Office designers, property owners and building facility managers are all focused on creating healthy commercial buildings this year. Many businesses plan to return their workforce back to the office by the second or third quarter of 2021. IAQ is taking center stage with products designed to boost office safety and ease workers’ worries.
Commercial buildings have many factors to consider moving forward. Two top priorities they should address are:
- Workers’ concerns
- The risks associated with reopening workplaces too soon
Healthy buildings mean designing better, building better, choosing better materials, regular maintenance AND upgrades for older buildings. Creating good IAQ does not look the same for every space. #IAQ https://t.co/aB2PKxVmgi— IAQ Works (@IaqWorks) January 15, 2021
Office Employee Concerns About Returning to Work
As office workers prepare to shift from working from home to back in the office, they are concerned about what their building and employer are doing to protect them. Concerns include:
- How is the building they are returning to actively creating a safer environment?
- What are the safe work protocols that will be enforced–wearing masks, social distancing, etc.?
- Is it too soon to return to the office?
- Should companies wait until everyone has been vaccinated?
Risks Associated with Reopening Offices Too Soon
Offices that are encouraging their staff to return to work face potential lawsuits if a COVID-19 outbreak occurs on-site. Risk management companies are working with businesses to determine the risks of reopening sooner than later.
“There’s a lot of risk to employers in 2021 rushing to bring their people back to the office,” said Bob Conlin, Navex Global’s President and CEO, in an article by the Wall Street Journal. “Employers need to be aware of what the legal ramifications will be if there are health-related issues related to employees coming back.”
On average, commercial buildings in the U.S. are 32 years old. Older buildings risk having poor ventilation, humidity control or an HVAC system that can’t handle better filtration systems. Newer buildings are designed airtight, significantly reducing the fresh air influx from natural ventilation, found in older builds. Both old and new buildings are not pandemic resistant and come with their unique set of air quality issues.
How IAQ Can Reduce Concerns, Risk and Create Healthy Commercial Buildings
To address employee concerns, and appease risk management companies, commercial buildings are relying on trained IAQ experts to help. IAQ experts can help commercial building decision-makers understand the challenges and potential solutions to improve air quality. Through testing and data, they can sufficiently determine common pollutant sources, problems and recommend IAQ upgrades necessary for healthy commercial buildings.
Interested in learning more about indoor air quality issues and programs in your area? Check out EPA’s interactive map to select your region and get contact information for your state’s office: https://t.co/0HgVNjYY8B.— U.S. EPA (@EPA) April 2, 2019
Trained IAQ experts are working with office designers, who are scrambling to get workforces back to desks as safely as possible. Kevin Van Den Wymellenberg, the director of the Institute for Health in the Built Environment, said in an article by NPR, “We’ve designed buildings for 100-year floods. Now we have to learn to design for the 100-year flu.”
The future of commercial buildings will have better ventilation, filtration, humidity control. and purification systems. An HVAC contractor with little air quality experience or a lack of training in IAQ will not be sufficient. Said contractors likely won’t be considered for these profitable opportunities either. If you’re interested in IAQ training, resources and support, we can help your business get started.