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7 Ways Smart Construction Can Make Your Re-Opening Last

We’ve seen states, schools, and sports teams re-open only to immediately face a COVID outbreak. Fortunately, there are smart construction options that can improve your odds of staying open.

We may look back fondly on the days when healthcare-minded best practices were considered an unnecessary expense, but many of us wish we had heeded the numerous warnings from epidemiologists. Unfortunately, avoiding expenses on HVAC sanitization, delaying the adoption of touchless technology, and adopting open floor concepts cost us big time when COVID hit. 

Unfortunately, this pandemic is extremely unlikely to be our last. In the last twenty years, we narrowly avoided five epidemics that we know about. But before we get distracted by the odds of another virus sweeping the globe in the next decade, let’s be realistic about the pandemic we’re currently battling.

It’s not going away anytime soon.

On the other hand, the importance and relevance of office space have been reinforced over the last few months. Businesses have expressed the need for dedicated team collaboration spaces and reinforcing an informed and unified culture. Many have mentioned how water cooler chats improved efficiency. We’re continuing to hear from our clients how vital re-entry to the office environment will be in the near future.

The time for businesses to consider upping their work environment standards is more important than ever to ensure employees have a safe and productive place to go to work.

The Smart Way to Re-Open

While there’s always more to learn as people continue to innovate new ways to minimize virus exposure, we’ve compiled a few trends that appear promising.

A 6’ Office 

Not surprisingly, the CDC social distance recommendation is now being integrated into workspace layouts. In practice, this design concept is similar to applying the ADA radius requirement throughout an office space rather than limiting a floorplan to house a designated number of compliant workspaces. 

What once would be viewed as a loss of office space is now seen as an advantage.

Corridors Created to Facilitate Better Traffic Flow

Adding additional partition walls to create new hallways or installing signage to guide the direction of traffic can significantly eliminate pinch points. Many grocery retailers have adopted this practice successfully in the Seattle area, enforcing a “one-way only” traffic flow. This has reduced the number of people at a standstill by removing pinch points, improving overall traffic patterns. 

Touchless Technology

Any of us who have taken an elevator featuring a PacMed advertisement have seen this lovely statistic:

The number of bacteria present on an elevator button is almost 40 times higher than on a public toilet seat.

This makes removing unnecessary door handles, installing touchless bathroom accessories (motion sensor faucets, soap dispensers, and hand dryers), and investing in voice control a no-brainer. 

We predict the installation of automatic doors at building entry points is going to increase dramatically.

Work Zone Partitions

Spacing out workstations or adding U-channel glazed systems are good ways to encourage social distancing. U-channel architectural glass can be temporarily snapped into place, or more permanent standing partitions can be installed to improve employee confidence in workplace safety. “Smart Work Zones,” temporary ZipWalls, Containment Partitions, and PlexiGuard have also been used to solve the problems created by open floorplans.

De-Densification of Office Space

Speaking of open floor plans, we’ve evaluated converting several open plans to private. We’re seeing increased adoption of tall cubicles and recommend repurposing open collaboration spaces into closed conference rooms for presentations or private offices.

Antimicrobial Technologies

Standard surfaces can be porous and difficult to sanitize. “Smart” materials and antimicrobial surfaces, such as those used in hospitals or laboratories, allow for simple cleanup.

We can also introduce you to other technologies, such as Self-Cleaning Materials, Smart Coatings and Surfaces, and Smart/Antimicrobial furniture systems.

HVAC Sanitizing Lights

If you’ve paid attention to the news, you know that being in an enclosed space with poor ventilation is one of the surest ways to cause a super-spreader COVID event. It’s more important than ever to adopt and maintain a consistent HVAC filter replacement and cleaning schedule. 

UV-C lights disinfect the air traveling through HVAC systems. They reduce bacteria within recirculated air and can be installed as an add-on. Because achieving airstream disinfection simply involves increasing the dosage of UV-C, some office spaces are able to use the existing infrastructure that has been installed for coil cleaning, and simply add more rows of UV-C lamps in order to achieve their airstream disinfection goals.

UV lights can also be adopted outside of HVAC and can be used to sanitize keyboards or entire rooms.

Don’t Just Take Our Word for It

IBM

IBM, which has begun adding back workers in several locations in China and South Korea, has developed global office standards. These standards include bringing back those who need access to on-site equipment or labs first, staggering arrival times to avoid crowded elevators, eliminating buffets and shared serving tools in cafeterias, and limiting furniture in conference rooms to enforce social distancing. 

“The more constraints you have in your office layouts, the less people will be able to adjust,” said Joanna Daly, a human resources vice president at IBM.

WeWork 

The shared office space company is making plans to change its workspaces in a post-coronavirus world, proposing new floor layouts, adding sanitizing capabilities, and shifting office traffic flows. In an email to brokers and other industry clients, chief executive Sandeep Mathrani said the company will be posting new capacity signage for meeting rooms, applying “every other” desk occupancy in private offices, increasing cleanings, and adding sanitization stations in common spaces.

Salesforce.com 

The SaaS giant is adopting a “6-foot office concept.” In the future, according to experts, traffic flows in office spaces will be designed to go in one direction to reduce pinch points. They also plan to reduce the capacity of collaboration rooms. A six-person meeting room might have chairs removed to convert it into a room for two. Alternate desks may be in use while others are cordoned off to form a checkerboard pattern to avoid crowding.

Avara Is Here to Help 

We don’t know what the new normal will look like, but we’re actively on the learning curve. The future of office use may be uncertain, but we’re committed to ensuring you have the support you need. 

Some of the ways we’ve helped our clients prepare for re-opening include:

  • Installation of COVID response technologies: touchless technology, partitions, antimicrobial systems, and sanitizing mechanical infrastructure.
  • Market-Ready Preparation: Preparing your space for sublease by leveraging demising walls to accommodate changes in demand.
  • Conversion of ‘Open Office’ concepts to private floorplans with closed collaboration rooms.


Let us know how we can help. Please reach out to learn more about the changes we’re making for our clients. 

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