BY MORGAN LEGEL
The Aura Air pilot program, which began on Dec. 15, is finished with the exploratory phase, and results are out.
The Aura Air purifiers, or smart purifiers, were implemented by Nakicos Corp., which does business as Subway Restaurants and Chili’s Grill & Bar, into Chili’s and the Gualo Rai Subway location in Saipan late last year. (See “Aura Air purifiers coming to Guam and Saipan restaurants” in the Jan. 4 issue of the Journal.)
The first phase of the pilot program monitored the air quality in the restaurants for two weeks. Next, the devices were turned on, with those results being monitored as well.
According to Marcos Fong, managing director of Nakicos Corp., the results were better than expected.
In regards to Chili’s, the air quality index, or the general number used to describe the air quality, was already at a low number. When speaking of numbers in this scenario, 500 is the worst and 0 is the best; Chili’s received a low 70s number during the control period, without the machines on.
“I will say in the beginning, when we were first measuring the air quality index, I was skeptical because the number was very low,” Fong said. “But, when we got the results back, it improved by 43%.”
Aura Air told Fong anything under 100 is a good number already. In fact, after the machines were turned on, the number reduced to the 40s from the low 70s. Keep in mind, fresh air outside normally registers in the 30s.
Another measurement Aura Air uses to describe air quality is PM 2.5, or particulate matter 2.5. This is a very small particle — ranging in size from about thirty times smaller than that of a human hair to particles so small that several thousand of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. The Coronavirus also fits into this size range.
“During the duration of the control period,” Fong said, “Dine-in had just begun and there wasn’t a lot of activity; when we turned on the system, it was at 50% occupancy and we still saw a 61% improvement in the 2.5.”
While the results do not depict what is actually being taken out of the air — dust or the virus or anything else, Fong said, “The fact that the numbers dropped down that much, it was a real peace of mind for us.”
As far as a hope for getting better results, Fong said: “I don’t think a difference between 60% and 80% would have been a game-changer, because we were doing very well to begin with. But to know that it has reduced it even further than normal, it gives me, our team members and, hopefully, our guests that same peace of mind.”
Since the purifiers were only put into the two restaurants, and the results turned out positively, Fong is thinking of putting them in more Subway Restaurants on the island.
“I can’t say we will deploy it in all the restaurants,” but we will do it in the largest and most high-traffic locations to get ‘more bang for our buck,’” he said.
Editor’s Note: Subway Restaurants and Chili’s Grill & Bar have common ownership with Glimpses of Guam, which publishes the Journal. mbj