BUILDING REOCCUPANCY: The Race to Building Wellness
By Stephen Dennis, Estimating Manager, Structure Tone and Jennifer Taranto, Director of Sustainability, STO Building Group
As life science companies continue to roll out vaccines, businesses are preparing for employees to safely return to the office. STO Building Group is actively working with clients, partners, and industry experts on building reoccupancy strategies and is piloting new approaches and technologies within our own workplaces to learn firsthand what can help with this global return to work.
Part of the conversation around building reoccupancy centers on monitoring. Sensors check the conditions of a workplace environment, collect the data, and help detect hazards in real time. For example, indoor air quality sensors can detect potentially harmful toxins, particulates, and CO2.
The emergence of the “Super A.” This kind of data intelligence has also led to the emergence of what we’re calling the Class “Super A” building: a new building category reserved for technologically connected buildings with healthier spaces and opportunities for occupant engagement. The “Super A” constantly gathers and saves data from offices.
Two Pilot Programs: Poppy and WorxWell. Many companies are well underway in implementing this kind of data analysis. Our Toronto-based
Govan Brown team is currently testing Poppy, the world’s first commercial pathogen sensing and detection network. Poppy’s sensory device monitors air quality for airborne illnesses and can detect 3,000+ viruses, bacteria, molds, and pests, which will be updated to include new pathogens over time. Although the project is in early implementation, the idea is users will have a dashboard to view each zone in a building.
In another example, RXR Realty has created a new building management system called WorxWell that aggregates data across spaces in a workplace. WorxWell gives building owners and tenants the ability to track such aspects of the occupant experience as health and safety measures, air quality, foot traffic, and energy use.
IS YOUR SPACE READY FOR REOCCUPANCY?
As building owners and tenants prepare their buildings for the big return, the following steps may help guide and inform that process:
- Evaluate the “Who.” Analyze which of your employees benefit from in-person collaborations with their coworkers versus employees who work autonomously.
- Review COVID-19 social distancing recommendations. Some departments or areas in the office may need to be further spread out.
- Talk to landlords. If you do not own your building, discuss with your landlord what steps you’d like to take to make the building safe for employees.
- Ensure the space is maintained safely. Check with building maintenance or your own facilities team that air filters are changed regularly, employees have access to fresh air, and all common areas are thoroughly cleaned.
- Give employees notice. Talk to your employees ahead of time to update them on the steps you are taking and the schedule for returning to the office.
BUILDING FOR WELLNESS: A RESOURCE
STO Building Group has collected our research, lessons learned, and advice into what we’re calling our “Building for Wellness” guide, which
shares industry advice and identifies the questions and conversations that building owners and tenants should be asking as they make their
plans to return. The guide is organized into five categories:
- Ventilation & Filtration
- Cleaning & Hygienics
- Third-Party Programs
- Lighting, Air Monitoring & Water
An icon list helps direct readers on who to consult for help with short-term and long-term solutions in each category. While this working guide currently centers on returning to the post-pandemic workplace, updated versions will shift into overall occupational wellness and help clients answer the question: “How do we make this space a place for occupants to thrive?”