The American Institute of Architects has released a guidance on how to make office spaces safer as the country begins a post-COVID-19 reopening.
In compiling Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Buildings, the Washington-based association says it is trying to provide design professionals, employers, building owners, and public officials with the needed “tools and resources for reducing risk.”
In so doing, the study recommends that office workplaces should be assessed to “determine the maximum occupancy levels, given constraints imposed by physical distancing guidelines.”
This means businesses should “take density and function into account to optimize space use under limited occupancy.”
Building entrances and lobbies should be left as open and airy as possible, while minimizing the amount of seating in such places, noting that seating in general “may inadvertently encourage longer conversation or create contaminated surfaces.”
The number of individuals in any one work space can be reduced through the use of “multiple activity spaces,” says the AIA study, with separate lobbies and corridors used for those entering and exiting the building.
It is also recommended that businesses provide hand washing and sanitizing stations at various points throughout the workplace.
Restrooms are problematic, but can remain safer through the installation of “touchless operators for toilet flushing, toilet lid closure, faucets, soap dispensers, and paper towel dispensers.”
Stalls should be built so that they extend to the floor, with automatic door openings, hands-free hardware and proximity sensors.
If possible, restrooms should also no longer have front doors, but rather entranceways with a wall initially blocking but leading to the main restroom space.
The study also recommends greater office management interaction with a building’s HVAC system: “Increase the rate of exhaust to provide more air changes. Filter exhaust to ensure air is cleaned before cycling back through the HVAC system, or provide 100 percent exhaust and outside air makeup.”
In the larger office space itself, an emphasis should be placed on more space. If the office previously had a dozen workstations, that number should be reduced to nine.
“Stagger workstations where possible,” the study continues, “and rotate to face the same direction.”
The study finally recommends that businesses should approach re-occupancy challenges as a “collaborative effort.”
That effort should include a team made up of architects, engineers, public health experts, facility managers, and others creating office space that that will mitigate the “risk of COVID-19 transmission, support the well-being of the staff, and meet organizational goals.”
By Garry Boulard
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