Commercial buildings are likely to look more like hospitals, if the European Union adopts a region-wide standard to ensure a safe return to workplaces as coronavirus lockdowns are lifted.
As part of the Immune Building Standard being proposed by the president of Brussels-based European Property Federation (EPF), quarantine rooms should be set up close to the receptions of buildings to provide an isolated space for a person who might be infected; toilet cubicles should have floor-to-ceiling walls; rounded corners should become the norm to minimise bacterial deposits; and buildings should have hospital-grade air-filtration systems, among others. The standard covers more than 100 measures and is open source, which means companies from other parts of the world might also use it.
“We developed Immune to ensure that people and organisations, when returning to their offices, are provided with a building capable of withstanding present and future challenges, whether generated by a pandemic or any bacteriological or toxicological threat,” said Liviu Tudor, the federation’s president, and founder and president of Genesis Properties, which owns offices in Romania.
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The standard can be used for all types of buildings and will be regularly updated while it is proposed to the EU, a process that can take months and years. The one-time cost involved has been estimated to amount to 2 per cent of a project’s overall cost of construction.
Immune has been initiated by Tudor, who started the project in April with an investment of €1 million (US$1.14 million) towards prototyping and testing. He deployed a team of 20 experts from the health, technology, real estate, architecture and engineering sectors to design the standard.
Immune is the latest initiative being proposed for a new normal of social distancing and heightened awareness of health and safety in workplaces, as the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic that has sickened 14 million people and claimed the lives of more than 600,000.
The quarantine room in a building will have to be of hospital grade. “It will have to be isolated in a secure part of the building, with access restrictions, so that anyone with a medical requirement is safely and securely handled,” Tudor said.
Rounded corners will prevent hard-to-reach areas for easier cleaning, and minimise bacterial deposits. “It is a matter of mechanics. Bacteria nest in places that are difficult to reach and clean,” he said. “This concept is not new and is, in fact, implemented across hospitals.”
Other measures include high-class filters for intake air for meeting rooms and cafeterias, and the appointment of a steward, or an authorised building assessor in the field of sustainable building design, development and certification, to evaluate a building’s compliance.
In Hong Kong, architects and designers said companies were prioritising flexibility to cope with the pandemic. The city is fighting a third wave of the coronavirus after a relatively successful campaign to bring the outbreak under control in the year’s first half.
“Flexibility is the single most common requirement. This is expressed in terms of how spaces are divided, whether cubicles can be rearranged to open up common areas and how furniture can be easily mobilised around the office,” said Kelvin Hui, director at LWK+ Partners.
Another requirement is improvement of hygiene in common areas. “Requirements have become more sophisticated in terms of hygiene, technology and storage space,” said Yanie Low, associate director at LWK. “We anticipate new demands for renovation in the coming months, again with a focus on flexibility.”
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