Suggestions for Architectural-Mechanical Transformation to Make Office Areas Healthier After the Epidemic of Coronavirus (COVID 19)
No epidemic, plague or natural disaster has ever ended city life or eliminated the need for humanity to live and work in urban areas. Despite the 14th century black plague, the 1850 London cholera epidemic, or the 1918 Spanish flu that killed millions of people around the world, people did not stop to continue their urban life. Because economic activities and human density, acting as the engine of innovation and growth, have a very strong effect for metropolises.
The city life will continue once the Coronavirus, which has now turned city centers around the world into ghost towns, is finished. This does not mean that the life after Coronavirus will continue from where it left off. We will add some of our new habits that we created during the process of Coronavirus epidemic to our lives.
At the end of this process, we think that the change will accelerate in the offices and working areas.
Let’s try to briefly list the changes that companies can make and the measures they can take in order to prepare healthier office environments for their staff:
Over 95% of the transmission of the virus is caused by contact and airborne contagion. First of all, the offices should be revised considering these issues.
1. YOU CAN MAKE THE OFFICE DOORS INTO THE AUTOMATIC DOOR
Transforming doors between the spaces such as entrance doors to the office, WC doors to automatic doors has a great importance in terms of reducing contact surfaces. In this sense, the doors can be arranged to open without contact (photocell, face reading etc.) according to the space features.
2. YOU CAN REDUCE THE DENSITY OF THE PERSON IN THE OFFICE FOR A TIME
Today, 70% of offices have open office spaces. In these open office spaces, it may not be possible to achieve a distance of 4-6 meters with a social distance. In this case, in the process of returning to the company, some of the company employees may be provided to work from home rather than calling the office (those who can work from home) for a while. It can be ensured that the staff comes to the office gradually, and the staff can be divided into teams, while a team is at the office 2-3 days a week, the other team can work at home, and on the other days of the week, people who work at home can go to work while the other team is at home.
3. YOU CAN RENOVATE OPEN OFFICE AREAS
After this virus, it seems unlikely that the open office layout will manage to ensure the comfort and safety of employees. Instead of completely leaving the concept of an open office, different solutions can be produced for different scenarios:
A) Instead of cell-type workspaces in the 1940s, seperators can be placed among employees who can provide greater protection against viruses that spread through sneezing or coughing while maintaining a sense of spaciousness. As it can be seen in the picture below, a shield with a transparent material up to a certain height should be created on opaque panels.
B) For those working in the office, seating arrangements should be considered according to the social distance rule, which is 4-6 meters. In this sense, the seating arrangement that a commercial real estate company that works in China and many countries has started to try in its own office is remarkable. It creates protection of social distance with the stimuli provided by applying different colors and materials on the ground.
C) The personnel in the risk group in terms of Coronavirus (over the age of 40, with asthma, etc.) can work in different rooms separated by office glass partition systems.
4) YOU CAN PREPARE INFORMATION, REMINDER AND INSTRUCTIONS
On a busy working day, the precautions for the virus can be forgotten and it is possible for people to naturally easily return to their old habits before COVID-19. For this;
- Reminders and informative boards and signs can be placed, especially in wet areas and kitchen areas.
- Reminder boards can be placed near the most touched and used surfaces in the office.
- Information texts that can be read by anyone can be written on the visible areas in the office space.
5. YOU CAN REDUCE CURRENT CAPACITIES OF THE MEETING ROOMS
The capacities of the existing meeting rooms and conference rooms in the office should be adjusted in accordance with the social distance rule. For example, if there is a meeting room for 8 people, a maximum of 3-4 people should be held in this area.
6. YOU CAN RENOVATE COMMON USE AREAS
The m2 of common areas such as kitchen and cafe area in the office environment should be reduced (especially for the cafe seating area) and the number of seating groups should be reduced again due to the social distance. Thus, with the m2 gain here, we also reduce the staff density in the open office.
7. YOU CAN CONVERT ACOUSTICAL CABINS TO WORK AREAS OR RECONSTRUCT
If there are acoustical cabins in the office, these areas can be given to the individual use of the staff, and even if there are no such spaces, working areas can be provided by creating such special rooms in the open office area.
8. YOU CAN BUILT INFRASTRUCTURE FOR LONG DISTANCE COMMUNICATION AND MEETING ONLINE
In order to ensure the communication of office workers inside and outside the office, necessary infrastructures of online meeting programs (Zoom, Skype Business etc.) should be prepared. This will make the staff feel safe and will work efficiently.
9. YOU CAN REVIEW HYGIENE EQUIPMENT AND OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS
Due to the high infectiousness of the virus by contact, it is necessary to reduce the contact of the employees with the surfaces as much as possible. Accordingly, all of the equipment used by touch, such as faucets, liquid soap dispensers, paper towel holders, trash cans, toilet seat covers, should be replaced with photocell (non-contact) equipment, if possible.
In addition, regular disinfection of intense contact surfaces such as the door handle, photocopy machine, telephone, coffee and tea machine, card reader of the doors in the offices will reduce the re-spread of the virus. In addition, it is recommended to have hand disinfectants with at least 60-95% alcohol in common areas such as reception, lobby, conference – training hall.
These measures are not just for returning to the office; It will also contribute to healthier working areas by improving the hygiene conditions, Occupational Health and Safety instructions permanently.
10. YOU CAN CONTROL VENTILATION (HVAC) AND FILTER SYSTEMS
The way to hang in the air with SARS-CoV-2 – contamination through exposure to droplet seed particles – is currently accepted by the World Health Organization for hospital procedures and indirectly under the guidance of increased ventilation.
The way to hang in the air with SARS-CoV-2 – contamination through exposure to droplet seed particles – is currently accepted by the World Health Organization for hospital procedures and indirectly under the guidance of increased ventilation. Considering that the virus is in the form of droplets in the air in the office environment, the space should be ventilated to control the virus’s stay in the air. In the picture below, there is an image related to the spread of the virus prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Natural ventilation should be provided by opening windows in places such as houses and schools where there are no ventilation systems.
There is no possibility of natural ventilation by opening windows in high-rise office buildings or it is very limited. The breathing air in these spaces is provided through air handling units and ventilation devices. For this reason, it is very important to clean the filters of the devices used and to integrate additional antibacterial filter systems. In many offices, the amount of fresh air taken from outside was a certain amount, and the air inside was absorbed and conditioned again and then given back to the interior. Now, the exhaust process of the air absorbed from the inside should be done and 100% fresh air should be taken from the outside. In addition, it is very important to establish automation systems that can measure the quality of the air supplied to the environment and measure bacteria – microbes. Accordingly, the fact that this information sharing can be monitored through screens that inform office workers will create a considerably hygienic environment, and will strengthen the sense of trust in employees and a healthy environment.
11. YOU CAN PREFFER EASY TO CLEAN FURNITURE AND MATERIALS
In the process after the virus, it will be useful to review the furniture and surfaces in our offices.
- Storage and design elements; It should be designed and produced without the inner corners, the places where the pathogens will be collected, and the areas that cannot be reached for cleaning.
- Hard and antibacterial floors can replace floors (eg industrial carpets to be antibacterial) that can accommodate dirt, mold and bacteria.
- Preferring product groups with hygienic, anti-bacterial and anti-allergic certificates helps to create a more sterile environment.
12. ADDITIONAL PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN
At the entrances of large offices, industrial establishments, factories and office buildings, personnel and visitor entrances can be examined with thermal camera, and precautions can be taken by the procedures of measure fever.
At the entrances of large offices, industrial establishments, factories and office buildings, personnel and visitor entrances can be examined with thermal camera, and measures can be taken by performing fire measurement procedures. Fabric, floor and wallpaper or paints used in office spaces can be replaced with those with anti-bacterial properties. It can be ensured that the people visiting the office are taken to a special waiting or meeting room.
13. BE OPEN TO NEW INFORMATION AND BE COMPATIBLE WITH NEW HABITS AND ORDERS
In the extraordinary period we passed through, we can have different habits to the knowledge and experiences gained in protection from the epidemic. For example, it is seen that we will put the greeting methods such as handshaking on the shelf for a long time. In addition, some habits of working at home may require employees to continue in the office environment. Even communication methods and behaviors can change. This will be among the points that the human resources department and team managers should pay attention to.
Since we are at a time when we are still living the corona pandemic, it is difficult to predict what the after outbreak will be . However, although it is certain that the upcoming process will change many things, it seems that there will be new changes in the office areas. We are aware that the collective working environment is still of great importance for now. We will see together what changes and needs will emerge in the long run.
Throughout the process, we would like to thank all public employees, especially healthcare professionals, working with great devotion.