The current H1N1 Pandemic seems to have infection control on everyone’s mind around the world. The topic of infection control is nothing new to healthcare facilities that have had their attentions focused on this critical subject for half of a century since it developed into a formal discipline in the United States in the 1950s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established guidelines for infection control procedures that are in effect today.

As interior designers and specifiers of finishes and materials going into healthcare facilities, it is part-&-parcel to the job to be aware of these policies and procedures and to aid in implementing them in new construction and renovations.

Staying aware of new and developing technologies in antibacterial- and/or antimicrobial-enhanced materials is critical to responsible design that takes infection control into account.

In the realm of carpet technology, a system for making antibacterial carpet yarns has been developed. A patent involves preparing a polyamide extrusion mixture containing an antibacterial compound that includes silver.

Two examples of antimicrobial fabrics appropriate for healthcare interiors are:

  • One technology that also utilizes silver oxide, an antimicrobial, incorporated into the fabric. Exhibiting a polar charge, the silver creates an ion field on the surface of the fibers. The bacteria exchange ions with the silver oxide upon contact with the fabric, in turn opening up their cell walls and killing them.
  • Another type of textile technology binds chlorine molecules to the surface of fabrics. When these fabrics are laundered according to care instructions with EPA-registered chlorine bleach, the chlorine kills 99.9% of common bacteria and viruses.

Nanotechnology that withstands the rigors of healthcare environments is only one facet of new developments that interior designers should be continually monitoring and watching for. Integrating environmental sustainability and specialized infection control technologies is the next hurdle.