From doctors’ surgeries to hospitals, medical and healthcare settings have always had to prioritise health, safety, and hygiene. But in the light of Covid-19, there has been an even greater emphasis on creating a safe environment for staff, patients and visitors alike. As such, those designing and fitting healthcare buildings must now look to the tools, technologies and services available to help their customers achieve it.
Key to this is reducing the number of interactions patients and visitors have with staff and other people around a building, as well as surfaces and doors. In response, manufacturers have introduced architectural ironmongery and remote access controls and sliding doors which, when used in partnership, can simultaneously reduce the number of touchpoints around a space, enable a more efficient, high-tech experience and deliver great looking designs.
For example, systems such as Dialock, the advanced door and furniture locking system from Häfele, use Bluetooth in combination with an app to act as a digital key. This can then be teamed with a Bluetooth-enabled wall reader, lined to an automatic door operator, to offer contactless access to medical rooms, storage facilities and waiting areas within a surgery or hospital setting. It can also be teamed with sliding doors and flow sensors to automatically programme the system and limit the number of people allowed entry to spaces at any given time, in areas where social distancing is still crucial.
Additionally, for spaces where physical contact with handles and levers is unavoidable, teams are retrofitting new materials to create safer interactions. Ranges of newly configured door handles are designed to facilitate use with an elbow, rather than with a hand, while other ironmongery items are manufactured using anti-microbial, natural materials. For example, the Coniarch range is made of anti-microbial solid copper alloy, which continuously kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria whilst maintaining the clinical aesthetic of stainless steel. Many other door handle materials are EPA registered and can be used to minimise transmission of viruses, with copper ironmongery having previously been used to reduce the spread of MRSA and E. Coli.
Furthermore, automatic orientation lighting, such as Gira’s Sensotec, features motion sensors which will switch lights on and off dependent on when a room is in use, removing the need for light switches entirely. Not only does this improve convenience and safety, but the technology is also sleek and sophisticated, adding to the minimalistic aesthetic preferred for clinical settings.
The need for these types of fittings and fixtures has significantly increased in the last 18 months due to Covid-19. To help their customers cater for that forever-changed world, the company have developed Häfele Hands Free – a consultancy package for architects, specifiers, contractors, installers and end users to guide them through the process of reconfiguring their spaces, with health and safety a key objective. The team will ensure the right products are selected to improve the use and functions of different buildings, while meeting new legal requirements and customer expectations quickly and easily.
Designers and installers can submit their brief and reconfiguration plans to the Häfele Projects 360 team, who will advise on the best solution for the bespoke requirements outlined. After installing Dialock, Häfele will train employees on how to programme the system themselves, so they can control individual access to rooms and areas as and when needed. Meanwhile, their Dialock Assist Maintenance programme offers a dedicated, bespoke back-up system that includes technical help and support, remote monitoring, diagnostics and service visits to ensure your entire site is operating efficiently.
Covid-19 shone a light on the many ways Häfele can improve their interactions with each other, and the buildings people use every day. The tools and technology are now available to ensure that peoples changed habits and preferences are supported, and the construction industry will play a key role in utilising them to make medical and health settings the most comfortable and safest places for workers and patients.