An office designed with a series of breakthrough solutions in virus prevention could become the new standard in office design after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not so long ago, this office seemed only possible in futuristic ideas for office design – or a hospital. However, hand-free door handles, self-cleaning surfaces, antimicrobial coatings, air quality monitoring devices, UV disinfection robots, and 135 other measures in one office building in Bucharest, Romania will be used for a long time, according to the designers.
They advertise this as one of the most virus-resistant workplaces in the world and hope it will become the new standard in office design.
Entering H3 – a five-story building in the western part of Romania’s capital – feels like learning a new dance. People entering the building open the door by gently shaking their wrist and then must stand at the red line 2 meters away from a temperature camera to check for signs of fever.
Those with the ‘green light’ can then follow the directions to the self-cleaning elevator, step into one of the 2 footrests, and be taken to different floors, rest assured that they are protected by the system. UV disinfection systems are installed in the ventilation ducts.
Conversely, anyone signaled by a red light on the screen will be led by a guide wearing plastic gloves to a nearby isolation room: a glass room with an emergency signal button and a communication system. separate wind, isolated from the rest of the building.
A wall-mounted ‘virus killer’ device promises to remove any harmful agents in the air, such as pollutants, mold, and spores, with three levels of wind speed and system Backup UV disinfection system on the wall.
This prospect may concern some. With the Covid-19 pandemic under control, would employees want to return to a sterile office using technology used in hospitals? In Romania, as elsewhere in Europe, the majority of office workers have been confined to home for the past 18 months, many of them worried about the prospect of returning to the workplace, according to surveys.
“The main point here is to reassure people; we don’t want to cause panic,” said Gavin Bonner, one of the main coordinators of the Immune building standards project. The project brought together healthcare professionals, architects, engineers, IT managers, and construction managers from around the world to help businesses prepare for life after the pandemic.
The copyrighted public standard under the name Immune has been applied to several UK works. Among the investors who have applied this standard include Genesis, a leading Romanian real estate company and also the owner of the H3 building; The cost of this project is about 1 million euros.
Many other buildings from the US to Singapore are in the process of applying for Immune certification, said Liviu Tudor, CEO of Genesis. Building H3 serves as the showroom for this standard, protected to the highest degree with all 135 recommended measures.
The open-ended project is “an attempt to bring together the best ideas,” in the words of Tudor. He applied to the EU in the hope that the project will become the basis for a new standard in the whole bloc, similar to the common fire safety standard.
Tudor also says the project covers everything from technological breakthroughs to scientific knowledge to workplace psychology and hopes it will strengthen the trust of both employers and employees, millions of people. among them are debating whether it is safe to return to the office and, if so, how.
The project is practically a way for Tudor to try to revive the commercial real estate industry, which was shunned by investors at the height of the pandemic. He understands deeply the risks that await his business if companies decide that they do not need or cannot continue to lease office space.
Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson is currently the lessee of building H3, with an area of 15,500 m 2; the building has been refurbished in the past year for 375,000 euros. Normally 2,000 employees would work in the building, but now only a handful of them work in the office, sitting at desks and fully-spaced meeting rooms.
The staff all reserve seats through the online registration tool to avoid the office being overcrowded. After this summer, about 20% of employees are expected to return.
“We need to earn people’s trust, assure them that we have done everything to protect the people who work in the building and we want to give them as much information as we can.” an anonymous representative of the company in Romania said
Communication is considered key, so employees are encouraged to use the large screen in the building lobby to “take the pulse of the building”, as Genesis IT Manager Dragoș Cozma puts it. He presented a detailed 3D map of the building, with touchpoints showing the system of “immunity boosting” measures.
Employees are invited to check everything from how many bottles of alcohol sanitizer are left in the locker to radon, volatile organic matter (VOC), carbon dioxide, and humidity levels in the building. They can compare these metrics on different floors and compare with previous days, or watch a video explaining the scientific basis of the basement reverse osmosis water purifier, the technology used in the machine.” anti-virus” and sensors installed to prevent Legionella pneumonia, detected in tubes during the lockdown.
“Since the employees are all IT professionals, they appreciate this approach to using technology,” said a company representative.
Elsewhere in the building, some simpler measures include door handles that can be opened with an elbow or forearm. Fittings and floors have rounded corners where possible as fewer angles also mean less chance for microorganisms to attach.
The toilet is enclosed from floor to ceiling; Because the distance to the next toilet is not enough 2m as recommended, a safer solution would be to make the toilet room closed with an air conditioner. At night, a 1.2m tall robot walks around the building and uses UV lights to disinfect and remove pathogens.
During the day, key points in the ventilation system emit hydrogen peroxide ions; This system can be seen thanks to the transparent panels mounted on the ceiling. “Most importantly, people can see it,” says Bonner.
After all, is this project just a “drama” about hygiene? The question here is whether it is worth investing millions of euros to renovate a building while the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads thanks in part to human behavior. Scientific consensus holds that Covid-19 is transmitted by airborne droplets and aerosols, but rarely by surfaces; So the general advice given is to avoid indoor spaces.
Tudor says employees will still be encouraged to use the simpler approach of “cross-ventilation,” or, in other words, opening windows frequently.
In his office at Cotroceni, the Tudor, which is an aircraft engineer before entering the profession of real estate and accumulated 150,000 m 2 of office space in Romania, argued that the project goes much further than a “screen dramatic”. He presents his concept of “healthy building” as the next step in the history of building structures that are adaptable to the hazards that await.
In the words of Tudor, “First we build houses with walls and roofs, then there are standards for earthquake and fire prevention, and more recently there are measures to reduce pollution and make buildings more sustainable than.
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, it’s time to adapt to that reality and the many other dangers that come from bacteria or toxins. Just putting the tables a little further apart is not enough.”