HVAC Considerations for Healthy Offices During Coronavirus Pandemic
Darrell X. Rounds discusses management, HVAC and cleaning strategies designed to create emotional safety for workers
The number of occupants in most buildings has decreased tremendously due to alternative work arrangements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have seen the occupancy in my workplace drop by 95 percent. These changes require managers to take actions:
• Close and vacate unoccupied floors.
• Reduce energy consumption.
• Reduce tenant services, such as vending and parking.
• Reallocate and refocus housekeeping resources into occupied spaces.
• Work with security to ensure that only those workers deemed essential can enter the building.
Closing and vacating unoccupied floors is essential not only to conserve resources but also to isolate workspaces from the potential spread of coronavirus and contamination.
One way to prioritize workspaces that should be closed and vacated versus those that should remain open is by surveying each tenant group to determine which groups can effectively work remotely and those who need access to their workspaces to effectively accomplish tasks. The building’s stack plan – a graphical representation of space use by floor for organizational units – is a proven tactic for tracking occupancy and changes in occupancy during this period.
Once managers determine the way floors will be occupied, they need to adjust housekeeping services to ensure that for occupied floors, the tasks and frequencies for cleaning are executed so workers know the workspace is being cared for and common touch points are cleaned frequently. This tactic assures workers and occupants that they are in a relatively safe place.
Managers also need to make sure that only essential personnel occupy the space. Managers and staff should work with security personnel to be certain only essential individuals use entrances that remain open.
With fewer occupants, managers also can consolidate parking into specific areas to optimize the ability for staff to support and monitor. Managers also should adjust vending services to accommodate those currently occupying the space, and housekeeping personnel should inspect unoccupied floors to check refrigerators and dispose of perishables to prevent spoilage.