Facilities Department establishes multifaceted COVID-19 prevention approach
June 9, 2020
Like all organizations, Virginia Tech has experienced a significant shift in operations over the past weeks and months related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facilities Department team members have worked around the clock to clean, disinfect, and sanitize campus spaces. More than ever, they remain highly proactive around illness prevention efforts and follow stringent operating recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and ISSA, the cleaning trade association.
As the Virginia Tech community proceeds toward an increased on-campus presence this fall, the university is committed to maintaining the highest standards of cleanliness across all campus facilities.
“While maintaining Virginia Tech’s unique sense of place remains our passion, our foremost priority is the safety and wellbeing of the university community,” said Chris Kiwus, associate vice president and chief facilities officer.
In strong alignment with the principles guiding the university towards an increased on-campus presence this fall, the Facilities Department specifically commits that its team will:
- Abide by all CDC, state, university, and industry protocols for healthy working conditions and behaviors.
- Recognize the critical role that housekeeping services plays in protecting human health by preventing transmission of infectious diseases, and in many instances the role it plays as the first line of defense against the spread of infectious agents. The department is prepared and equipped with the ability to expeditiously clean and disinfect necessary areas as needed.
- Continue to evaluate data-informed conditions, feedback, and processes to help the department assess and address gaps in service execution.
- Ensure that operations remain in sync and intentionally scaled with enterprisewide operating conditions, allowing the department to remain nimble, responsive, and positioned to provide best-in-class services to the university community.
- Approach all campus locations (Blacksburg, Roanoke, Greater Washington D.C., metro region, ARECs, and beyond) — whether university owned or leased — as consistently as possible.
The university will manage cleaning of indoor spaces through a combination of frequent and thorough cleaning and access control, including when rooms and buildings are not occupied. High-touch items, high-volume spaces, and public areas will receive priority. Prioritization of resources and spaces will enable the Facilities team to deliver the safest environment possible.
The approach to all campus locations, whether university-owned or leased, will be as consistent and scalable as possible. Service frequency and scope in facilities maintained via third-party providers may vary based on location-specific or program-specific service arrangements.
Virginia Tech will take all necessary actions to mitigate the risks to housekeeping teams, Facilities employees, and the greater university community, and establish appropriate staffing strategies to optimize cleaning and mitigation. All staff conducting cleaning and disinfecting will be provided appropriate personal protective equipment and necessary training consistent with the use of this equipment.
Outlined below are facilities-specific actions being taken throughout the summer to ensure a safe and effective resumption to campus operations over the coming months. These actions will be carried out by the Facilities Department in partnership with key stakeholders and service providers. The university community’s patience and partnership are appreciated.
Cleaning, disinfecting of spaces, and ongoing enhanced campus care.
- Maintain cleaning and disinfecting practices in accordance with CDC, ISSA (the cleaning industry’s global professional organization), and Virginia Tech Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) guidelines.
- Perform cleaning of indoor spaces that have been unoccupied.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfecting of spaces that have been occupied.
- Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched indoor surfaces.
- Disinfect areas if possible cases arise, per direction from EHS.
- Continue routine maintenance of outdoor spaces.
- Perform routine cleaning of lab spaces.
Hand hygiene is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.
- Install and maintain over 2,000 new hand-sanitizer stations at entrances, elevators, classrooms, and high-traffic areas.
- Install and maintain over 600 new touch-free soap dispensers in building restrooms.
- Install and maintain over 600 new touch-free paper towel dispensers in building restrooms.
- Deploy and support communication materials in coordination with University Relations, Human Resources, EHS, Hokie Wellness, and other units.
Operational pre-return inspections, HVAC, and mechanicals checks.
- Ready building mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and monitoring systems, including flushing domestic water lines and resetting building temperatures and control systems.
- Perform necessary building inspections and repairs.
- Ready central utility plants for increased building demand.
Maintain safe, clean, and healthy outdoor spaces.
- Inspect areas around buildings for trash and debris and remove accordingly.
- Ensure all building entrances and loading docks are clear of litter and debris.
- Continue to mow green spaces.
- Inspect parking lots and clear of litter and debris.
- Maintain shrubs and flowers (in reduced number of locations).
- Continue tree management and care.
- Ensure effective waste and recycling collection.
- Maintain off-campus properties.
Assist customer/occupant physical distancing practices for decreasing density, adjusting traffic patterns.
- Support facility space usage changes for physical distancing in accordance with established university guidelines.
- Assist customers in evaluating reduction in capacity of spaces — e.g., decreasing chairs in a conference room, limiting furniture use, moving furniture, assessing for interim storage needs, etc.
- Coordinate the path of egress to be used for access and ensure congregation in corridors or public spaces within buildings.
Address facilities-related contracted processes.
- Engage contractors and vendors in resumption-of-operations plan.
- Ensure continued compliance by contractors of the on-campus protocols.
- Ensure indoor and outdoor construction projects are being monitored and inspected by the university building official and Facilities Department for compliance.
- Ensure project sites/work areas are cleaned and secure when work is completed and/or when leaving the area.
- Coordinate the path of egress to be used for access to/from the project site/work areas and ensure contractors avoid congregating in the corridors or public spaces within the building.
- Track and monitor equipment, product, and material lead times as many manufacturers begin to return to reduced hours and/or normal operations. Projects could experience schedule impacts due to material delivery delays.
- Practice good hygiene (handwashing and cleanliness within your work setting).
- Review, share, and monitor compliance with established university and commonwealth public health guidelines.
- Reconfigure indoor and outdoor spaces to allow for physical distancing.
- Assist in identifying high-use entrances and traffic areas.
- Remove and/or clean high-touch shared tools, such as break area equipment, computer keyboards, whiteboard markers, remote controls, etc.
- Assist in controlling building entry points as appropriate.
- Comply with signage guidelines.
The Virginia Tech Facilities Department provides state-of-the-art design, construction, operations, and maintenance of university facilities, grounds, infrastructure, and utilities in a customer-focused, cost-effective, and sustainable manner. Led by the associate vice president and chief facilities officer, the department oversees the care, maintenance, and development of Virginia Tech’s growing campus, which spans more than 2,600 acres with 215 buildings and an airport.