Guidance launched to help schools adapt with hygiene in mind

A new visual guide for specifiers has been launched to help get schools, colleges and universities Covid-19 ready.  

Bringing together a suite of materials with hygienic benefits, the guide has been designed to support educators as they reorganise teaching spaces to cope with social distancing measures and subject their surfaces to a harsher cleaning regime. 

With a huge range of products available, each with different levels of hygienic performance, materials supplier James Latham developed the guide to help building owners and occupiers navigate their choices.  

Steve Johnson of the Advanced Technical Panels division specialises in health-related products at Lathams. He said: “While some year groups have gone back already, there are many children and young adults still at home. The latest suggestions from government are that all education settings will be reopened by September 2020, with further guidance in the process being drafted now.   

“It means that education providers have got the summer months to make changes to their teaching facilities, on top of the usual maintenance that often takes place at this time of year. This will put extra pressure on specifiers to get things ordered and installed quickly. With so many products available it is not always clear what the differences are between them.  

“For example, there is a lot of confusion between anti-microbial and anti-bacterial products. The difference is that anti-bacterial materials prevent bacteria from growing on their surface, while anti-microbial products halt the growth of bacteria and a broader range of viruses, organisms, protozoa, and fungi such as mould or mildew. This makes them significantly better for high-use surfaces.” 

Products in the guide have been organised into five categories, based on a range of performance criteria and potential uses. Top of the list is advanced thermoplastic KYDEX. Mouldable to any shape, it is heavily utilised in healthcare because of its robustness and inherent hygienic qualities. It can withstand tough cleaning products, without any staining, fading or surface damage, and contains Microban for anti-microbial protection. 

It is equally well-suited to classroom and technical spaces, such as science labs, because of its hard-wearing nature. KYDEX is used for a wide range of objects including desks, worktops, chairs and storage units. As a homogeneous product, any damage to the top layer does not negatively affect its anti-microbial properties or visual impact, which makes it perfect for high traffic areas.  

Unlike KYDEX, which is more suited to an off-site manufacturing process, other products within the guide can be easily added to existing surfaces and therefore offer a much quicker turnaround. These include laminates, with Abet Lamishield the highest performer.  

Abet Lamishield is an anti-microbial laminate that incorporates silver-ions within the decorative layer. Utilising BioCote technology, it inhibits surface growth by 99.9%. It is one of the only certified anti-microbial laminates and when combined with good cleaning practices it is highly effective.  

Another challenge that may need to be considered is the installation of barriers and other protective measures. This includes adding partitions or screens to divide classrooms to allow smaller working groups or using them as part of a traffic flow system around buildings and campuses.  

The Lathams guide recommends AcryBright, a lightweight clear acrylic sheet ideal for protective screens and sneeze guards. While costing slightly more than a standard piece of acrylic, it is more hardwearing, something that Steve believes makes it worth the investment. 

He added: “These materials are going to be around for a while and will need to be cleaned more often, with higher strength cleaning chemicals. These chemicals can cause damage, from small surface scratches through to potential warping or clouding of the screen.  

“This damage not only reduces the hygienic properties of the product but also affects its visual appeal, which can have a negative impact on student wellbeing. Why pay twice when there is a better option available now?” 

Other categories within the guide include Compact Grade Laminates (CGLs) and Solid Surfaces, both highly recognised for their robustness and resistance to intensive cleaning regimes. Both products are solid sheet materials, which will not delaminate when exposed to the rigours of repeated cleaning with detergents and other chemicals. A range of options from market leading brands such as HIMACS®, Avonite, Kronospan, Egger and Xylocleaf mean that there are colours and textures to suit any design scheme.