Chief Enginer, Magazine, June 2021

In late January 2020, the first reported cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (COVID-19) were confirmed in the United States. By mid- March, New York State was overwhelmed by the effects of the virus, and in response to the dire conditions it was facing, the state issued an order on March 20 to close all businesses that were deemed non-essential.2 It was quickly determined that indoor spaces presented increased risk for transmission of the virus, particularly spaces that would be densely occupied. Despite identifying some modifications to existing building heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, such as increasing the percentage of outdoor air to the occupied spaces and increasing filter efficiency of the HVAC equipment, no combination of measures has, to date, proven sufficient to safely reopen tightly packed indoor spaces such as live performance theaters, concert venues and sporting events. 

In early June 2020, a team of engineers, scientists, and theater professionals was assembled by Disney Theatrical Productions and tasked with developing a strategy for reopening such venues. The team comprised engineers from Jaros, Baum & Bolles, scientists from Grignard Pure (GP) and The Ambient Group, special effects designers from JFMX, and building engineers from Penguin Mechanical. The team’s design solution centered around the deployment of Grignard Pure, an innovative ‘airborne antimicrobial’ that, when introduced to the COVID-19 virus in the air, can inactivate more than 98 percent of the virus in less than a minute, as reported by an internationally recognized lab. GP forms small microdroplets that float in the air and condense on virus particles, quickly inactivating the virus and, as such, significantly reducing the primary cause of infection.3 Having identified an aerosolized disinfectant as a promising solution, two design challenges faced the team: how to effectively introduce the GP microdroplets into occupied spaces and how to measure the concentration of GP in the occupied spaces and control microdroplet production.