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Few things are certain in facilities in the COVID-19 era. School districts must adapt to constant changes in occupancy levels. Hospitals battle space limits amid rising cases. Every facility is under greater scrutiny of its HVAC systems and sanitization practices.
Many of these challenges also confront facility managers in commercial office buildings, but they also are trying to determine just how many occupants actually will return and what offices will look like when they get there.
Early indications suggest workers want to return to their offices. Only 12 percent percent of employees responding to a recent survey want to continue working from home five days a week, and “No days at home” was the most popular response with 44 percent, reports Connected Real Estate.
“When employees do come to the office, they expect it to be for collaboration and social connection,” according to the survey. “Despite the rapid adoption of virtual collaboration technologies, people still clearly value face-to-face interactions over virtual ones, in many cases, and miss the company of their co-workers.”
As managers in commercial office buildings try to create safe workplaces for occupants who do return, they need to keep in mind one priority that does not seem to have changed – sustainability. As companies begin to map out tentative plans for a post-pandemic return to cubicles, the emphasis on greening those buildings hasn’t receded, according to Greenbiz.
For Workday, a software company with 12,300 employees worldwide, decisions are still being made of how and when to return to its mix of owned and leased office spaces. But this hasn’t diminished the company’s plans to add onsite solar panels and battery storage at its headquarters in the Bay Area in California. Landlords are seeing similar trends.
“My tenants are very concerned about the erosion of environmental gains because of COVID,” says Sara Neff, senior vice president of sustainability at Kilroy Realty Corp., a landlord and developer. Tenant concerns go well beyond energy issues.
“Tenants are worried about things like, ‘What happens to our scope 3 emissions when nobody takes public transit?,” she says. “What happens to building energy consumption if we are constantly running the ventilation systems? What happens when our waste diversion numbers tank because we're throwing away so much PPE and are back to single-use plastics in our kitchens?’ ”
Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.