top of page
  • Ryan Anderson, AIA/Principal/Lead Architect

Building Health Series (Part 4 of 6): Materials

With so many surfaces a person has to touch when entering or interacting inside a building, we have to pay attention to the materials installed in the building, especially as we consider potential exposure to viruses.

When we specifically consider COVID-19, the virus was found to be viable on copper for up to four hours, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel (Pekoc, Ken. "New coronavirus stable for hours on surfaces." National Institutes of Health, March 17, 2020.)

There are too many material options to count and we won't cover every possibility in this article…with that in mind, we offer the following short-list of ideas for consideration when selecting materials in a building:

Balance -

  • When making any decision on materials balance is important - finding the right material the fits the durability, economy, cleanability, and hygienic properties needed for the application and budget.

  • We also consider physical properties of the materials such as , permeability, heat resistance, water resistance, slip resistance, oil/grease resistance, porosity, jointing, texture, and if it's hard-wearing - not all of these properties relate to the hygienic nature of the material, but they are important factors in general and can be a contributing factors to a sanitary surface.

  • Just as important as the material is in this selection is the importance of following the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning of the material - selecting any material is only as good as the cleaning and maintenance of those materials after installation!

Flooring - The following are flooring ideas that maximize cleanability and durability while providing minimal breeding grounds for bacteria and other pathogens:

  • Homogenous seamless flooring with integral cove base

  • Resilient sheet flooring such as rubber or sheet vinyl

  • Resinous flooring such as terrazzo

  • Floor coatings such as epoxy, urethane, or polyaspartic systems

  • Ceramic/porcelain/quarry tile

Wall Finishes - Walls by far are the largest component of most buildings (by surface area) and selection of materials definitely needs to be approached with special attention to cost/benefit analysis as costs can certainly grow out of proportion very quickly! Here are some possible options:

  • Paints & coatings - antimicrobial, mold & mildew resistance products, similar to products like Microban. Other potential product types to consider include:

  • Microbicidal

  • Latex & epoxy systems

  • Fiberglass mat reinforcement coatings

  • Fiberglass reinforced panels (FRP)

  • Ceramic/porcelain/quarry tile

Ceilings - Ceiling materials tend to be less of a concern except in critical environments where pathogen development can be of immediate threat such as healthcare facilities and the foodservice industry. However, that doesn't mean these materials can't be employed in other uses to provide that extra level of protection:

  • Paints & coatings - antimicrobial, mold & mildew resistance products, similar to products like Microban. Other potential product types to consider include:

  • Microbicidal

  • Latex & epoxy systems

  • Fiberglass mat reinforcement coatings

  • Fiberglass reinforced panels (FRP)

  • Metal ceiling systems

  • Cleanable acoustical tile ceiling systems

Doors & Door Hardware - Options for doors and hardware are fairly minimal, especially hardware. So consider the following:

  • As mentioned in a previous article, one of the sure-fire solutions is to not have a door where it may not be needed or to have automatic operators and motion sensors so the door does not need to be touched at all.

  • Doors: consider materials that are easy to wipe down and disinfect without corroding or rotting over time, such as aluminum, fiberglass-reinforced-panel, or hybrids; steel is a cost effective option, but will corrode over time if subjected to high amounts of moisture

  • Hardware: limited options are available and mainly include brass, steel, and stainless steel (we're talking base material construction here, not finished look!); there are copper options that include antimicrobial properties, however these tend to be expensive (again, don't be fooled by copper "look" finish versus actual copper construction).

Work Surfaces - These can include anything from work room counters, break room counters, and bathroom counters to teller line counters, checkout counters, and table tops - almost anything you can set something on in one way or another. These materials represent easily cleanable surfaces and great care should be taken to minimize open joints and to seal material transitions:

  • Solid Surfacing

  • Quartz

  • Stone

  • Plastic Laminate

  • Stainless Steel

  • Sealed Wood

While this article just skims the surface of the wide array of materials available, it at least gets one thinking about the possibilities. Because of the unending options, employing these strategies can be a difficult. However, they certainly play a significant role in our ability to control spread of germs and viruses and our ability to clean and sanitize those surfaces.

Ryan is a Vice President at Ackerman-Estvold and the architecture team lead and has been applying his trade in the region around Minot for the past 17 years. If you have any questions throughout this series or would like more information on a particular topic, by all means contact us and we'd be more than happy to have a conversation.

bottom of page