The wake of COVID-19 has forced a shift from wellness in the built environment as a perk or optimization to wellness as an essential strategy to gain tenant trust. Tenants are demanding that wellness be prioritized, spotlighting healthy work environments as we have never seen before. This shift is driving owners and operators to think about new ways that their buildings need to operate.
It’s urgent that these discussions that typically focus on design issues expand to address building operations. Building operations strategies can be implemented now, even as the design questions are explored. Three operational issues that must be prioritized for every building in order to achieve tenant trust are air quality/ventilation, relative humidity, and building commissioning.
We are still learning exactly how COVID-19 is transmitted, and we know air quality is top-of-mind for building occupants. Whether COVID-19 is significantly transmitted via airborne particles or not, to trust that a space is healthy, tenants expect optimized ventilation systems and improved air quality. Therefore owners need to prioritize ventilation. How?
- Increase the amount of outdoor air circulating in the buildings. This has shown to dilute airborne contaminants and decreases disease transmission rates in other studied diseases (source).
- Air filters are an excellent way to trap pathogens. However, COVID-19 is an extremely small pathogen so air filters can’t completely keep the virus out of circulating air. Operators should investigate employing upper-air UV-C fixtures, which can quickly destroy microbes and reduce the time infectious agents spend circulating in the air. (source)
Evidence suggests that viruses are less likely to survive in high-humidity environments. Per this ASHRAE position document on airborne infectious diseases, “Many HVAC systems can control indoor humidity and temperature, which in turn can influence the transmission of infectious agents.” While the role that relative humidity will play in protecting spaces from the spread of COVID is still being understood, it’s a point of significant attention as plans develop for post-COVID strategies. In fact, The Center for Active Design recommends that building operators regulate the building’s humidity from 40% to 60%.
The building should be commissioned before any owner or operator considers changes to their building’s mechanical systems. Commissioning will verify that the building’s equipment and systems are properly functioning and have the enhanced capabilities needed to address the public health considerations.
We’re in this together
We are helping owners use wellness to build confidence among tenants and build resilience into the property and business. We are addressing wellness requests for services like building commissioning, wellness strategy workshops and roadmaps, and risk assessment.
Businesses large and small are struggling to prepare for the world’s reopening. What we do know is that heading back to work will have a new meaning for tenants, employees, property managers, and property owners. There are still so many strategies to explore and prove out. Firms that implement operational wellness strategies like these in their buildings will signal to the market that they are taking the appropriate measures to combat COVID-19.
Our team is here to help you through it.