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What new and emerging technologies should building service contractors be aware of and how will such innovations help them stay ahead of the competition? Paul Greenland, vice president of sales and marketing at Brilliant General Maintenance Inc., posed such questions when he moderated a panel as part of BSCAI's recent Virtual Operations Summit.

Rob Kohlhagen, senior director of sales and marketing at Diversey, kicked off the discussion with some comments on the future of disinfection. He asserted that it's important BSCs remember their job is to keep building occupants safe from all kinds of bacteria and viruses, not just COVID-19.

"When it comes to surface disinfection, there are two things we should promote," he said. "First is more daytime cleaning. We can't just be hidden janitors at night. Cleaning has to be done during the day by us, but also by occupants of the building. It has to be a cooperative effort."

He added that disinfecting is about more than just COVID-19. In addition to the coronavirus, BSCs battle everything from MERSA to the norovirus to colds and flus. All can cause employee absenteeism and impact staff productivity.

Jeff Stone, national sales manager for ProTeam, spoke of the importance of improving indoor air quality (IAQ), especially with people spending so much time indoors. Poor IAQ can negatively impact building occupants who suffer from everything from seasonal allergies to serious respiratory ailments like asthma. Stone cited data that shows 14.2 million work days are missed each year because of asthma alone.

"HVAC maintenance is important in terms of monitoring [carbon dioxide], humidity, and temperature for better ventilation and improving the indoor air quality that needs to be optimized," he asserted. BSCs are now looking at mechanical air purification systems that remove airborne contaminants. He added that high-filtration vacuum cleaners certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute should also be deployed to better capture and remove such contaminants as dust, bacteria, pollen, fungi and more.

April Bertram, senior business development director of IoT Solutions at GOJO Industries, stressed that BSCs have a critical role to play in making people feel comfortable returning to the workplace, the classroom, places of worship and so forth. Her company has stepped up placing hand sanitizer stations throughout the buildings GOJO services.

She was most proud of her firm's use of smart technology and the data that can now be gathered to help BSCs do their job better and more efficiently. Connected solutions that allow managers to better understand what's going on in buildings was first deployed in healthcare settings. The technology has since made its way into office buildings and other structures.

"Having data to tell us about occupancy bubbles, when things need cleaning, and where they need cleaning is making workers more efficient," said Bertram. Better data can also reduce complaints from building occupants.

NanoTouch Materials LLC co-founder Dennis Hackemeyer then weighed in on how his company uses nanotechnology and the natural processes of light, without the use of any toxins, heavy metals or hazardous chemicals, to deliver healthier buildings. He said the biggest plus of his company's NanoSeptic technology is "how it makes people feel because it's visible."

Powered by light, NanoSeptic surfaces utilize mineral nano-crystals that create a potent oxidation reaction. Working 24/7, the surface continually oxidizes organic contaminants. Nothing is released from the surface since the nano-crystals are molecularly bonded to the material.

"The new normal for some is daunting," Hackemeyer said. "However, the new normal presents what we believe to be a powerful, strategic and tactical set of opportunities to deliver a new, innovative and visible clean multiplier."

Finally, the discussion wrapped up not with another vendor's perspective, but with some thoughts from a long-time BSC. Omega Services Group President Bill Warnecki has shifted his thinking and is now looking at the COVID-19 pandemic as a "permdemic."

"Is some aspect of this just going to go on and on?" he asked in conclusion. "We're preparing for that. I think that if it wasn't for this group [of panelists], we'd be in a whole different predicament."