How can the office workplace respond to Covid-19?

These are interesting times for the commercial office sector. With the abrupt and ongoing shift to working from home, many are wondering what will future offices look like?

According to the results of the recent Savills Office FiT survey, most office workers believe the office will remain a necessity. However, office environments must be developed further to enhance long term physical and mental health, safety, and wellbeing. This is also the overarching message from Gardiner & Theobald’s Market Intelligence report on ‘The Future Office’, published in June. The BCO  published a briefing note in April setting out initial thoughts on office design and operation after Covid-19. Key areas explored included user experience, building services and smart solutions.

We should future-proof existing and forthcoming office building assets against potential changes to user/tenant requirements in response to the current pandemic. However, we should not switch our focus from reducing carbon emissions to public health & safety; both will need to be considered in tandem, particularly as many measures to control virus transmission may affect energy efficiency and comfort.

There are a number of resources and guidance available to assist in developing this understanding. Using these tools, some of the activities that could be undertaken include:

  1. Reviewing building design or existing building performance against the WELL Building or Fitwel standards, in terms of occupant health & wellbeing.
  2. Reviewing building design or existing building performance against the recently launched WELL Health-Safety Rating, in terms of operational policies, maintenance protocols and design strategies to address a post COVID-19 environment and ongoing infection control.
  3. Developing building services strategies that respond to virus resilience, such as indoor air quality (mechanical ventilation and cooling systems) and smart building control (e.g. no touch sensors for access, lighting control, etc).
  4. Assessing an existing building’s ability to adapt and respond to virus resilience measures.
  5. Reviewing where additional carbon savings could be made to offset resulting decreases in energy efficiency, using LETI’s Climate Emergency Design Guide for instance.

Whilst responding to the health implications of Covid-19 is an immediate and potentially complex task facing the commercial office sector, the challenge is really to achieve this without derailing the huge strides made in terms of sustainable building stock and design.

For more information on how Scotch Partners could assist your organisation or building project, contact Kirsten Elder: kirsten.elder@scotchpartners.com or 07709 493931