Office Design for Post-Pandemic
The good news is that a vaccine seems to be coming a reality and it is hoped that life will return to near normality in 2021. Many of us are itching to get back to the office for all the reasons that we know. However, even with a vaccine the virus won’t magically disappear so we have to future proof our office spaces. This is especially important in the winter months when people spend more time indoors.
The key to safe office space is good ventilation. It goes without saying that we need to continue to wash our hands and wear a face mask for as long as necessary. But scientists and engineers say we also need to think about the air we breathe inside buildings.
The first rule is if the air is stuffy, walk away. According to workplace regulations set up before the pandemic, everyone should get 10 litres of fresh air every second. If your office isn’t well ventilated the virus can linger as airborne particles. The more fresh air you introduce, the more the virus is diluted.
Many offices, particularly smaller ones will have wall mounted air-conditioning systems. They draw air from the room, chills or heats it, then recirculates it. This has obvious problems in trying to prevent the spread of a virus. If someone is infected, the air they breathe will be blown around the room with the potential to infect other workers. If you do have wall mounted air-conditioners, you should endeavour to introduce as much fresh air into the mix as possible.
However, this can also have its drawbacks. If someone is infected and sitting by an open window, the air flowing by that person will be transported around the room. Certainly though, the benefits of introducing as much fresh air as possible outweigh the risks.
Of course, most modern buildings have sealed windows so how is it possible to ensure there is enough fresh air? You’re relying on the rooftop air conditioning unit. It sucks the stale air out and replaces it with outdoor fresh air and of course extracts any virus which may be circulating. The mix is up to the building managers though so try to ensure that the ration is set to 100% fresh air or close enough. Unfortunately there is a cost to this as the air has to be heated in winter and cooled in summer. But it may be a cost worth paying.
The air conditioning units have filters but these filters could be harbouring the virus. US researchers investigating the an Oregon hospital found traces of the virus in the filters but also found that some had slipped through to be reintroduced into the building. Therefore, it is vital that the filters are checked regularly.
There is no doubt that keeping the air in your office space as fresh as possible will help to keep your workers as safe as possible. And how you approach this will depend on your office space.
If you need any further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.