The Platform


With all of the businesses, schools, bars, restaurants, and even auto plants shutting down due to coronavirus, are we also thinking about the office building workplaces many people work in? Many office buildings in both downtown and in suburban campus settings may be more obsolete than just from a technology perspective. They are also more susceptible to harboring airborne diseases which are on everyone’s mind today.

How many buildings are hosting everyday airborne diseases and viruses without their occupants even suspecting the air is foul? The transmission of diseases can be very easy in a building which does not have the capability to constantly “scrub” impurities from being suspended in the air and re-circulated throughout the building.

It is not beyond the realm of possibilities to ask, “What about the internal health of a building?” Most HVAC systems are obsolete now if they do not focus on constant air disinfection well beyond the traditional scrubbing down of a facility by hand. A bad system can recirculate germs and bacteria throughout the building, instead of eliminating them as the air recirculates. Some special-use buildings, like hospitals, have this capability already.

Should air disinfection be viewed as a basic building security application today to guard against and protect occupants from biowarfare, just like network security software on all networks protect them from cyberattacks?

From blitzkrieg in the past, to nanokrieg and aerokrieg today, these are new precautionary issues we must face as offensive weapons change in the 21st century from guns and bombs to electronic and biological warfare. We cannot afford to overlook this potential, and very realistic, threat to our office buildings and office campus environments.

Productivity cannot be suspended or frozen if we are to compete globally. In global competition, no one can afford to be down a day, let alone a week or two.

In previous articles, I have discussed upgrading buildings and intelligent business campuses to support 21st-century mission-critical applications by adding redundant power and broadband connectivity networks with diverse routing to ensure business continuity. I have also outlined new concepts like Global Net Superiority to protect electronic access into buildings and enterprise networks from cyberattacks and cyberwarfare.

Are we at a point to be concerned about airborne attacks within our buildings from instances of aerokrieg? I believe the time is now to re-evaluate basic building automation systems which deal with air quality and its re-circulation.

Based on today’s threats of pandemics, we need to focus on defending against airborne diseases and viruses. The solutions are out there. They need to be adopted and implemented. A new comprehensive strategy needs to be adopted by many in property management and building ownership. 20th-century solutions do not solve 21st-century challenges.

The use of UV rays are not totally new when it comes to purifying areas having many bacteria and germs within it. Over a decade ago, we installed a UV system within our wastewater management system for our town as a state-of-the-art way for purifying wastewater we were pumping back into an adjacent river. The system was so innovative and effective, the town actually received an award for building such a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant that included a UV-based water purification facility.

Office building air supplies can be contaminated from both natural and man-made intrusions. We need to harden office facilities and their primary building automation systems, like HVAC, to include effective air purification to make the total building more resilient and efficient, as well as being a safe environment, for all its occupants.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.