June 23rd, 2020
As the world begins to reopen following COVID-19, every business environment needs to address specific needs and unique challenges to ensure a safe workplace. As our team of architects, interior designers and mechanical engineers research the future of the workplace, we provide insights on how our clients organizations can maintain and prioritize the health and safety of their employees when they make the decision to return to the office.
Adapting to the new normal
COVID-19 has forced office environments to change. From reducing employees’ physical presence in the office to significantly increasing sanitation protocols, this period of transition will require everyone to adapt. Before all else, it is important that staff feel safe, welcomed and heard during this time. Having access to fresh air, operable windows, sensors and touchless environments, in addition to safety reminders and self-assessments will be key to making this new environment work.
Office of the future
COVID-19 has changed the way we work, requiring us to bring aspects of our workplace into our homes. But offices and open plan concept environments are not going away. These spaces play an important part in a team’s productivity, health and culture.
“The office is absolutely not dead, and it is not going away. This period has reinforced society’s need for social proximity and this desire will shape next steps. Sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective solutions to accommodate new ways of working and living are needed.” said Drew Hauser, Director of Design and Business Development.
As we go forward, our ideas of workplace design will change for good. Architect Magazine state: “the likely reality is that we will eventually return to a collective workplace, but one that has changed beyond what we could have previously imagined. In the now-transformed future office environment, the fundamental question will not concern which trends are on the rise or wane, but how to balance seemingly conflicting criteria. For example, community is an intrinsic human need, yet so is wellness.”
We anticipate a trend toward smaller, better-thought-out office buildings with improved mechanical systems and ventilation. We need to reimagine the workplace to ensure that safe distance is achievable, touchless and sensored tools are in place, and meeting spaces are well ventilated.
“With infectious diseases transmitted through aerosols, HVAC systems can have a major effect on the transmission from the primary host to secondary hosts. HVAC professionals play an important role in protecting building occupants by interrupting the indoor dissemination of infectious aerosols with HVAC and LEV systems” states a report from ASHRAE.
Mary Georgious, Mechanical Engineering Lead, adds: “To create a healthy working environment, now more than ever before, it is critical to provide proper ventilation and HEPA filtration to reduce air borne exposure. Poorly ventilated spaces with a lack of individual or zonal HVAC control cause thermal stress to users which can lead to a reduction in people’s ability to fight an airborne virus.”
“It is important that building owners and facilities managers take this opportunity to asses their current systems, complete calculations to determine fresh air for maximum occupancy ratio and improve systems within the space if required. These updates will lead to improved building operations and a healthy environment.”
As we look to design more sophisticated office spaces we anticipate that the office will become a hub of interaction. While remote working will facilitate intense and focused work, the office will shift into a much more dynamic environment.
“Flexibility and collaboration will be key”, adds Dora Lomax, Interior Design Lead. “Floor plans will look different, they will offer more flexible options and space allocation will be adjusted, for example to allow for the widening of corridors or the movement of desks on wheels. Companies will want the ability to quickly modify and scale their workplaces.”
mcCallumSather workspace in Westinghouse HQ case study
mcCallumSather’s 10,000-square-foot space workspace was designed to be flexible, adaptable and energy efficient. This design foresight intended to future proof the building and tenants from the most severe impacts of climate change but has also allowed us to adapt our space to respond to COVID-19. See below features of our space that can be implemented to suit your needs:
- Open work environment with a variety of appropriately scaled meeting rooms that allows for physical distancing as may be required operable windows
- Proper filtration in our dedicated outdoor units and hydronic heating
- Sensors installed to monitor C02 concentration
- Touchless environment: Lights are on occupancy and daylight sensors, touchless faucets are electronically activated
- A design allowing for generous circulation and an adaptable way to travel form ingress, throughout and egress
- Thoughtfully chosen products that have cleanable, wipeable surfaces
Drew Hauser adds: “For us, the office is a meeting hub, and a place for collaboration and research. It is also important for our recruitment because it’s a reflection of our culture. It’s where people will learn and interact.”
Simply put, the new normal is for facilities’ design, maintenance, and operations to inspire a sense of health, safety, and trust for users.
For leasing opportunities in Westinghouse HQ please visit: https://www.westinghousehq.com/