Austin, Texas — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Campus Communities announced its collaboration with RB — the makers of Lysol and a global leader in hygiene products — to set a new standard and formalized approach for cleanliness and disinfection at its portfolio of student housing communities.
Student Housing Business recently spoke with Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Jennifer Beese, to learn more about the initiative and the company’s plans for the upcoming school year.
Student Housing Business: Tell me a bit about the, ‘Be safe. Be smart. Do your part,’ initiative.
Jennifer Beese: ‘Be safe. Be smart. Do your part,’ is a first-of-its-kind program for student housing. It integrates comprehensive cleaning standards and touchless preventative measures in college communities across the country, providing residents and employees with practical and actionable steps to adapt environments for safely living, working and studying.
SHB: What are some of the components of the program?
Beese: The components of the program include:
- Resident Education: Each resident will receive ongoing reminders of the personal habits and disinfection practices they can adopt to help prevent the spreading of the virus.
- Cleaning Products and Protocols: This initiative provides community staff with a multi-step cleaning and disinfection process that includes using the right product at the right location for the right duration of time to kill illness causing germs. In the case of an infection exposure, additional disinfection and cleaning measures will be recommended.
- Move-In Preparation: After receiving a comprehensive inspection, each unoccupied student unit and bedroom will get a ‘clean and confident’ room seal on the door, which will not be broken until the residents enter for the first time.
- Healthy Living Recommendations: Residents will learn about the types of disinfectant supplies and standards to use for properly cleaning their living spaces.
The program also includes a first-of-its-kind touchpoint analysis and mitigation process for community amenities. We’ve raised awareness among staff and residents regarding necessary preventative measures that will be implemented across the ACC portfolio. We developed measures to create and adhere to a more touchless community wherever possible. They include:
- Removing touchpoints by installing touchless soap dispensers, hand dryers and step-n-pull attachments in community spaces wherever possible;
- Adding antimicrobial overlays that self-clean to doorknobs, elevator buttons and other high touch surfaces;
- Installing disinfectant wipe stands and touchless hand-sanitizing stations stands strategically throughout the community to allow residents frequent hand sanitization and to disinfect touchpoints before and after use; and
- Customizing policy and behavior guidance through an updated resident code of conduct, new use procedures and signage on community amenity spaces, and a checklist of daily protocols.
SHB: Why did ACC choose to collaborate with RB?
Beese: Our collaboration with RB (Lysol) — an expert source on cleaning and disinfecting products and protocols — sets a new standard to help equip residents and employees with the proper actionable steps and tools for returning to student housing. This component of the program is called, ‘Be safe. Be smart. Do your part. with Lysol Protection.’ It’s comforting to know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved various Lysol products as the first to test effective against the virus that causes COVID-19, when used as directed on hard, non-porous surfaces.
SHB: What will the implementation of this program look like as you welcome back students?
Beese: As we turn units, we will disinfect with Lysol products and prepare each student unit and bedroom according to the co-written Lysol protocols. We will then place the aforementioned Lysol ‘clean and confident’ room seal on the unit and bedroom doors, which will not be broken until the resident enters their unit and bedroom. As we welcome our students, we’ve strived to make our move-in process touch-free and decentralized in order to promote physical distancing. Our operational staff have new policies for safe engagement with residents as well as each other and have been issued masks, gloves and other equipment along with guidelines for their use. We will also reach out and educate our residents through a healthy living email campaign, virtual brochures, and virtual resident live programming.
SHB: How are you instructing residents to do their part?
Beese: Responsible individual behavior is essential to preserving the college experience while helping to minimizing person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This is not just about protecting ourselves, but also helping to protect other residents and staff as well as friends, family members and neighbors who are most vulnerable to the disease. Together, we can adapt to new behaviors to help prevent the spread of the virus while maintaining successful academic coursework and still fostering a sense of community.
We are committed to helping empower residents to be safe and smart during these dynamic times. We encourage residents to fully review and adhere to the a daily self-wellness checklist, education materials and the resident code of conduct, which includes new amenity use procedures and signage based on the type of community amenity space, including:
- Practice physical distancing by staying six feet apart;
- Wash and sanitize your hands frequently;
- Use disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces that you touch;
- Wear a face covering in public places; and
- Stay home if you don’t feel well.
SHB: How have you adjusted your portfolio to meet physical distancing requirements?
Beese: Understanding the different property types in our portfolio was essential to creating mitigation strategies for each property based on how students circulate through the community. Over 60 percent of our portfolio is garden-style or townhome-style units, which typically feature exterior unit entries and by nature have less interior circulation and common area interaction. The balance of our communities consist of 30 percent mid-rise and 9 percent high-rise buildings that rely on the use of common elevator banks and single-point entries, which require additional mitigation. We’re following state and local guidelines on amenity access, providing signage on physical distancing protocols and integrating touchless features wherever possible. There is also some furniture reconfiguration and equipment that has been taken offline to promote distancing.