A building standard pitched as making indoor spaces â€śimmuneâ€ť to the coronavirus aims to get more employees back to the office.
Special quarantine rooms. Floor-to-ceiling walls in bathroom stalls. Touchless entrances that take your temperature. This is what telecommunications company Ericssonâ€™s office building in Bucharest looks like after coronavirus. The space has become the pilot for a 100-prong coronavirus standard that a real estate investor in Eastern Europe is pitching as a new global â€śimmuneâ€ť building standard.
Liviu Tudor, president of the Brussels-based European Property Federation, hopes the standard will convince more employees to go back to work. Heâ€™s gathered a team of experts in construction, health care and engineering, such as such as Adrian Streinu-Cercel, the head of Bucharest's biggest infectious diseases hospital, to develop three tiers of â€śimmuneâ€ť building certifications that he says are intended to make indoor spaces â€śpandemic proof.â€ť
Tudor says heâ€™s in talks with 50 other U.S. and European real estate developers about using the criteria in their own buildings and he plans to present his ideas to the European Union. But even if it isnâ€™t widely adopted, heâ€™s already implementing the ideas in a pilot building in Bucharest, providing a window into what office life could look like for some workers after the coronavirus.
"The new workspace is going to be a different experience from the moment you walk into an office building, to all the common areas, the restrooms, the food court and all the way to the actual desks,â€ť says Tudor, whose company, Genesis Property, owns and operates 1.6 million square feet of office space. â€śWe are talking about mostly open floor offices, with desk separators and 2 meters (6 feet) distance between desks.â€ť
Alexandru Rafila, an expert in microbiology and Romaniaâ€™s representative in the management board of the WHO, says several of these measures, such as distance between desks and disinfecting in key spaces, are common sense. But he cautions against dramatic increases in construction costs and investments based mostly on speculation that can appear opportunistic, especially in response to a virus in which human behavior plays a key role in the spread of the disease.
â€śOf course the safer the environment the better,â€ť says Rafila, â€śbut as long as we all respect the rules and maintain the distancing, wear the mask and regularly wash and disinfect our hands we donâ€™t need to get into the other extreme.â€ť
Tudor has invested at least 1 million euros in the project so far to incorporate the standard into his own buildings, where he says many employees have already returned to work. Among the other requirements in Tudorâ€™s standard are features like hands-free access to office doors and elevators, separate entrances and exits, the use of anti-microbial paint and UV light disinfection overnight.