1. HVAC systems
First line actions will include increasing air ventilation via existing or enhanced mechanical plant, enhancing air filtration and purification, and increasing humidity. The next level of specification will involve enhanced filtration via adiabatic filters and HEPA filters on air handling units and lifts, and installation of ultraviolet irradiation to HVAC systems. Finally, when installing new HVAC systems, passive or hybrid cooling strategies which are both sustainable and allow for natural compartmentation of air flows should be prioritized. It would also be advisable to increase ventilation capacity in the lift cars. Air quality plays an important role in our health. Prior to COVID-19 this was not widely acknowledged. That has changed.
2. Vertical and horizontal access, command and control systems
Touchless travel throughout the building should be prioritised. Other initiatives could include QR code access for visitors, body temperature scanning in lobbies, and touch-free soap dispensers, hand sanitizers and WC lids. New builds should design-in destination driven lifts linked to access control and increased overall lifting capacity. Finally, a “pandemic mode” should be integrated into the building management system (BMS), which can be reverted to in times of need. Features of the “pandemic mode” should include reduced lift occupancy.
3. Layout and density
Look to design for increased fresh air intake via more operable windows. Reception desks should be designed to discourage visitor physical contact. Wayfinding technology can facilitate natural social distancing. Next steps include installation of individual sanitary cubicles and full height shower cubicles. Specify materials for ease of cleaning throughout the building.
In the immediate aftermath of lockdowns easing, we will likely see de-densification of buildings. Physical distancing will oblige end-users to adopt greater spacing between workstations and mindful rotation of hot desks to allow for deep cleaning between use. Mid to long-term, we can foresee that office space will have other uses, other densities: more meeting and creative space, less open plan office/desk space. The kinds of densification levels seen in some workplaces prior to the crisis will no longer be sustainable. To best design buildings for necessary flexibility, it is still advisable to design to best practice for one’s market place. In the UK and Europe, for instance, you should aim for one workstation every eight to ten square meters.
4. Connected, smart building technology
Data from multiple sources can be collected via customer experience platforms, analysed and used to inform decision making. Bespoke solutions can then be developed, prioritising healthy and sustainable building use, enhanced end-user experience and proactive property & facility management of buildings. Data sources can include the BMS, bike racks, access cards, Wi-Fi, presence sensors, control and command systems, and tenant feedback surveys and engagement portals.
BMS add-on technology can also be used to create 3D spatial models to identify anomalies and, where workplace issues arise, enable virtual testing of solutions. Such smart-building capabilities will allow people to become more comfortable and productive at work, thanks to real-time data about air quality, lighting, noise levels, and other environmental factors. Workers can then find an environment suiting whichever task is at hand; be that a quiet spot for deskwork, or collaborative space for joint project work.