Extensive research and data confirm that Copper is one of nature’s top-level killers of bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is nature’s supernatural and organic bug killer!
Some organizations are beginning to catch the vision like Fantasilandia, one of Chile’s largest theme parts, which replaced most of its frequently touches surfaces with…you got it, copper!
In France, many hospitals are beginning to require working surfaces fabricated from copper metal instead of traditional stainless steel surfaces, which, in fact are notorious for collecting and maintaining bacteria unless regularly sterilized with harsh chemicals and cleaner.
With these great benefits, particularly today when we are fighting pandemics like Covid #19, why do architects, engineers and designers not take advantage of the bug-fighting effects of copper?
1) Ignorance—few people are knowledgeable, particularly in the design industry, of just how impactful copper can be in regulating and fighting germs, bacteria and viruses. Stainless steel, in fact, is sort of the standard of cleanliness, which likely originated because stainless steel, of course, does wear well under humid and wet conditions without rusting or corroding.
While stainless does not rust or show signs of corrosion, it is anything but clean without constant maintenance. Many experts will agree that viruses and bacteria live longer on stainless steel than most other surfaces.
2) Appearance—related to ignorance, as stated above, appearance is clearly a very strong reason stainless steel is more often used over copper metals. Stainless steel material does wear well over time. Copper, on the other hand, is a much softer alloy than stainless steel and more susceptible to scratches and natural wear and tear.
Clearly, that does impact appearance but consider how long copper lasts on the exterior of buildings, which is to say, scratches, blemishes and natural coloration are regarded, from an architectural perspective on building exteriors, as highly favorable—most love the way it looks.
So much of appearance comes down to expectation. If one expects the copper to look a little worn, then, all the sudden, that wear-and-tear is considered fashionable and even iconic.
The same could be true for inside buildings: labs, restaurants, hospitals, clinics, etc., could make fashionable use of copper if people’s expectations where setup with the realization that coloration and some blemishes are actually a positive look instead of the opposite.
Brown and aged copper on a lab countertop should be considered more clean and just as aesthetic as silver-looking stainless steel!
3) Cost—yes cost is always an issue. Copper, as a rule of thumb, is generally more expensive (around 20%-30%) than stainless steel. However, with the recent outbreak of super viruses like Covid #19, I think most of us can determine that short-term savings will be far surpassed by the long-term failure of infection and sickness. Hospitals & Cruise Liners are particularly acute to the costs of infection.
4) Tradition, Habit & Supply Chain—clearly, decades-and-decades of construction with traditional stainless steel working spaces cannot be undone overnight. Tens of millions of countertops, work-spaces, desks, tables, etc. have been manufactured over the years. Making a change like this would be very disruptive to the market and supply chain.
Still, if we have learned anything in recent years, it is that organic solutions to age-old issues have a value that is almost immeasurable.
Copper replacing stainless steel is a solution that seems obvious!
Bottom line is that copper is a metal product that has to potential to significantly help society with germ warfare.
We encourage those in the architectural and design world to seriously consider how it might improve your work.