Air filters, smart elevators help a big building fight COVID

5151 E. Broadway boosting virus precautions
Posted at 8:14 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 23:14:13-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - KGUN9 On Your Side’s program we call the Rebound looks ahead to how we can function safely in the world COVID-19 turned upside down. Here is a look at how a large office building has adapted to keep tenants safe.

As we try to rebound into a safe office environment sometimes the biggest buildings can be the biggest challenge.

With 16 floors, 5151 East Broadway is one of the tallest buildings in Tucson. A building that tall needs to use elevators, but how can you maintain social distancing when you walk into that moving box?

The building requests no more than two riders per elevator car and right before COVID hit, the building upgraded to what’s called destination dispatch elevators. Mark Isenberger manages the building for Cushman and Wakefield/Picor. He shows how you get where you need to, with no more than one touch of a touch screen---and without pushing a lot of germy buttons afterwards.

Isenberg says, “You can call a floor, we'll say, the ninth floor, sanitize your hands. It assigns you to Cab “D”. You get on Cab “D” , there's no button to press. The elevator remains open and goes to the floor directly; you don't touch a button. Your hands are sanitized meant to, like I said, reduce contact with publicly touched surfaces.”

The building could accommodate about a thousand people under normal circumstances, but with companies doing more work from home it may hold about a hundred now.

The furniture’s removed from the lobby to discourage face to face contacts, and the gym in the building is closed by the Governor’s order.

Chief Building Engineer Pablo Martinez manages the climate control and oversees a complex system with upgraded air filters able to catch and hold viruses before they flow through the building.

Property manager Mark Isenberger says most commercial buildings use filters with a rating called MERV 8, but this building uses MERV 13’s.

He says, “There's very little that gets through a Merv 13. The only higher standard you're going to see is where you have virus labs, virology labs, which would have negative containment systems.”

Some of the COVID precautions are less sophisticated, but still get the job done. The building has small metal fixtures on the bottom of the restroom doors. They allow you to pull open the door with your foot. This small piece of metal solves the problem of how to open the rest room door without contaminating the hands you just washed.