Helping big pharma to build back better

The world has been on pause for months now, but as the world recovers, Emma Goodwin from EECO2, say we have the chance to reset our priorities and build back better than before

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest global health emergency of our time, affecting people's livelihoods and much of the world's economies. When lockdowns and restrictions start to relax, attention should be turned to the #BuildBackBetter campaign.

Previously used by other organisations including The World Health Organization in 2013, referring to opportunities of reform in the aftermath of nationwide emergencies, the campaign name has resurfaced in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The keynote address by Alok Sharma, Business Secretary and COP26 President, at the Let's Build Back Better event on 3 August 2020 highlighted the importance of continuing to tackle climate change: "Today, governments and businesses are, rightly, focusing on their response to the coronavirus pandemic. But the climate crisis remains as acute as ever."

Sharma stated that this is a critical moment in the fight against climate change and that it is 'imperative that we work together, in the aftermath of the coronavirus, and ahead of COP26, to build back better'.

The Build Back Better campaign is not focused on helping industries return to normal, but to use this as an opportunity to improve the norm and become better than before. An industry that would greatly benefit from this campaign to improve sustainability is the pharmaceutical industry.

HVAC systems represent the largest opportunity for improvement

With the journey back to normality, plans need to be in place to ensure that employees have clean and safe working environments to return to, with the aim of significantly reducing their risk of contracting COVID-19.

One way to incorporate required changes and return better than before, is for companies to invest more seriously in their sustainability plans with the mindset of pairing recovery action with climate action. This will allow the pharmaceutical industry to emerge stronger than before, whilst protecting the environment and improving global sustainability.

In the short term and as buildings and sites start to reopen, the focus must be on keeping the workforce safe.

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In July, The WHO stated that there is a growing body of evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which is the cause of COVID-19) can be spread through the air, particularly in poorly ventilated indoor spaces; therefore ventilation provision, assessment and maintenance should be top of the list.

A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) assessment should be completed in all areas of each site, to ensure that they are compliant and running initial system modifications are undertaken to protect people and limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 within HVAC systems. These modifications will most likely increase energy consumption and carbon emissions, therefore post pandemic it will be important to achieve a more sustainable long- term fix.

Perhaps obvious, but also essential that all personnel follow government and company guidelines on surface cleaning, personal hygiene, physical distancing and separation measures.

To build back better, innovation and new technologies should emerge and shift the overall industry

All large businesses have an ethical and legal requirement to monitor and reduce energy usage, carbon footprint and levels of greenhouse gas emissions, with public oversight via the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and others. Inevitably, energy and water usage and climate change appear high up the risk materiality rankings of most large companies.

As we start to emerge post-lockdown, new strategies and targets at corporate levels should be in place to reduce climate change or existing targets be brought forward.

Earlier this year AstraZeneca brought forward their decarbonation plans by more than a decade and now have an 'Ambition Carbon Zero' programme, committing zero carbon emissions from operations across the globe by 2025.

AstraZeneca's plans should be the blueprint that other companies across the pharmaceutical industry should be striving to achieve.

For large companies to meet and potentially exceed energy reduction targets, global multi- site strategies should be in place to accurately measure and report the results. This involves identifying and implementing energy, water, and greenhouse gas reduction opportunities at each site.

Analysing entire site energy consumptions, identifying problem areas, and implementing energy efficiency projects will provide emission and cost reductions.

Once potential projects have been selected from an initial energy assessment, water assessment or Energy Savings Opportunity Survey (ESOS), a study that develops the detailed solution should be carried out. This feasibility study should include concept designs, risk assessments and detailed costs and savings to enable you to fund and implement projects.

All large businesses have an ethical and legal requirement

HVAC systems within regulated environments are typically responsible for consuming up to 70% of a site's total energy, and it therefore tends to also represent the largest opportunity for improvement.

To build back better, innovation and new technologies should emerge and shift the overall industry. A great place to start is reviewing sustainability and energy efficiency of cleanrooms.

A review of cleanroom costs in Europe indicated that energy consumption accounts for 65-75% of the annual cost of running a cleanroom, with HVAC systems accounting for the majority of this. In most cases, particle generation rates are low and air flow rates are set much higher than required.

The standard industry model for both existing and new cleanroom construction has not changed for over 50 years, and a new innovative technology that allows for adaptive, demand-based control of the cleanroom's HVAC system is the future and the key to a more sustainable cleanroom.

The ICCS (Intelligent Cleanroom Control System) regulates and controls based on the particle concentration within the cleanroom, not just on the air change rate, allowing for a reduction in air flow when not required.

It is an overdue technological leap forward for cleanroom design and operation offering continuous monitoring of cleanroom performance, whilst assuring product quality, improving compliance and sustainability, and achieving significant energy savings. With this technology EECO2 has demonstrated energy savings of up to 60% on traditional control systems.

With the availability of improved knowledge, advanced technology, and an opportunity to change the norm; Now is the time to act and build back better.


N.B. This article is featured in the October 2020 issue of Cleanroom Technology. The latest digital edition is available online.