Pathogenic describes viruses, bacteria, and other types of germs that can cause disease. A single bacteria cell can multiply to over a million in an 8 hour period if left unchecked. Fabrics that come into contact with the human body can be an even more conducive environment (think heat and moisture) for viruses to spread. When it comes to fabrics and the use of antimicrobial features, a pathogen fighting layer of defense is applied to fabrics. Without this layer, fabrics would become contaminated and have to be discarded. This layer prolongs the life of fabrics while protecting us from pathogens that could potentially infect us.
You can understand why these fabrics and safeguards have been common in the healthcare industry, but until recently have not been seen as particularly important in other businesses or public places. It may be time for this to change.
Restaurants, movies theaters, salons and spas, and hotel lobbies all come to mind (along with many others) as places that would benefit from this added measure of safety. Of course, it would be an added cost for the establishment, but would likely put patron’s minds at ease to some degree and potentially be worth the investment. And, who knows, it could become a requirement as we learn more about the transmission of the virus and the level of contagion.
A couple of important notes about antimicrobial fabrics:
– Antimicrobials in fabrics do not necessarily kill the germs that come into contact with it. It may kill some quickly, it may just slow the spread of others, or it may take up to 10 minutes to destroy. As with other technology and safety measures, I’m sure this will continue to be improved upon in upcoming months as the demand for the most effective process to promote safety in public spaces increases.
– There have been studies suggesting that these fabrics can add extra toxins in the air and further degrade indoor air quality however many manufacturers are now innovating to eliminate those toxins.
Not a fabric, but it’s important to note that Copper has been proven to “destroy” pathogens within four hours and has been much more widely used in hospitals. Influenzas, bacteria like E. coli, superbugs like MRSA, etc can die within minutes and are undetectable within hours. Copper and its alloys like brasses, bronzes, cupronickel, copper-nickel-zinc can self-sterilize its surface without the need for electricity or bleach. Think about these facts in relation to things that we share in public or come into contact with regularly (sinks, faucets, doorknobs, toilet hardware, computer keyboards, health club equipment, shopping cart handles, and more). These are fairly easy changes that businesses and establishments could make.
Would you feel safer or be more likely to visit a business or space that made this change in order to keep their patrons and employees safer?