In recent weeks, many of us have become reluctant to use door handles and handrails in public spaces. Worried about the new coronavirus, we either avoid touching these surfaces, or wash our hands soon after we touch them.
Few architects and builders know that there appears to be a simple method for reducing the risk associated with these surfaces: specify and install copper door handles and copper handrails. Copper surfaces are antibacterial and antiviral. Since there is ample evidence that copper surfaces are less likely to harbor viruses or transmit viral diseases than stainless-steel surfaces, architects need to begin to implement this measure more widely.
In a recent GBA article titled “Building Science and the Novel Coronavirus,” Peter Yost wrote, “Building science and design can play an important role in reducing infections caused by Covid-19, influenza and many viruses: reducing the number of surfaces that people touch and installing easy-to clean surfaces that people will touch frequently. Think hand rails, door knobs, light switches.” Yost is correct, of course, but I would add to Yost’s advice: “Wherever appropriate, specify copper handrails and copper door handles.”
Architects should specify copper handrails and door handles in medical clinics, hospitals, and public spaces like subway stations and restaurants. But there may also be opportunities to use more copper surfaces in residential settings, especially for clients who are immuno-compromised or worried for other reasons about new viruses.
Most builders know that copper is an excellent material for plumbing pipes and chimney flashing; fewer realize that it can play a role in reducing the spread of infectious diseases. As a way to reduce the rate of viral infection, using copper surfaces counts as a green approach—a much more environmentally responsible approach than using chemicals to treat surfaces.
A 19th-century finding
A French physician,…