Is Your Building Ready to Meet Occupants’ Needs in the New Normal
Change has been a constant theme for the world in recent months. It’s been business as unusual. Many of us have changed where we work, how we socialize, how our children learn, and how we shop, and more. The full extent of our new normal is still unknown. As we continue this journey, there are some known changes for the buildings industry: a greater need for healthier buildings and sustaining compliance to new regulations to reassure occupants.
The uncertainty caused by infectious disease outbreaks can make it “one of the most distressing disasters to deal with psychologically,” according to University of the Negev – Regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research (RADAR) Center. The CDC and other health organizations have warned that many people may be experiencing increased anxiety. Because people are aware of new norms like social distancing and even the ways that viruses can potentially be transmitted in indoor environments, occupant anxiety is a real factor to consider.
Before people return to buildings, they will want reassurances a space is safer and healthier. No longer will building management be relegated to a ‘back office’ concern; it will be considered part of the occupant experience and expectation for any type of building. Occupants will want credible information and increased visibility into what is being done to make a building environment healthier.
Make it Safer, Show it’s Safer
Unlike restaurants, most buildings don’t have a letter grade or numerical score to proudly hang by the entrance to show that the building is healthier and safer. Honeywell is working to change that, giving buildings owners tools to quantify their efforts to make a safer building. The #HealthyBuildings Score allows building owners to:
- Prepare. Validate your building to be ready to return to work and meet the latest standards and your own safety policies.
- Monitor. Control your building hygiene, occupant safety and space usage in real time.
- Reduce. Reduce further sources of airborne infection through enhanced standards for facilities and cleaning staff and enforced social distancing measures.
- Respond. React rapidly to alerts and trends in building air quality and social tracing or space sanitation incidents.
- Reassure. Improve building occupants’ confidence and minimize risk and return sustainably to full productivity.
Adjustments for Every Building
Buildings vary greatly, and unfortunately, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to fostering a healthier environment. There are, however, standards that can be applied to all buildings, while meeting the unique needs and requirements for each type of facility to create a healthier and safer environment and minimize risk while also helping to ease occupant anxiety about returning to buildings.
As people have learned to be flexible with learning and working from home, building systems must also be flexible to help people return to workspaces. As health conditions and policies evolve, building systems will have to be ready to adapt. The #HealthyBuildings Score can adjust to new norms and provide a reassuring reminder to everyone inside that health and safety is a priority.
A focus on a healthier built environment will likely significantly impact building design in the future. The benefits of healthier buildings can go far beyond current concerns but also in the long term improve the overall occupant experience, satisfaction and engagement while still meeting sustainability and energy goals. Healthier buildings may even offer a better new normal.
Contributed by Vimal Kapur, president and CEO, Honeywell Building Technologies