26 No time to waste

Carole Armstrong from Delabie provides specification advice to help schools increase hygiene levels while reducing water wastage, especially following building closures during the pandemic

challenges. Welcoming students back to the classroom is anything but simple. Year or study groups are now divided into bubbles, requiring exclusive access to facilities; hand sanitising units should be available at entrances; hand washing has increased exponentially; and staggered lunch and break times have modified usage patterns. Specifiers must factor in the new reality in schools and colleges in order to futureproof education facilities.


Typically, we wash our hands four or five times a day, but recently this has risen to at least 12 times

The fight against bacteria Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory tract bacterial infection that affects people with chronic respiratory problems and those with a weakened immune system. Legionella bacteria occur naturally in water and develop where there is stagnant water and a source of nutrients, such as infrequently used pipes or rusted water storage tanks. They multiply at temperatures between 20-45°C and can be harmful if inhaled in aerosol form. All water systems are subject to biofilms – collections of microorganisms that attach to each other and to any surface in contact with water. During recent building closures, if the system is not regularly maintained

ocial distancing, hand hygiene, Legionella prevention – the new academic year poses some serious

and flushed, bacteria can easily develop in biofilm. Even the different usage patterns associated with education bubbles may have consequences for the water system. Former low usage areas (such as re- allocated staff toilets) may face more intensive use, while showers in changing facilities may have been moth-balled, resulting in stagnant water in the pipes. An increase in water flow can dislodge waterborne bacteria from even well- established biofilms. Conversely, bacteria will also develop in biofilm found in under- used parts of the system.

The solution is simple: prevent the water from reaching the temperatures at which bacteria multiply and limit water stagnation in the installation. Government guidance recommends regularly flushing pipework. This can be done by opening all taps and allowing the water to flow for a minute. However, manual flushing is labour intensive and expensive.

Washing challenges

Students and teachers now have to wash their hands more frequently: when entering the premises; after every break; before and after every meal, and after every toilet visit, sneeze, cough or nose-blow. NHS guidance on how to wash hands correctly recommends using soap and water where possible, and then drying the hands thoroughly with a disposable paper towel. But how often do students forget to turn off the tap? Traditional basin taps typically consume 9 litres per minute. If hand washing takes 32 seconds, including wetting, soaping and rinsing, and the tap runs throughout, total consumption is 4.8 litres per use. Typically, we wash our hands four or five times a day, but recently this has risen to at least 12 times a day. The impact on consumption is significant – increasing from 24 litres to 57.6 litres per person per day. Washing our hands more often takes its toll on washroom facilities. Can taps and soap/gel dispensers cope with this increase


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