07.07.2020 : Irene Yong and more

The future of commercial buildings

How to prepare for the next normal

The world we left behind in early 2020, before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic and commenced its rapid spread across international borders, is very different from the one we’re slowly returning to. As cities around the world emerge from extended government-mandated lockdowns, employers are encouraging staff to return to their workplaces as they move to get their organisations back to a sense of normality.

However, as offices and other commercial buildings begin to be reoccupied, health and safety is now the most important consideration for building owners, tenants and occupants alike. From mandating staff download and use social tracing apps (such as Singapore’s SafeEntry app), to temperature check thermometers at entry points and the now ubiquitous sight of hand sanitiser stations, life in the “next normal” is likely here to stay well beyond the current crisis. The million-dollar question is: are you and your building ready?

 

Navigating the now: With a Building Reoccupation Audit

In the rush to shift their workforce from the office to home, many building owners/managers turned off their entire M&E (Mechanical and Electrical) systems as they faced low to zero occupancy. While this makes perfect sense from a cost saving perspective (“there’s no point keeping the lights on if no one’s home”), indoor pollutants can build up in the stagnant air of an empty building, while unused pipes and other water supply infrastructure can develop potential pathogens and biofilm. These are just some of the more basic considerations you’ll need to consider before safely welcoming staff back to their desks.

This is precisely where the benefits of a ‘Building Reoccupation Audit’ come into play. With our Beca Buildings team having more than 40 years in-depth experience in electrical, fire and mechanical engineering amongst other related fields, we can provide an independent, professional assessment of your building. These are based on visual site inspections combined with quantitative air and water quality tests and cover the following areas:

  • Mechanical systems: Air, mechanical controls, water
  • Electrical systems: Emergency lighting, general fluorescent lighting, stairwell and toilet lighting etc
  • Plumbing and drainage: Replenishing water seals and fixtures, flushing water systems of stagnant water, hot water plants
  • Security: Car park access, updating time settings on security access control, getting access to back end security data
  • Other: Escalators and lifts, office equipment, vermin and other pests

Once we’ve conducted a thorough audit of your building using a standard checklist, we’ll provide you with practical, tailored recommendations that can be implemented without delay and are focused on the immediate health and safety needs of all occupants.

However, this is just the first step in helping you prepare for the “next normal”. Beyond getting people safely back into the workplace, over the long term, you’ll also need to ensure your building is adaptable and resilient for future challenges that may come your way – including potential future pandemics.

 

Getting ready for what’s next: Building Resilience Audit

Even though we’re still living through the COVID-19 crisis and everyone is no doubt tired of hearing about it, now is a great time to carefully consider how prepared both your building and business is for the “next normal”. Building your business’s resilience against future shocks and ensuring you can maintain a sense of continuity is critical, whether you’re a large multinational corporation or a smaller, locally based organisation.

Using the same experience and expertise we apply to a building reoccupation audit, we can also conduct a ‘Building Resilience Audit’, to assess your ability to continue operations should another pandemic strike (although, we certainly hope this one is enough for a lifetime)!

This audit will look at the following factors in great detail, before we give you a detailed report. We can also walk you or your building managers’ step-by-step through the process of putting these recommendations into practice:

  • Building access
  • Building planning
  • Building maintenance
  • Common areas
  • Technology
  • Ventilation

 

Taking all these factors into consideration, our experienced engineers and building specialists will work closely with your team to design a healthier workplace with optimum indoor air quality and other attractive environmental factors.

The ultimate goal is to achieve a comfortable, pandemic-resilient building that can operate efficiently during business-as-usual times yet can still switch easily into ‘pandemic mode’ if the external environment changes (i.e. another outbreak of COVID-19) – all without the need for costly major renovations or structural modifications.

Ready to reoccupy your workplace? Contact one of our experts below or take a look at our practical 'Back in the Building' Checklist!

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