Water Safety in the Super-Virus Era: A Look at the Sanitary Fittings Sector
April 11, 2020
Turn on the TV or look at your smartphone and we immediately realise we are moving into an era of superviruses and other similar threats. People everywhere are now highly sensitized towards the need for personal and public hygiene.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis is impacting the way we live, and will continue to do so. Things we are used to doing, we are learning to do differently. We have to, because of an invisible bit of DNA about 0.125 micron long. How do we, as humans, adapt fast enough so that people can stay healthy and our environment protected?

A lot has to do with how we handle water. Viruses and bacteria are transmitted by water and other liquids, in their various forms. Careless use of water has a direct impact on our living environment, including creating habitats suitable for superbugs to grow and spread.
In the sanitary fittings sector, manufacturers, suppliers, specifiers and end-users must take the lead in implementing certain key mindset changes. The technologies to enable these changes are already available. Here are some:

Zero-Contact Actuation 
Zero-contact settings and actuations are common features in many sanitary fittings, but mainly in public facilities. They are rarely seen in residential properties. We can expect that in a post-pandemic environment, it will become mandatory that all public facilities should have only touch-free fittings and sensor operated actuators. We can also expect that demand for such fittings for private households will also increase dramatically. This will drive innovation tailored to electronic fittings for home use. Countries that are at the cutting edge of modernization should seek to implement a zero-touch environment in public facilities, without exception.

Thermal & Other Disinfection Features
In health and related facilities, an important feature in fittings is to have the piping and other delivery mechanisms thermally disinfected every 12 or 24 hours or more. Separately, there are numerous disinfection solutions for the water itself. Many products currently have the thermal disinfection feature enabled for 12-hour routines, especially in hospitals and similar care facilities. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, this feature will be required at shorter and more regular intervals. Some brands have products tailored to such requirements. Others will have to catch up quickly.

Passive Hygiene Mechanisms
In a changed world, there is likely to be a near-paranoid focus on the sanitary condition of surfaces around the house and particularly in bathrooms and kitchens. A materials revolution has been going on worldwide for well over a decade now. We will begin to see its active application in the sanitary sector. Be prepared to ask for innovations like “ionized ceramic surfaces” that do not leave room for bacteria to settle, integration of ultra-violet treatment devices in building spaces to kill viruses and bacteria, hydrophobic* coatings on surfaces, etc.

State of the Art Fault Monitoring & Remedy
Today, there are highly sophisticated fault and waste monitoring systems available to ensure that water consumption is regulated, monitored and measured. However, the bulk of these systems focus on larger commercial or residential buildings such as mixed use developments and apartment complexes. In the coming era, there will be much greater demand from individual households and residences for such systems. For example, in the post-COVID-19 world, families will be much more alive to the problem of stagnant water in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms, especially in places that are not readily visible.

Technical Reliability & Durability 
For the end-users of these products, the primary concern – apart from the features and benefits – will be the reliability and durability of these products. In other words, does the product function as advertised? Brand reputation for quality technology, a record of trustworthiness, as well as a well-known heritage will come at a premium. Equally important will an ability to support locally either through representative offices or trained distributor personnel.

Most of the technologies mentioned are available. However, end-users are not always aware of them.
It will be increasingly necessary for responsible brands to educate the public in a pandemic-sensitized world. It is certain that there will be greater receptivity towards, and faster absorption of, such innovations going forward.

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