Our workplaces enable us to be productive and economically active but now pose profound risks to the health and safety of employees and continuous business operation. Occupants’ health and wellness have become a critical component in commercial buildings, with an increased emphasis on the design and operation of buildings for occupant health and well being. Zutari’s, Martin Smith, takes an in-depth look at what property owners can do to prepare themselves as employees return to their workplaces during Level One.
Understand occupancy needs
Full occupancy is unlikely to be considered by many businesses in the short-term and possibly even beyond that. Given the tough economic times, some businesses will scale down on space. For some, their business continuity will depend on saving costs while still having a productive workforce. For landlords, this scenario may change the space needs of occupants and require a change in building management technology and practices.
Diagnose infection routes
The virus is understood to spread through multiple infection routes, including surface contact, macro droplets, micro droplets and other contamination spreaders in your building such as your sewer systems. To get to grips with the risks within your building, a comprehensive diagnostic is needed of staff behaviours, organisational processes and the building itself. The physical operations are as important as the technology, including ventilation, air-conditioning, control systems, water and sewerage systems. All these components contribute to the functioning of the building and serve as infection routes.
Prepare response plans
The aim is to try and find practical solutions that close the gap between your business needs and the risk of infection. These include operational processes and controls and building physical and technological improvements, along with emergency procedures and awareness. The challenge here is not to have a knee-jerk response with short-term actions, but to systematically reduce risk in a manner that is affordable and makes sense in the short- and long-term.
To assist property developers and facility managers respond to Covid-19 risks and prepare buildings for resumed operations during Level One of the lockdown, Zutari has used its extensive multi-disciplinary experience to develop a customised building health assessment tool. It allows property owners to demonstrate to their shareholders, management, employees and clients that a systematic, balanced approach has been taken to find an optimal solution to minimise the health risk, explains Smith.
“We are highly experienced in building design and operations. Our technical experts understand how the virus can distribute through multiple infection routes within your building and among your people,” Smith points out. Technical elements such as air-conditioning and wet services, along with usage patterns, all contribute to the transmission risks within buildings. By analysing your work environment and operational practices while understanding your business needs, we have the power to mitigate risks and create safe and productive spaces that will assist you with resuming business and increasing productivity, highlights Smith.
Zutari’s Building Health Assessment Tool is a comprehensive diagnostic of the key operational and physical factors that helps property owners put in place plans to mitigate workplace risks, and assists them with resuming business and increasing health and productivity. A gap analysis is used to prepare a short-, medium- and long-term plan that meets the client’s business needs.
In late September Smith presented a paper entitled Healthy Green Buildings: A Technical Guide during Covid-19 and Beyond as part of a webinar series hosted by the GBCSA during the World Green Building Week. The technical guide focuses on an holistic approach for infection control for healthy buildings during Covid-19 and beyond. It addresses various infection routes such as macro droplets, micro droplets and indirect contact surfaces.
In terms of the return to workplaces during Level One and the associated “green recovery”, Smith points out that the technical guide developed by Zutari “empowers landlords and tenants to return safely to their working environment, providing confidence that key safety concerns have been addressed”.
The technical guide has been developed along the following hierarchy of principles, considering the point of control within a building along with the effectiveness of the foresaid control. Acknowledging that social isolation is the best form of control, the guide differentiates between three key scales, or levels, of control:
This refers to the building design elements and engineering control that can provide physical barriers, purified air and water and touchless interaction for building users. This would typically be managed by the landlord or facilities manager.
This refers to management policies, procedures and administrative controls that govern building operational performance as well as collective human resource behaviour and movement. It would be implemented by stakeholders such as the landlord or tenant’s facilities manager or a tenancy’s general manager.
This refers to the behaviours and practises carried out by the individual building users themselves. These are typically guided by the management procedures and, in some instances, technical controls.
Management for a healthy building
• Healthy building assessment
• Building zoning and separation
• Commissioning performance verification and maintenance
• Awareness and education
• Access control
• Hygiene and cleaning plan
• Transport plan
• Building Management System (BMS)
• Energy management
• Waste management
• Mental health support
• Physical distancing
• Hand washing
• Limited physical assembly
• Appropriate PPE
• Limit lift, escalator and lobby use
• Personal food preparation and consumption
• Ablution use
• Workspace cleaning
Indoor air quality
• Air systems control and times of operation
• Outdoor air distribution
• Relief and return air paths
• Space air distribution effectiveness
• Carbon dioxide monitoring
• Air quality monitoring
• Outdoor air filtration
• Return air filtration
• Filtration pressure drop or air-flow monitoring
• Exhaust and vent stack systems
• Toilet ventilation systems
• UV-C lights
• Air-cleaning devices
• Toilet ventilation systems
• Vacuum cleaning
• Sewer system and water traps
• Potable water systems quality control
• Reused/harvested water quality
• Drinking water access
• Taps and hand washing facilities
• Hand drying
• Toilet seat sanitisers
• Toilet bowl water sanitisers
• Soap dispenser
• Workstation separation
• Partitions and screens
• Walk-off mats and disinfectant mats
• Hand-sanitisers dispensers
• Contact surfaces: Doors, lift buttons, biometrics