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The coronavirus pandemic is catalyzing a long-term shift in priorities both in terms of what occupants and tenants want in their building, but also how facility managers prioritize strategies. The Fitwel Viral Response Module is a set of strategies that can help facility managers respond to the pandemic, but also make lasting changes for the health, safety, and wellness of occupants and tenants.
“Nothing is new, but we’re reprioritizing,” says Joanna Frank, president and CEO of the Center for Active Design, which helped create both the Fitwel certification system for health and wellness and also the new Fitwel Viral Response Module. “It’s happening in the whole of the real estate industry. Now if I’m a tenant, the first question is, ‘What is the air quality?’”
The Viral Response Module is organized into three sets of strategies: Enhance Indoor Environments, Encourage Behavioral Change, and Build Occupant Trust.
Each category contains “minimum requirements” — these are strategies that are a must for certification under the Fitwel Viral Response Module. These include strategies like establishing an enhanced indoor air quality policy, establishing PPE guidelines, providing educational health promotion signage, and establishing a paid sick leave policy, to name a few.
All the strategies in each category are evidence- and science-based. Frank cites one particularly strong example: A study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that paid sick leave of just two days reduces workplace infections by 39.22 percent.
The paid sick leave minimum requirement is included in the Build Occupant Trust section, which Frank considers crucial.
“We know if you don’t establish trust between the facility manager and occupants, even if you’re doing all these things, you’re not going to be able to persuade them to come back to the building,” she says. “Occupants can’t see your MERV rating, so there needs to be a whole level of communication to build this trust.”
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